Posts Tagged The Life and Death of Sophie Stark
STEELE PICKS: BEST FICTION of 2015
Posted by Amy Steele in Books on January 1, 2016
To provide a bit of background, I read 150 books in 2015. I wrote 52 reviews for 2015 releases on this site. I gave very few books 5/5*. I am currently reading A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara so since I started it in 2015, I reserve the right to include it in my best of 2015 list.
Here are my picks for best fiction:
Outline by Rachel Cusk [Farrar, Straus and Giroux]
–gorgeous writing. purchase at Amazon: Outline: A Novel
Where Women are Kings by Christie Watson [Other Press]
–from my review: Simultaneously heartbreaking and heartwarming. Stunning. Entwines race, foster families, adoption, mental illness and cultural differences with exquisite descriptions and phrasing. purchase at Amazon: Where Women Are Kings
The Green Road by Anne Enright [W. W. Norton & Company]
–from my review: A perfect novel with imperfect characters that spans decades and continents. purchase at Amazon: The Green Road: A Novel
The Muralist by B.A. Shapiro [Algonquin]
–from my review: When you think every WWII story has been told, an original narrative comes along and you realize there’s a plethora of war stories remaining to be explored and shared. Abstract expressionist art, French refugees and the WPA collide in this riveting historical fiction novel that focuses on the sudden disappearance of young Jewish-American artist Alizée Benoit. purchase at Amazon: The Muralist: A Novel
Katherine Carlyle by Rupert Thomson [Other Press]
–from my review: Rather haunting and definitely unusual. It’s tough to describe except to say it’s part mystery and part personal exploration. A strange story –in a good way– with gorgeous writing and an intriguing story-line. purchase at Amazon: Katherine Carlyle
The Last September by Nina de Gramont [Algonquin]
–from my review: excellent characters and a dazzling story-line involving mental illness, family, infidelity, relationships, love and murder. purchase at Amazon: The Last September
Migratory Animals by Mary Helen Specht [Harper Perennial]
–engrossing, beautiful and creative novel about a group of 30-somethings finding their place in the world. purchase at Amazon: Migratory Animals: A Novel (P.S.)
Almost Famous Women by Megan Mayhew Bergman [Scribner]
–from my review: Brilliant concept and exquisitely written. This short story collection focuses on intriguing, bold and remarkable women from history. It’s edgy historical fiction. These women lived life as they chose to live it which likely made them misfits and outliers during their lifetimes. purchase at Amazon: Almost Famous Women: Stories by Mayhew Bergman, Megan (2015) Hardcover
The Travels of Daniel Ascher by Déborah Lévy-Bertherat [Other Press]
from my review: Touching, creative, lovely novel. It tells the story of a child of the Holocaust in a unique manner. purchase at Amazon: The Travels of Daniel Ascher
Music for Wartime: stories by Rebecca Makkai [Viking]
–from my review: an exceptional, stunning and creative short-story collection. purchase at Amazon: Music for Wartime: Stories
The Life and Death of Sophie Stark by Anna North [Blue Rider Press]
–from my review: a fascinating novel about creativity, artists, fitting in and being satisfied with success, fame and how we perceive ourselves and how we want others to understand us. Sophie Stark, who changed her name to suit her persona, is a renowned and elusive filmmaker. She makes enigmatic and often strikingly sad, honest films that strip bare the characters and dig into their psyches. purchase at Amazon: The Life and Death of Sophie Stark
Aquarium by David Vann [Atlantic Monthly Press]
–from my review: This is Vann’s first novel centered on a female protagonist. Twelve-year-old Caitlin lives in Seattle with her dockworker single mother. Older now, Caitlin looks back on this time with the wisdom one gains through age and experience. There’s a lighter tone than previous works until events draw to a boiling point for Caitlin and her mother. Every day after school Caitlin visits the aquarium to study the fish while waiting for her mom to finish work and retrieve her. She finds the various fish and sea life fascinating and allows herself contemplation and solitude. purchase at Amazon: Aquarium
