The Life and Death of Sophie Stark, the latest offering from Anna North, author of America Pacifica and staff writer at the New York Times, is a compelling read. The book elicited a sense of longing and curiosity for me that I only have with a truly great book; North reveals Stark to the reader through a series of reminiscences from the people who loved her best and may have known her best, although how anyone could know a figure such as Stark is a mystery.
There are people who enter our lives who make us better and make us want to make the world right, through their vulnerability or their kindness or their honesty. North’s Stark has the ability to evoke these feelings within the people she meets and loves, and yet, we are left with the notion that no one ever really knew her, that she was never honest or truly kind. Robbie, Stark’s husband, stated that “life is a heavy burden and imagine if someone just carried it for you for a while, just picked it up and carried it”. North effectively captures the complexities of love and life through Stark.
As for the writing style, North is very adept at capturing the voice of the many characters – her brother, husband, object of affection and obsession, a film reviewer and of course Allison, the catalyst of Stark’s creativity. The novel is an exploration of an individual that could set out to reveal the truth of one, but in actuality, it succeeds in showing that we can only be known in pieces by the people who love us.
I was genuinely taken by North’s writing and would highly recommend The Life and Death of Sophie Stark to anyone who wants to be challenged by characters who come alive.