Northern Lights (AKA The Golden Compass) by Philip Pullman

I watched The Golden Compass movie starring Daniel Craig and Nicole Kidman a number of years ago, I don’t remember it too well, but I don’t think I was that impressed. So when I saw the book later, I wasn’t interested. There was also the associated ‘religious’ controversy which also made me stay away – not because I am religious, but because I thought the book was overly religious and was less interested (got that the wrong way round didn’t I). I then saw it a few times over the years, and thought yeah, maybe I should read it. It was only when a group of friends kept going on about it, that we decided to read (or reread) the series together at the start of 2016. And I’m disappointed that it has taken me so long to read them.

The movie certainly didn’t do it justice. Pullman does a really good job in world-building. We’re dropped right into the action, and we slowly get to see just how large and complex a world there is. It really was a great opening, and set the stage for a very intense book which doesn’t relent for very long. We are forever left wondering whose side are we on, who is helping Lyra and who isn’t, and even if we’re on the same side on one thing, what do they actually want. Like Lord Asriel and Mrs Coulter, are they on the same side? Are they working toward the same thing? Is Lord Asriel opening up the bridge to other world’s good? SO MUCH MORAL AMBIGUITY. I LOVE IT.

Who wouldn’t want a dæmon. Like come on that would be so cool. I have so many questions about them though. How do they arrive? Like are you born with it at the same time? Where does it come from? It clearly is a ‘soul’ but how does it work in reality? They seem to have a different personality, how does that work? And why can the witch’s dæmons travel further away. And do they just voice your unthought thoughts, or are they actually voicing ‘not your’ thoughts. And do you hear through them always? Can you see through them? Why exactly does Dust stop them being able to transform? AND DON’T YOU DARE SEPARATE LYRA AND PAN. It’s gonna happen isn’t it????

And Dust what are you? How does the alethiometer work? Like seriously? And why Lyra? How does she read it so easily? And what role do you play? GAH.

And why are the panserbjørn sentient? Were the other animals? I get that this is a slightly different world, but, I am very confused by this. So many questions, which is the mark of a good world builder, because there are too many details to explain, and I am intrigued enough to want to know the answers.

Reading about Oxford was really exciting, and it would have been even more exciting as a child reading this. At the same time, this is pretty serious for children to be reading, but I guess I read Harry Potter as a child, and it’s all good. But as a child you certainly ignore a lot of the subtext and subtitles.


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