Sophie Stark is the complex unlikable character at the center of The Life and Death of.... She's the focus of the novel, yet her voice is never heard. She's never given the chance to tell her own story. Yet through the eyes of others the reader gets a sense of who Sophie Stark is and that image is perhaps more telling that than if Sophie herself told the story. It's through these voices, these implications that Sophie is a real bitch, that the reader begins to see Sophie as the persecuted as well as the persecutor.
Anna North's novel certainly succeeds in creating characters who are multi-dimensional and interesting. The Life and Death of Sophie Stark is an excellent portrayal of the darker side of people. The language and pacing fit the story well. And the questions of victimhood are raised so subtly that one must either be ignorant of their existence or applaud the author for her craft.
All in all, The Life and Death... is a very strong book. Perhaps the concluding chapters weren't quite as sharp as the bulk of the book, but they did what was needed to finish the story. This novel did make me question my own criticism of art. I tend to err on the side of caution when judging a book or piece of music or whatever... but from time to time I speak my mind. I think honesty is important, even in art, but one must weigh it against perspective. Artists need to be open to criticism if they are going to expose their works to the world; in the same breath, critics need to keep in mind that artists are merely human and that their words can harm. Even without this extra consideration, The Life and Death of Sophie Stark deserves the five stars I award it.