Winner of the 2016 Lambda Literary Award for Bisexual Fiction
“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, New York Times bestselling author of Room
“This novel is perceptive, subtle, funny and lingers in unexpected ways. The analysis of a woman who puts her art above all else is equal parts inspiration and warning story. Anna North makes prose look easy.”—Lena Dunham
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).
The ending of North's (America Pacifica) provocative new novel is a foregone conclusion; it is the journey there, revealed by the intimates in Sophie Stark's life, that draws the reader in. The difficult and tenacious filmmaker Sophie inhabits the same world as the rest of us, but she doesn't really live in it. Her intensity informs her filmmaking, which in turn conveys her vision and emotions. A by-product of her hyperfocus is that she manipulates people to achieve her art. Those in her orbit come to understand this too late to have a happy relationship with her. As such, the book's narrators among them a college basketball player, a musician, and a movie producer disappear and reappear years later, interrupting the narrative flow. Mitigating that flaw is the character of a film critic, whose writings about Sophie's films are a constant for the reader. The other constant is Sophie's talent. Though derived from her existence as an outsider, it is the vehicle that allows her to bring an uncanny emotional depth to her work. North's nuanced prose and emphasis on characterization result in a thoughtful, moving read that explores the creative process and its effects on relationships.