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
Who is Sophie Stark? A brilliant filmmaker, a lover, a wife, a friend, a traitor. A troubled misfit who becomes a star, at great cost to the people who love her and, ultimately, to herself. Gripping and provocative, The Life and Death of Sophie Stark is a story of the power of art to transform lives and to destroy them, and of an artist’s drive to create something greater than herself, even if it means sacrificing everything—and everyone—she loves.
|Publisher:||Penguin Publishing Group|
|Product dimensions:||5.40(w) x 8.20(h) x 0.70(d)|
About the Author
Roger Wayne hails from small-town Minnesota. He served in the Air Force as a broadcast journalist in South Korea before obtaining his BA in communications and journalism. Roger has recorded for video games, animation, and commercials, and he loves making books come to life. You can see what he's up to at rogerwayne.com.
Amanda Dolan is a New York City-based actor. She has an MFA from Brown University and tries to put it to good use as often as she can. In addition to acting, Amanda works as a theater educator and a musician.
Read an Excerpt
Excerpted from "The Life and Death of Sophie Stark"
Copyright © 2016 Anna North.
Excerpted by permission of Penguin Publishing Group.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
What People are Saying About This
Praise for AMERICA PACIFICA
“A dark, gripping, and wildly creative debut with a futuristic end-of-days setting.” –BookPage
"Anna North's fluid prose moves this story along with considerable force and velocity. The language in America Pacifica seeps into you, word by word, drop by drop, until you are saturated in the details of this vivid and frightening world." Charles Yu, author of How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe
"Anna North has crafted a dangerous, wise, and deeply affecting vision of the future that is also a dark mirror held to our present. At once thrilling and heartbreaking, America Pacifica suggests how we shape ourselves by shaping the world." Jedediah Berry, author of The Manual of Detection
“Richly imagined… North, a recent graduate of the Iowa Writers' Workshop, is a stylish writer and a good storyteller who keeps the pages turning…. An entertaining, stylishly written doomsday novel.” –Kirkus
“A dark, page-turning debut… North cleverly combines elements from other popular modern stories—a brave young heroine on an against-all-the-odds quest on a strange island with shocking secrets…The story—and the wealth of detail in a vividly imagined world—is memorable.” –Publishers Weekly
“A thrilling and often very gripping read, expanding beyond its basic quest narrative to comment on society and the politics of control….North weaves in black humor, frank sex scenes, and bittersweet memories…. An enjoyable and intriguing read.” –Time Out London
“A richly rendered post-apocalyptic novel set on a Pacific island…. In her debut novel, Anna North shows us a disturbing vision of the future that is disturbingly similar to our present.” –Daily Beast
Reading Group Guide
Reading Group Guide for The Life and Death of Sophie Stark by Anna North
1. On page 15, Sophie tells Allison that “movies are how I get to know people.” Discuss this assertion. Given what readers learn about Sophie’s motivations over the course of the novel, do you think this is an accurate or truthful statement?
2. Describe Allison’s relationship with Sophie. Why do you think Allison is initially attracted to Sophie? What sustains their relationship?
3. Discuss the structure of The Life and Death of Sophie Stark. What is the author’s purpose in using multiple perspectives as a means of discussing Sophie’s life? How does it relate to Sophie’s filmmaking career?
4. Why do you think Daniel reached out to Sophie in his adulthood? Discuss their meeting in Chicago. Why do you think Sophie accepted his invitation?
5. How would you characterize Sophie’s relationship with Robbie? How does it change or evolve over the course of the novel?
6. When is Sophie most vulnerable? To whom does she reveal her truest self?
7. The incident in which Sophie’s head gets shaved is a disturbing and emotionally volatile moment in this novel. How does this incident change her? Discuss its repercussions in her relationship with Robbie and Daniel, and how it changes Sophie’s interactions with her peers.
8. Discuss the author’s decision to intersperse critical reviews of Sophie’s work amongst personal narrative accounts. What effect did this have on you as a reader?
9. What was the most surprising aspect of this novel for you? Which characters, if any, did you relate to? Feel sympathetic toward?
10. Discuss how the filmic experience of Marianne differs from that of Isabella. How does Sophie’s filmmaking evolve over the course of the novel? Are there any habits of hers on set that remain constant? How does Allison’s understanding of her craft change because of Sophie?
11. How does manipulation factor into Sophie’s relationships? When does she elide the truth in order to advance her own professional or personal goals?
