Tag Archives: His Dark Materials

Serpentine: a short story from the world of His Dark Materials and The Book of Dust – Philip Pullman

Standard

Penguin Australia

  • November 2020
  • ISBN: 9780241475249
  • Imprint: Penguin
  • Format: Hardback
  • RRP: $16.99

Naturally I read it immediately! Pullman explains that following His Dark Materials ‘Lyra and her world wouldn’t leave [him] alone’ and he wrote this short story following a request for a contribution to a fund-raising even for the National Theatre. Given that the NT had staged a wonderful production of His Dark Materials he was happy to do so and gratified that this story made a generous amount of money. Sixteen years later and two books into The Book of Dust Pullman felt it time to share this story which foreshadows so perfectly the heart-breaking dilemma in which Lyra and Pantalaimon find themselves in the new series.

Lyra and Pan return to the North accompanying an Oxford archaeological dig giving Lyra the perfect opportunity to re-visit the meaningful memories of her younger self and especially to talk with Dr Lanselius Consul to the witches. She is desperate to find an answer to the question that has plagued and grieved her since she separated from Pan whimpering on that jetty. What had Pan done, what had he seen and where had he been? How did he manage on his own? The pair may have become comfortable with their ability to part but Lyra has never been reconciled to the difference between them that it has created nor can she ask Pan himself about this sensitive matter. This gulf between them, as we know, becomes irreconcilable and a crucial element in The Book of Dust, particularly The Secret Commonwealth.

We may not have the answers but at least we begin to understand the true pain of the separation which is so much more than a physical one.

Lovers of Pullman’s world will delight in this little addition to their collection – and what a perfect little stocking filler it makes!!

This one stays on my shelf – enough recommendation I think for anyone.

The Secret Commonwealth – Philip Pullman

Standard

9780241373347

The Book of Dust Volume Two

Published: 3 October 2019

ISBN: 9780241373347

Imprint: Penguin and David Fickling Books

Format: Trade Paperback

Pages: 784

RRP: $32.99

Surely one of the most highly anticipated sequels ever – or was that just me? (I don’t think so!)

I wasn’t sure what to expect but it wasn’t this – and I mean that in a very positive way. Where La Belle Sauvage was set ten years prior to His Dark Materials this continuation is set ten years after those events. Where La Belle Sauvage’s plot raced as furiously as the flood waters, this moves at a far slower pace which serves to build the intensity of the narrative in a completely compelling manner.  It is mammoth and complex and there are myriad intricacies to the plot which are far too numerous on which to expound in a review – nor would I want to.

Lyra is now a young woman and a college student, and like so many others of her own period and place as well as others, full of new ideas, questioning old beliefs and eager to make her mark. She and Pan not only have the ability to separate physically but have developed an ever widening gulf between their ways of thinking and their previously sympatico and loving connection to each other.

Strange and dangerous forces are threatening Lyra’s very existence beginning with inexplicable incidents such as the new Master of Jordan forcing her to relinquish her room and relegating her to the servants’ quarters, she and Pan witnessing a murder and the pursuit of the two by unknown malefactors. Of course, the CCD is no stranger in all of this but it appears that there is more afoot than just this body and the existing Magisterium. Almost it seems that ghosts from the past are returning to haunt her and her faithful companions. For Alice and Malcolm now reveal to her the history of the connection between all three of them and Lyra has much to contemplate.

But the story is not just the recount of events that are impacting on Lyra in a personal way. There are other sinister happenings which seem to have no connection such as the increasing scarcity of certain roses and the oil distilled from these, the significance of Dust in all of this and the ruthless uprisings of certain factions and persons.

When Pan decides to leave Lyra in his extreme unhappiness she realizes what is at stake and leaving aside all thoughts of her own safety she determines to find him again and along the way to discover the truth about the threats that are crowding in on her. The journey is fraught but Lyra discovers that there are supporters to be found in the most unlikely of places and it is with hope that she continues her mission, all the time growing more and more attached to Malcolm, who has undertaken his own part in the unravelling of mysteries.

Pullman concludes with such a mighty cliffhanger that it made me swear (I know! How unusual for me!) and once again I will have to curb my impatience to wait for the conclusion – sigh.

The master has done it again – and needs no recommendation from me – but if you are looking for your holiday read I would urge to take it up, you won’t be disappointed.

La Belle Sauvage : The Book of Dust #1 – Phillip Pullman

Standard

Dust

Penguin Random House

9780857561084

October 19, 2017

David Fickling Books

 

RRP $32.99

 

Dear Philip Pullman

It is magnificent! How long must I wait for volume 2?

Yours Sincerely

Me

 

I don’t think I would have been alone when, upon finding out earlier this year that Philip Pullman was publishing a new ‘prequel’ trilogy, I wondered whether it could possibly match the beauty, skill and intensity of His Dark Materials.

Why worry? This is coming from one of the most masterful storytellers of our time and is every bit as fabulous as its counterpart. I should have known.

Young Malcolm Polstead (with his daemon Asta) appears an average boy living with his innkeeper parents at The Trout. Yet he is far more than that; an enquiring mind, a sharp eye for detail, a sensitivity and an uncanny intuition all combine to raise him above his peers. Living directly across the river from the Priory Malcolm is a regular visitor to the nuns where he helps with all manner of odd jobs and enjoys talking particularly with the ancient Sister who prepares the meals.  His other chief occupation is taking his canoe, Le Belle Sauvage, out and about on the waterways round Oxford where he quietly observes much, mostly nature.

One day however he observes something quite strange.  When an unknown man appears to have lost a small object and then is rudely apprehended by some sinister looking individuals Malcolm is intrigued. Strange things have been afoot. At schools, including Malcolm’s, a fanatical sect has turned children against teachers and even parents and most suspect it is the work of the feared CCD.  The boy has also learned that his loved nuns at Godstow Priory are taking care of a small and seemingly special baby, one Lyra Belacqua. Is it possible such things could be intertwined somehow?

A new friend comes about as a result of Malcolm’s observation, and retrieval, of the lost object. A young scholar with an extensive knowledge of the strange instruments called alethiometers.  Together with Dr Hannah, Malcolm begins to seek out and deliver important tidbits of information which they both store away like squirrels hoarding nuts.

Then an unexpected weather event creates a huge flood across the whole of the countryside causing houses, bridges and the priory to collapse. Malcolm and his acquaintance Alice, a kitchen maid, take charge of the baby Lyra and an adventure like no other follows.

This is a gripping tale of courage and selflessness. Pullman’s ability to paint pictures with his words pulls the reader right into the book so that one feels one is in Le Belle Sauvage, along with the children,  battling the elements and desperately avoiding the pursuers who want baby Lyra for their own nefarious ends. The main characters become our allies and we fear for them and rejoice in their triumphs.  For those who have often wondered about Lyra’s history before the prophecy was revealed and the narrative that followed her throughout His Dark Materials this is a must read.

I’ve read some wonderful books this year but this has to be the best yet. I cannot wait for the next volume to be ready so we can continue the saga.

Find some input from the master himself here.