A remarkable tale of confusion and betrayal – and a very special girl called Sophie.
‘Some stories are hard to tell.
Even to your very best friend.
And some words are hard to get out of your mouth. Because they spell out secrets that are too huge to be spoken out loud.
But if you bottle them up, you might burst.
So here’s my story. Told the only way I dare tell it.’
Sophie Nieuwenleven is sort of English and sort of Belgian. Sophie and her family came to live in Belgium when she was only four or five years old, but she’s fourteen now and has never been quite sure why they left England in the first place. Then, one day, Sophie makes a startling discovery. Finally Sophie can unlock the mystery of who she really is. This is a story about identity and confusion – and feeling so utterly freaked out that you just can’t put it into words. But it’s also about hope. And the belief that, somehow, everything will work out OK.
SOPHIE SOMEONE is a tale of well-intentioned but stupid parenting, shock, acceptance and, ultimately, forgiveness, written in a brave, memorable and unique language all of its own.
10 Random Things about Sophie Someone by Hayley Long
1. I was about two thirds of the way through a first draft of Sophie Someone before I decided what the title should be. Before that, my working title was A Story about Someone called Sophie.
2. The main character, Sophie, lives with her family in Brussels, the Belgian capital. They live in a district of the city called Ixelles. Back in the mid-‐90s, I lived in Ixelles and taught English. Rewind further back in time – to the 1930s, in fact – and Ixelles was home to a little girl called Audrey Hepburn. She grew up to be a rather famous film star.
3. While Sophie’s story is entirely a work of fiction, I got the inspiration for it from a news story about a man called ‘Fast Eddie’ who disappeared with a van full of money from my hometown of Felixstowe.
4. I wanted to write Sophie’s story in code so that the reader could get some sense of the chaos in Sophie’s mind -‐ but I wasn’t sure how to go about writing that code. Then I remembered once reading about a group of French writers from the 1960s called the Oulipo writers. They liked doing all sorts of quirky and experimental things with language. One of the things they did was to play around with a technique that they called n+7. Basically, this means that you take every noun that you have written and replace it with the noun which follows seven places later in the dictionary. So you end up with something like this: To be or not to be that is the quibble. I tried this n+7 technique but it was far too rigid and didn’t really work for me. So instead, I just let my eyes slide around the relevant page of the dictionary until I found the word which seemed right. I named this technique ‘dictionary slippage.’ But really, Sophie Someone owes a big debt of gratitude to experimental French writers from the 1960s!
5. I believe that there are 140 code words in Sophie Someone. But I am not all that good at counting.
6. Sophie Someone kept me awake at night. Those worms just kept on going round and round and round in my helix…
7. I was chuffed when I realised that, in Sophie’s coded language, headphones were helixphoenixes.
8. The same can be said of Facebook to Faxbucket.
9. I don’t expect I’ll ever write another book in code because it was trickier than I expected it to be. There were moments when I felt that I’d bitten off a bit more than
I could chew.
10. I’m glad I’ve done it once though J