Northern Lights by Philip Pullman

I’ve never being one for re-reading books, I don’t have the inclination nor the patience, however if there’s one book that can break this long-standing rule of mine, it’s Philip Pullman’s epic trilogy His Dark Material.

With so many layers to this story it’s hard to get bored and a second or third reading always brings up fascinating discoveries that escaped me on a first reading. Northern Lights, the first in the series, takes place in Lyra’s world. A parallel universe like our own world in many ways but with some stark differences. Zepplin’s fly in the sky and academics puzzle themselves over elementary particles in order to understand life.

But even more exciting and perhaps endearing are Daemon’s. Daemon’s are the humans external soul which always take the form of an animal. Everyone in Lyra’s world has a Daemon and the to be parted from it brings about unbearable pain.

At the beginning of the novel we meet Lyra and her Daemon Pantalaimon and it’s here that we are first introduced to their tender and touching relationship. We also get our first glimpse into the wild and carefree life of orphaned Lyra, playing in the clay beds with her best friend Roger and waging war on the local children.

But unbeknownst to Lyra there are dark and mysterious forces at play in the world. haunting rumours are filling the air of evil Gobblers who steal children from their very homes, taking them to the unruly North to conduct unspeakable and cruel crimes all in the name of ‘Dust’.

When Lyra’s friend Roger is stolen by the Gobblers, Lyra is determined to save him. But then she meets the irresistible, fascinating and beautiful Mrs Coulter and is soon whisked away with the promise of an adventure. Her young eyes will become widened as she discovers the world around her, a curious place filled with strange and unfathomable mysteries. But can she really trust Mrs Coulter?

Soon she comes to realise that there is an epic war taking place in the world as Pullman grabs his readers and drags them into a world of true imagination. We meet armoured bears who rule the darkest regions of the North and witches who fly on cloud pine branches. Pullman expertly builds a sense of Lyra’s destiny and the part she must play in the great battle against Good and Evil.

Witches talk of a propehcy There is a curious propehcy about this child: she is destined to bring about the end of desinty. But she must do it without knowing what she is doing, as if it were her nature and not her destiny to do it. If she’s told what she must do, it will all fail; death will sweep through all the worlds; it will be the triumph of despair, for ever.

With this story come some engaging and compelling themes reflecting Pullman’s true atheist background. All masterfully blended in a story of real warmth and heart.

Were left wondering is it better to grow old and innocent, never committing sin or pain? or is better to experience and live life fully even if it lets pain and darkness in?

***BOOK GROUP THOUGHTS***

Thankfully most people loved this book but off course you can’t please everyone and it’s good to be reminded of this from time to time. One person decided not to finish the book whilst another stuck with it to the end but failed to become bowled over by Pullman’s story.

The rest of us seemed a lot more enamoured with the story and enjoyed analysing it, pouring over the many themes and our different reactions and interpretations of them. Incidentally this book is a perfect book group choice.

We were each impressed by Pullman’s talent for producing on one hand a simply compelling and fascinating story and on the other creating an urgent and important piece of literature.

It’s being a while since I read the sequel to this book, The Subtle Knife, but after receiving a first edition of the trilogy for Christmas I think it’s about time. So what does everyone else make of this book? Do you enjoy it just as much as me, or perhaps you feel very differently and hate this story?

If you have some time for a little light-hearted fun then take part in thie quiz which tells you what your Deamon would be. If you do try the quiz then be sure to post your answers below and your reactions to them.

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6 thoughts on “Northern Lights by Philip Pullman

  1. Hey Lu
    My email had totally deregistered from your blog, sorry!
    I just finished book 3, and I’m a bit mixed now about it, the first is defo the best. But overall a very good series. And good book club, hope the next book is as good. xx

    • Hey Dave, we all know you’re going to HATE the next book! If you love one book you’re guaranteed to hate the next one. You need to read something else in-between – try The White Whale or something.

      I want to watch the film before I start the next book – See if it captures my imagination more than the book did. Is it true to the book? (Other than skipping the ending).

      • Ha too true Sammy Dee!

        I haven’t seen the film, I know Dave liked it but everyone else I’ve spoken to said they hated it! Let me know what you think if you do decide to watch it. I don’t think I can bring myself to it, just love the book so much, think it would frustrate me too much if they tampered with the story x

    • Hi Dave,

      Oh no, were you not as sure? What didn’t you like? I think Robyn said she had similar feelings. It’s being years since I read it but I do remember loving it. It’s a lot more complex and dark but I loved the way everything tied together. Did you like the second one? I remeber loving that x

  2. As for the quiz – The first time I did it I was a Wolf Daemon. I was happy being a wolf, even though I can’t remember what it was supposed to represent. Today I’m a Hare. I thought I’d answered the same way but apparently I didn’t.

    I now also know I’m a wizard, Catwoman and could maybe predict the future, if I tried harder or could be bothered.

    • Ha maybe the quiz isn’t so accurate! I was a monkey which I’d usually be fine with, however I don’t want a monkey like Mrs Coutler’s!

      Catwoman would be amazing! x

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