12. The Life and Death of Sophie Stark takes place over the course of several years. How is Sophie’s growth and development tracked in the novel? Which character, if any, changes the most over the course of the narrative?
13. The last few chapters of the novel reveal Sophie’s plan for her last film project. What does the documentary’s format—sharing her life via other people’s perspectives—assert about Sophie’s own body of work? How is it a response to her critics?
Questions for Anna North, author of The Life and Death of Sophie Stark
1. What inspired The Life and Death of Sophie Stark? Why did filmmaking capture your imagination?
I had wanted to write about a female filmmaker for a long time; I actually started a project about a director named Sophie Stark years ago, and then put it on hold when I wrote America Pacifica. I don’t know if I was fascinated specifically with filmmaking as much as with this particular character, who is a filmmaker — she seemed to come into my head almost fully formed. For her, I think filmmaking is appealing because it allows her to approach life at a remove; she can tell the stories of people close to her without being part of them, exactly. It’s also a visual medium, and she thinks much more visually than verbally — she’s interested in qualities of light and space, and not especially good at expressing herself in words. I enjoyed the challenge of thinking about things the way Sophie would; it forced me to approach the events and settings in the book from a different angle than I, as a writer, ordinarily would.
2. What was the most challenging aspect of the writing process for you? How did it differ from writing your previous novel?
Probably the hardest thing was getting the points of view right. At the beginning I thought the book would have just one point of view, and I spent a lot of time trying to figure out which one it would be. But no matter how many I tried out — Robbie, Allison, a film-student character who ended up having some things in common with the critic Ben Martin — none of them felt like they could tell the whole story. When I realized I could include them all, things got easier. But still, some of the voices came to me more easily than others, and I had to spend a lot of time thinking about each person and how she or he would talk and see the world.
3. The Life and Death of Sophie Stark features some admittedly dark and tragic scenes. Was it difficult to immerse yourself in the characters’ interior lives during the writing process?
At times it was. It was especially hard to write about Allison’s assault by Bean, Jacob’s mother’s illness, and Sophie’s last days, when Robbie is powerless to help her. I had very different attitudes toward the characters when I was writing them through hard times, also. I felt really sorry for Robbie — he loves his sister so much, and even though she loves him too, she doesn’t always treat him very well. Robbie’s sort of figured his life out by the end of the book, but I also think of him as a little bit fragile — his sense of self, outside of Sophie, isn’t that strong. So I felt especially sad for him when he lost her. Allison is stronger; everything that happens between her and Sophie hurts her, but it won’t break her. I like thinking about her going on after the book is over, raising her child and living her life. Even though she’s done some cruel things herself, I find myself feeling proud of her.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
I picked this book because of the title and skipped reading any blurbs and just read the first page--at least that was my plan. I very quickly found myself on my lunch break trying to devour as much of this book as I could. It reads like butter, if that were a thing--I mean to say Sophie's life is told with perfect flow changing from point-of-view between various people she affected. From broken childhoods to broken adulthoods Sophie carries the burden of being misunderstood and unconnected, while somehow being gifted with the ability to see people's vulnerable core. Quietly powerful, beautifully written, with characters you can see and feel The Life and Death of Sophie Stark should be on everyone's to-read list. *my honest review of a free NetGalley ebook
The character analysis was interesting. I was so happy I began reading this novel. I almost felt like Sophie. I only wish it was longer. My only complaint is the briefness. But hey! Maybe that's what makes it such a great book because you wish you had more but you couldn't.
The ultimate cautionary tale in wrapping too much of our identity in an other. What happens when we heave the responsibility for who we are and what we do from our own shoulders to another's. A great read that got me thinking. Devoured it.
I won this book on a Goodreads Giveaway from Blue Rider Press and Anna North. Thank you for allowing me the pleasure of reading this novel! This was a quick read, and a fairly complex plot. Sophie Stark is a very intense and intelligent woman with a great talent, obvious mental problems and absolutely no social skills. Her world interacts with that of several other young adults in Manhattan and Long Island, and the story evolves through those actions and the repercussions of the actions on the lives of these young people. Several characters are fully rounded and easy to empathize with. Allison is likable and easy to follow. Sophie's brother Robbie and her husband Jacob are, as well. Some of the other characters are demonized to fit the plot without personalities at all, or portrayed as all bad. I was a bit unhappy with the ending. I would have liked more lead up to the end, and perhaps a different ending. Was really pleased to be able to read this, however. It had a lot of good description and dialog, and lead me down a path I had not anticipated.