Tightrope by Simon Mawer [Other Press]
-Feminist character Marian Sutro returns from WWII determined to find her place. from my review: Mawer writes exquisitely and Tightrope draws you in to Marian’s life, the consequences of her actions during WWII and how she copes in the present. On the cover, Marian looks like she’s in a Tamara de Lempicka painting. She’d be an ideal subject for the bold artist. Mawer includes cold war fears, atomic bombs, a gay scientist (Marian’s brother) as well as Marian’s love affair with a Russian Jew. purchase at Amazon: Tightrope
A Touch of Stardust by Kate Alcott [Doubleday]
–from my review: Kate Alcott writes spectacularly strong feminist female characters in historical fiction. Women who want to have careers and love. Women who juggle and manage both. Or learn from their decisions. They’re smart protagonists and Alcott has quickly become a must-read favorite author for me. She intermingles her fictional characters in real-life historical settings and it works. purchase at Amazon: A Touch of Stardust: A Novel
book review: The Life and Death of Sophie Stark
Posted by Amy Steele in Books on May 19, 2015
The Life and Death of Sophie Stark By Anna North.
Blue Rider Press| May 19, 2015|288 pages |$26.95| ISBN: 978-0399173394
Want an engrossing read for the weekend? This book grabbed my attention from its title, cover and first pages. I was captivated and couldn’t stop reading. It’s a fascinating novel about creativity, artists, fitting in and being satisfied with success, fame and how we perceive ourselves and how we want others to understand us. Sophie Stark, who changed her name to suit her persona, is a renowned and elusive filmmaker. She makes enigmatic and often strikingly sad, honest films that strip bare the characters and dig into their psyches.
Author Anna North creatively writes through various viewpoints of those close to Sophie at some point or another– Sophie’s girlfriend Allison; her songwriter boyfriend Jacob (later husband); an older film producer George; former college crush Daniel and her brother Peter. Daniel describes Sophie: “She was that kind of alternative girl with a camera. She’s a director now.” Sophie has a strange magnetic control over all these individuals by simultaneously annoying them [“Her voice wasn’t rude, just flat, without feeling.”]; scaring them [“Sophie was worse than I’d thought, further away from normal. The coldness I’d seen in her movies wasn’t something she just called up every now and then to help her with a scene; it was the way she was.”] and interesting them [“I think she knew that I still loved her and that‘d be flattered that she needed me.”]. Sophie wasn’t well-liked in college or high school. She never fit in. She’s offbeat and stand-offish even when trying to market her films. She just doesn’t seem to care. But yet she does. She wants to be liked. She wants people to understand her through her films. Her brother says: “I realized then that Sophie did care what other people thought—at least, she liked to be praised.”
Sophie manages to get those close to her to reveal dark, personal moments and memories and then exploits them through her film-making. Jacob admits: “At the same time, I wanted to hold Sophie’s interest. I felt like I was performing for her—I didn’t know whether it was a good performance or a bad one, but I didn’t want to stop. And I didn’t like the way Sophie was looking at me, like she’s given me a challenge I was failing to rise to.” Allison starred in Marianne based on her experience being raped in her hometown in West Virginia. She thinks: “I’d gone to so much trouble to tell a good story about my life, a story that was exciting and didn’t make me look bad, and now the cast and crew and anyone who saw the movie would see the other story anyway. They would see me letting Peter do something I didn’t want; they would see me fearful and helpless and struggling.” This is Anna North’s second novel. The first, America Pacifica, came out in 2011. She’s a currently a staff editor at The New York Times and has been a writer and editor at Jezebel, BuzzFeed, and Salon.
–review by Amy Steele
FTC Disclosure: I received this book for review from Net Galley.
purchase at Amazon: The Life and Death of Sophie Stark
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