This week I read The Life and Death of Sophie Stark and I LOVED it. As soon as I picked it up I was hooked and finished it within a couple of days. The novel centers around a young filmmaker, Sophie Stark, and is told from different perspectives of the people in her life. Spoilers ahead!
Sophie is basically a bit of a misfit kid who gets teased and made fun of a lot. When she is in college she discovers film making and starts to make a film on a basketball star at their school, Daniel, who she is obsessed with/has a crush on. Even though this film is flawed, it is obvious she has a talent for film making so she goes on to make another film, Marianne, which is loosely based on the life of a girl she met, Alison. Alison and her begin dating during the making of her film but Sophie takes it too far by using trauma from Alison’s life to get a performance out of her, so Alison leaves.
Then Sophie gets asked to direct a music video and she becomes close with a member of the band, Jacob. She learns about his past and his mother and they begin dating and she makes a movie about his mom. They get married very quickly, but when the movie comes out Jacob isn’t exactly thrilled at how Sophie depicted his mother. He thought she was going to make it a happier story but she had to make it the story it was, which is a lot more depressing. As a result their relationship goes on the rocks, but the film gets a lot of acclaim.
Then we meet George who is a producer of mostly C list type movies. He has a project called Isabella that he really thinks could be great with the right director so he recruits Sophie. Sophie reaches out again to Alison because she is having trouble making a movie with another person’s script and she thinks she’ll care more if Alison is in it. Alison is hesitant as she is happy and in a great relationship, but something about Sophie draws her in and she’s on board. She doesn’t get the lead because the studio wanted a “name”, but Alison thinks she could play it better and so manipulates the lead to leave the movie and steps into the title role. As a result the film loses most of it’s funding so they have to do it on a shoestring budget . When it premieres most everyone bashes Sophie’s work but praises Alison as a breakout star. This doesn’t sit well with Sophie so she kind of goes on a downward spiral and eventually kills herself. She leaves a notebook called The Life and Death of Sophie Stark with the implication that everyone involved in her life create this film for her.
All in all I thought this whole story was riveting. I LOVED getting the perspective of Sophie from different people in her life. The only thing I wasn’t crazy about was, I obviously knew she was going to die because of the title, but when she did kill herself I didn’t really feel anything and I am someone who cries at the drop of a hat. Maybe this was the point of the whole book but I thought Sophie was a really selfish character, even though she was teased when she was younger I didn’t really feel bad for her over the course of the book. It seems like she had so many people who really cared about her, probably more than she deserved, and she didn’t treat them well at all. Maybe it was all for her “art” or whatever and she was just super misunderstood, but when she died I was almost happy for everyone in her life that they didn’t have to deal with her and her abuse anymore. Don’t get me wrong, I still LOVED the story as a whole, I just wish there was something to make me relate more to Sophie to make me care more that she died.
I think my favorite character was Sophie’s brother, Robbie. I felt for him the most because he was just trying so hard to connect with Sophie and to be there for her. He was so pure and had no ulterior motives when it came to his sister and just wanted what was best for her. I also really liked Alison. I think she had a lot going on and was a little bit fucked up from it all but she was a very interesting character. It also kind of inspired me as an actress the way she talked about getting into scenes. It was really instinctual and even though she had no formal training she just thought about what was going on in the scenes in such a basic way it gave a very real and exciting performance. I feel like a lot of actors, myself included, really overthink things the more training we have and it was kind of interesting to read something like this from someone’s perspective with no training.
As an actress we are always told to create our own stuff. I have on and off but reading this book really inspired me to start creating more. I always get stalled with wanting to be perfect but Sophie’s films were not perfect and yet she still got her message across and people could still see her talent.
It’s really hard to choose a favorite part of this book. There was a lot that stuck out for me and I truly enjoyed it. The book just flowed effortlessly. There were a few moments that really stuck out that I enjoyed a lot. One was when her brother, Robbie, was talking to a girl at their college. She was getting divorced and he was kind of her shoulder to cry on. She was drunk and if he was like most drunk college guys he may have taken advantage of the situation but he didn’t, even though he really liked her. I liked the scene a lot because I really felt like it showed what kind of person Robbie was so beautifully. He’s so selfless and really wants the best for other people.
Another scene I really loved was when they were filming Isabella with Alison as the lead. The scene where she makes love to Ferdinand and the actor she is playing opposite of is acting pissy because she took the other actress’s place. Alison really took charge of the scene despite the other actor being uncooperative and gave an amazing performance and just really made the whole situation work for her.
A last scene that I will say stood out was the moment when the producer,George, realized that Sophie was sort of using him for his contacts in L.A. and had no intention of shooting it there or having him be a huge part of it. I thought it was so indicative of life in L.A. and gave a grasp of how dog eat dog it is. George was such a melancholy type of character and his life seemed so sad. This project was the first thing to really get him excited in so long and then it just got out of his grasp.
Would you recommend to a friend?: Yes!
Would love your thoughts on the book in the comments and would love suggestions for new books to read! Join me this week as I read The Getaway by Jim Thompson!