Sunday, March 22, 2015

Northern Lights by Philip Pullman

It may seem strange to pick a ‘children’s book’ as my favourite book of all time. But I choose not to be constrained by the label. There is nothing childish in the complex themes and the graphic imagery in the ‘His Dark Materials' trilogy and the books had me enchanted from the very first line:

‘Lyra and her daemon moved through the darkening hall, taking care to keep to one side, out of sight of the kitchen.’

In interview Pullman has admitted that he'll probably never have an idea as good as his 'daemon' ever again (although, lucky bugger, he's had loads of others that come close). For those uninitiated, in the world of the books' central character, Lyra, daemons are the physical manifestation of the human soul. They take the form of animals that can change form (from moth to tiger to fly etc.) until a person reaches puberty, at which point they settle to look like the animal that most reflects the human's temperament. It is a simple idea but I've never read anything so enchanting.

In the first book, 'Northern Lights', the central character Lyra travels from her home town of Oxford to the frozen north of Svalbard, where witches go to war and armoured bears live in palaces of ice. It is a world so richly created, so utterly enchanting that finishing the book is pretty devastating.

‘Directly above them the balloon swelled out in a huge curve. Above and ahead of them the Aurora was blazing, with more brilliance and grandeur than she had ever seen. It was all around, or nearly, and they were nearly part of it. Great swathes of incandescence trembled and parted like angels’ wings beating, cascades of luminescent glory tumbled down invisible crags to lie in swirling pools or hang like vast waterfalls.’

The characters are all embellished and real and Lyra herself is perfect. Small, feisty, brave and irreverent - she is everything I wanted to be when I was young and to be honest she still is.

Lyra's story would be engaging enough in itself but there are much deeper themes involved. There are complex religious ideas that focus on original sin and loss of innocence. I truly believe that books for children do not have to be dumbed down, with simple language and obvious plots and Pullman demonstrates that in much of his work but most of all here.

‘So Lyra and her daemon turned away from the world they were born in, and looked toward the sun, and walked into the sky.’

This 'Favourite Book' submission is courtesy of Katie, thank you for sharing with us Katie!

Katie has recently started her own book blog, which you can find here!   
You can also find her on Pinterest here.

If you'd like to share your favourite book with my readers, click here (or the tab at the top of the page) to find out some more info.  The books shared by various bloggers & authors can be found hereeee.  

Hope you all enjoy the rest of your weekend!  



Charlotte B said...

I LOVE this book! The whole trilogy is fantastic, but it was the first one that got me hooked of course! I'd love to know what form my daemon would take! And I agree with the whole "children's book" thing - this one is definitely complex enough for children AND adults, and it certainly won't stop me from reading it again!

Katie Burton said...

Thank you Louise for sharing my favourite book!

As Charlotte said, what form my daemon would take has been plaguing me for years. I hope it would be something sufficiently cool like a panther but that might be wishful thinking.

Katie x

Francesca Arnott said...

Sounds like a great read, I like children's books that are also appropriate for adults it's nice to be able to read something tht works on both levels.

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