I wish I hadn’t waited so long to write this review because now it’s harder to remember why exactly I found this book emotionally compelling (but I did). It’s an interesting trick that Anna North uses—to tell the story of a person through the eyes and experiences of people around her—and I think it works, precisely because Sophie Stark is a filmmaker, who creates stories of others’ lives so it makes sense that others should tell her story.
The basic plot of Sophie’s life is this—she’s a creative, eccentric, and perhaps on-the-spectrum artist who makes her first film in college, a documentary focused around a popular student athlete. This sets her on an artistic path that includes a rise and a fall and the title suggests where this fall leads. However, it’s the subtle details beneath this plot that I found interesting. The story is told by a small cast of characters. The first is Allison, a young actress who Sophie chooses for her second film—one that helps the careers of both women. The second is Robbie, Sophie’s younger brother. The third is Jacob, a popular musician who hires Sophie to make a music video and ends up collaborating with her in a different way. The fourth is Daniel, the subject of Sophie’s college documentary, and the fifth is George, a producer tired of creating profitable but bad movies.
Through each of these narrators we learn about Sophie and the forces that drive her but also separate her from the world. At the same time, it’s clear that no one fully knows Sophie, including Sophie herself. I can see ways that this novel won’t work for people but it made me think about art and relationships and how they don’t always mix well and six weeks later, even though the plot itself is growing fuzzy, I’m still thinking about Sophie, a character who feels real to me even though she doesn’t feel real to herself.