SARAH CRIPPS WRITES…
NORTHERN LIGHTS BY PHILIP PULLMAN
The Dark Materials forms a cornerstone of BBC1’s autumn schedule and has been eagerly anticipated by fans of this other worldly series. Some would call this risky business after the contentious 2007 film adaptation. The first episode was warmly received by critics and fans alike. Pullman’s rich storytelling needs longer than a film to give justice to his work. If you haven’t read his original Northern Lights book, first part of the trilogy than you are in for a treat.
His exquisitely detailed world begins in an England and a world that are both familiar and strange.
We meet Lyra, the heroine around whom all the strands weave and her daemon Pantalaimon, (daemons are a physical manifestation of the human soul) on page 1 as they spy on a presentation made by her uncle, Lord Asriel to his colleagues at Oxford University. We get a clear sense of Lyra: unruly, mischievous, curious and bored by her limited existence as a ward of the college.
The novel follows Lyra on her journey as we uncover the truth about her parents and what her mysterious destiny is. A chosen child so to speak. We meet armoured bears, Gyptians, Witches and Gobblers as well as the all-powerful and all-seeing Magisterium.
There are so many layers and influences to Pullman’s storytelling which younger readers may not and perhaps should not pick up on. It is a critique of organised religion the all-powerful magisterium with its tight grip on society and values, the use of maths, its attack on vivisection and experimentation as well as philosophical questions regarding existence. All these themes are tied up in a tightly packed adventure story with an appealing heroine in Lyra as she sets out on her quest to rescue her childhood friend Roger.
Pullman’s books are pitched as being Young Adult or children’s but the multi-layered plot is appealing to adults. It is a challenging all absorbing read that never loses its ability to entertain.