The Life and Death of Sophie Stark by Anna North

I inhaled this book.  Just about literally breathed it in.  I read it in one sitting and I loved every minute of it, but in the days since I finished reading it, I have struggled to articulate just what I liked so much about it. So, I don’t know if this will make any sense, but here goes.

Anna North’s The Life and Death of Sophie Stark is an easy read, but not necessarily a light one.  The title character is a story teller with a gift for telling stories through film, but rather than making up stories or telling the story of herself, she tells the stories of people that she loves.  The problem is, I think, that she doesn’t know how to love people, only their stories.

Sophie’s life is relayed to the reader in a series of first person accounts told by people who loved her or were hurt by her, but usually both.  Her brother, lovers, husband and what passes for her friends give us small windows into her life.  Each story tells us more about Sophie while also driving home how unknowable she is. There are gaps in the story of course. The times when she is alone can’t be told by others.  The thoughts in her head can only be guessed at.  But these gaps make the story somehow more complete.  There is no omniscient narrator in life or in this book.

I liked the changing voices and I liked the characters even at their most unlikable moments.  I enjoyed Sophie even though she is tortured and lonely and wants something that she can’t identify and hurts people in her efforts to get it and feels soul crushing remorse every time even as she knows she will likely do it again. Again and again she runs from herself into the next relationship, but she takes too much from the other person and in the end they are drained and she has still not become anyone other than herself.   The other characters are just as beautiful and complicated and flawed and true.

I am not usually a fan of, you know, feelings, but Anna North got it just right.

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