September reading: The Life and Death of Sophie Stark

I recently went to an author reading and discussion at the bookstore Women & Children First featuring Rebecca Makkai and Anna North. I really wanted to go see them because I’ve read Makkai’s The Borrower and quite enjoyed it, but I’d also seen North’s The Life and Death of Sophie Stark on several to-read lists. Also, when was the last time I had gone to an event because I wanted to and not just because I was covering it as a student reporter or photographer?

Thank you, Anna North for signing my copy!
Thank you, Anna North!

So I started with North’s novel first and for no particular reason. (I’ll write about Makkai’s Music for Wartime later.) At the reading, North read the first passage from the perspective of amateur movie critic Benjamin Martin. Let me back up by saying, the entire novel is from the perspectives of people around Sophie, an indie film director. You never hear her voice directly or her thoughts. Having read the whole book now, I’m glad North chose to read the passage she did. It’s a witty break in the book to hear Benjamin Martin’s reviews of Sophie’s films. Not that the whole book isn’t witty or clever. The Life and Death of Sophie Stark is unlike any other book I’ve read, and yes, at times it is fairly dark. I mean, you know the entire time that Sophie will die. You just never know when or how.


At the reading, North said Sophie wasn’t an evil character or even a bad one, and I would agree. I don’t think I would like her much if she were real, but I liked the characters around her, especially Sophie’s brother Robbie. I think it’s an amazing stretch for an author to write a character that is more than flawed, and if I could go back to the night I bought the book and met North, I’d like to ask her more about it. I also found it interesting she had to draw little pictures to help her know how she wanted to write about scenes in the movies Sophie was making.  How else would you write about something visual if you couldn’t picture it yourself? Something else I would have never thought about while writing.

I’d also like to go back and be less of a goober in front of the authors. Note to self: pretend you are reporting and ask intelligent questions instead of standing shyly for your books to be signed. Also, thank you thank you for signing my books. I’ve never really had that experience before!

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