The Life and Death of Sophie Stark Summary and Reviews

The Life and Death of Sophie Stark

by Anna North

The Life and Death of Sophie Stark by Anna North X
The Life and Death of Sophie Stark by Anna North
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  • Published in USA  May 2015
    288 pages
    Genre: Novels

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Book Summary

Gripping and provocative, The Life and Death of Sophie Stark is a haunting story of fame, love, and legacy told through the propulsive rise of an iconoclastic artist. Sophie Stark begins her filmmaking career by creating a documentary about her obsession, Daniel, a college basketball star. But when she becomes too invasive, she finds herself the victim of a cruel retribution. The humiliation doesn't stop her. Visionary and unapologetic, Sophie begins to use stories from the lives of those around her to create movies, and as she gains critical recognition and acclaim, she risks betraying the one she loves most.

Told in a chorus of voices belonging to those who knew Sophie best, The Life and Death of Sophie Stark is an intimate portrait of an elusive woman whose monumental talent and relentless pursuit of truth reveal the cost of producing great art. It is "not only a dissection of genius and the havoc it can wreak, but also a thunderously good story" (Emma Donoghue).

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"North's nuanced prose and emphasis on characterization result in a thoughtful, moving read that explores the creative process and its effects on relationships." - Publishers Weekly

"An engaging exploration of what it takes to make art and, more importantly, what it takes to love those who make it." - Kirkus

"As taut and artistically ambitious as its title character, North's novel upends the trope of the lone, tortured genius, considering instead the deeply human consequences of one person's uncompromising vision." - Booklist

"I read The Life and Death of Sophie Stark with my heart in my mouth. Not only a dissection of genius and the havoc it can wreak, but also a thunderously good story." – Emma Donoghue, author of Room

"Anna North is a natural, butter-smooth storyteller, and The Life and Death of Sophie Stark is an elegant, kaleidoscopic look at a challenging artist and at the way our lives are, in some respects, only silhouettes made from the perceptions of those who know us." - Maggie Shipstead, author of Seating Arrangements

"This novel isn't just a character study...it's a story of art, manipulation, and dependence. And, in its unique and satisfying structure, it's a narrative high wire act, deftly executed." - Rebecca Makkai, author of The Hundred-Year House and Music for Wartime

"A wonderful novel about art and passion and how we accommodate the other." - Margot Livesey, author of The Flight of Gemma Hardy

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Reader Reviews

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Kelli F.

Examination of the Tortured Artist
I appreciate a story where the central character is a tortured artist - here Sophie Stark is a tortured but extremely gifted filmmaker. I have known tortured artists in my life (some more prolific in their art than others) and I fundamentally understand how adversity breeds creativity. Such tortured souls can also be moody, unpredictable, and often unlikeable. Simultaneously, their magnetism draws people into their circles like moths to a flame.

Late in the book, a boyfriend of one of those moths warns that: "Sophie's heading for something bad, and if you're the one that's with her, that's going to be on you." It doesn't play out exactly that way, but the warning about Sophie is spot on. I try not to judge a book by the likability of its main character. I did not like Sophie. I did not really feel any empathy for Sophie, and I did not at any point put Sophie on a pedestal. I did, however, like the author's treatment and approach and writing. This book hooked me and I looked forward to sitting down with it and its characters each time I read. Anna North may or may not be a tortured artist herself, but she definitely gets the internal conflict and the difficulty of these personalities and the often tragic results when you are a moth drawn to their flame.

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More Information

Anna North is a graduate of the Iowa Writers' Workshop, and her writing has appeared in the San Francisco Chronicle, The Atlantic, Glimmer Train, Nautilus, and Salon; on Jezebel and BuzzFeed; and in the New York Times, where she is a staff editor. The author of America Pacifica, she lives in Brooklyn, New York.

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