The time-travelling bookworm: ‘Northern Lights’ by Philip Pullman

His Dark Materials is a fantastic series full of big ideas, amazing settings and interesting characters. The first book, Northern Lights (also known as The Golden Compass) is my least favourite in the trilogy but it’s still a great read.

According to my records, I’ve read it three times – in 2002, 2011 and 2016. What impresses me is that it’s a children’s book (crossing into YA) which has as much appeal for adults because of Pullman’s sophisticated writing and mature themes. I also find parallel universes intriguing. The world Lyra lives in is somewhat different from our own. Most striking is the concept of daemons. Every person is accompanied by an animal who is kind of their soul or conscience. Children’s daemons are always changing and adapting, but by the time they’re grown up, the daemons are fixed in form.

A mediocre film of the book was released in 2007. The film looked stunning but it watered down the more controversial (and therefore the most interesting) elements of the book and also cut off the ending. The 2019 adaptation for BBC / HBO did the story properly (also mixing in a little of the second book, The Subtle Knife), and although the result was not perfect, Philip Pullman himself was on board, resulting in a very good series which was truer to the tone of the book.

Previous time-travelling episodes: The Story of an African Farm, Zarconi’s Magic Flying Fish, The Midwich Cuckoos, Red VelvetThe YearbookVoyage in the Dark.

9 thoughts on “The time-travelling bookworm: ‘Northern Lights’ by Philip Pullman”

  1. I’ve been meaning to read these books for years but for some reason never got round to it. I’ve heard some great things, maybe I’ll finally do it in 2020.

    1. Cool, I look forward to hearing your thoughts if you get round to reading 🙂
      Have you watched the TV series?

    1. Thanks! 😀
      When I first read Northern Lights, there wasn’t any hype. I think the film/TV adaptations have fuelled it 🙂 I would say it’s a good example of a crossover between children’s, YA and adults! It may be worth trying Northern Lights and see what you think 😉

  2. Excellent review of this book! It was part of my favourite series growing up and I was very excited when the film was released although I ended up disappointed due to the reasons you mentioned.

    1. Thanks! 🙂 It was one of my favourite series too. Have you been able to see the TV adaptation – if so, what did you think?

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