I would like to thank Penguin’s First to Read for providing me with an arc of The Life and Death of Sophie Stark
by Anna North
. The Life and Death of Sophie Stark
tells the story of Sophie Stark, the highly talented and socially awkward independent movie director who uses the life stories of those in her life to create her films. Sophie’s story is told not from her perspective but through those who were the closest to her in her short life: her girlfriend Allison who stars in two of her movies that cause their relationship to end each time, her brother Robbie who acts as the foil to his sister for he helps her to live in the world, her husband Jacob the musician who shares a heart wrenching story about how his mother became mean as her brain tumor took over, her college obsession Daniel who later in life becomes obsessed with Sophie, the Hollywood director and executive producer on Sophie’s last film George, and film critic Ben Martin who followed and was never afraid to call like he saw it when it came to her short lived career. Sophie recognizes that she is lacking when it comes to sharing her emotions and feelings, she is a woman who has never truly learned how to properly interact with other human beings or what it means to overstep ones place ad it is for these reasons that she enlists this small group of individuals who were a part of her life to tell her story in what could be viewed as her final documentary piece, a documentary about her.
One of the things that I loved the most about this book, aside from the fact that I was drawn in right from the start and my attention was maintained throughout, was the fact that Sophie’s story was being told by all these other characters. Reading this made me think of the small “Remembering…” clips that TCM plays in between airings of their films where people who knew a certain actor or director really well share with the audience lesser known information and their thoughts on that person who has since passed on. I found it poignant that the reason why all of these people were telling their stories about how they met Sophie and their relationship with her was all because even upon her death, Sophie was still a director who knew how to tell a story and she knew that this was a story that her fans would want to know. The fact that she left specific instructions, including not only who was to provide the stories but also how it was to be filmed with angles and lighting and the other directions one would expect to find in a script and from a director.
In the end, The Life and Death of Sophie Stark is a story that I am sure will remain with me for Sophie is such a different type of character, one who doesn’t even try to conform to others expectations of her and who upon realizing that she will only ever continue to hurt those she loves by abusing their love through her films takes her life and allows for them to make her last film as a way to both remember her and receive a kind of catharsis following her death.
“Truthfully, I don’t think murder is necessarily as bad as people make it out to be. Everyone dies. What difference does it make if a few bad apples get pushed along a little sooner than God intended? And your wife, for example, seems like the kind worth killing.” It is with these words spoken by Lily Kintner to Ted Severson on a night flight from London to Boston that the reader becomes drawn into Peter Swanson’s newest book, “The Kind Worth Killing”. Coming to realize that Lily is right about his wife, Miranda, Ted begins to plot how best to kill his wife and her lover with input from Lily. This book has been described as a modern day “Strangers on a Train”; in a way, that comparison can rightfully be made for it does begin with two strangers meeting and discussing how to go about murdering the one characters wife, but that’s where the comparisons end for Lily does not make the proposal of a “criss-cross” to take care of one another’s undesirables in their lives by killing a person for the other. Peter Swanson has created a world in which an unwitting man is convinced to kill his wife by a strange young woman who has many dark secrets of her own, as well as her own reasons for wanting Ted’s wife removed from existence.
After reading Peter Swanson’s first book, “The Girl With a Clock for a Heart” and falling in love with both the story and his writing style, I was beyond excited when I learned that he had written a new mystery book. I was further excited when I was presented with an opportunity to read an advanced readers copy courtesy of Harper Collins, many thanks to Harper Collins for this opportunity as I thoroughly enjoyed this book. Luckily Peter Swanson has not suffered from the dreaded sophomore slump, if anything I feel that this book may even be better than his début novel. Afraid of giving away key pieces to the plot and storyline, I will just say that I loved this book and would recommend it to fans of Patricia Highsmith, “Gone Girl”, “The Girl on the Train”, and fans of his first book.