Saturday, 19 December 2015

The Life and Death of Sophie Stark by Anna North // Book Review

*This review may contain spoilers*

It took me until the middle of this book, or thereabouts, to realise that I was reading something special; something unlike anything I'd ever read before. The Life and Death of Sophie Stark is about an awkward young woman who struggles to communicate with and understand other people and the world (or maybe she understands them a little too well), and what happens when someone like that becomes famous.

In my opinion, this was not a book that attempted to make you feel good. It was honest and real and unapologetic. Other people may have loved it to the point of joy, but at times I found it to be quite harrowing and rather difficult to read. The story is told through the perspectives of Sophie's friends and family, a narrative technique I don't think I've come across before, or at least for a long time. It was "interesting" as Sophie would say. One of the first things that crossed my mind was how great this book would be to study or analyse. It's so jam-packed with things you can debate. Sophie herself was one big debate - did I like her, did I not? For the most part I didn't, but there's still some small part of me that disagrees, and that's how this book is genius. I mean, I made no end of notes just for this review.

I think the main question Sophie's story poses is how much should be sacrificed for art and should we hurt others if we know something artistically wonderful will come of it. To me though, ponderings of artistry and fame came second to trying to figure out Sophie herself. I'm still not sure I got there. At one point she compares herself to a crab, making herself up of pieces of other crabs that have died - I think that analogy by Anna North was spot on because as the book progressed you could tell Sophie was picking habits up from other characters. The other characters, the ones that tell the story, were also damaged in their own ways. But, even as imperfect as the other characters are, Sophie stands out, and you can never quite put your finger on why she is so incomparably weird and why it's so hard to label her. At times I identified with her, and at times I distanced myself from her, but in the end I think there's a little bit of everyone in Sophie Stark.

This is a book which will stay with me, but one I am not sure I enjoyed, per se. I think it was a bit too real for a fantasy lover. For: art and film lovers. Not for: anyone who minds a book bringing them down at times. Rating: 3 stars for personal enjoyment, although I know it deserves 4 for the writing style and character development alone.

WARNING: Before purchasing this book please be aware it contains rape, self-harm, drugs and suicide.

SPECIAL THANKS to Orion Publishing, who gave me the opportunity to review this book. *As always, views and opinions are my own.*

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