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The Northern Lights – The Golden Compass (Phillip Pullman)

The Northern Lights written by Phillip Pullman is an extraordinary tale of a young girl, Lyra Belacqua, who travels north (to the northern lights) to rescue her best friend who has been kidnapped with many other children. Little does she know that her destiny is foretold and that she is the key to something much larger, nor does she realise that her journey will open the world up to her in ways that she could never have even imagined in her wildest dreams.

The story is an enchanting one which pulls the reader in to a world where humans have their souls as a deamon in the shape of animal. Someone who will always be there to talk to and will forever share your thoughts as your minds are entwined into one. Lyra is a fierce, brave and loyal child who only wants to do what is right. She is an imaginative liar, without actually being imaginative and is always able to come up with a good plan in the spur of the moment. She is the person who pulls the story along and as a reader, you find yourself holding your breath for her and clinging on to her story with every ounce of your being as she gets bashed and beaten and pulled into things that are completely out of her control.

Phillip Pullman is, and in my eyes always will be, a brilliant writer. His style is fluid and easy to read, but this may have something to do with his target audience, of course. However, it cannot be denied that this first book in ‘The Dark Materials‘ trilogy is one that really gets the ball rolling. It opens up possibilities and questions that lead the reader into wanting more, which is a relief when you realise that there is actually another two books to continue reading.

Unfortunately, this book, but more the trilogy as a whole, is covered in controversy as the novels question religious Christian beliefs and has been commented as a very ‘atheist’ story. Personally, I try not to let these things ruin my reading, especially for books designed for teenagers and young adults, and so I do not have much to say on this topic except that even if it did somehow push the boundary, then good for it. Surely the whole point of being able to write is to be able to question things that you can not question outright? For this, I simply give Pullman props and am glad that despite the controversary, these books are still widely circulated as they definitely in my top ten favourite books of all time.

In 2007, Hollywood decided that they liked the books so much that they would try and make a film out of them. The Golden Compass (2007) was directed by Chris Weitz but, unfortunately, it was a complete and utter flop. It may just be that I couldn’t see past the magical brilliance of the books or it could have been that the censorship rating of 12 was too low but whatever the real reason was, it is simply a real shame that this film didn’t become the huge success that it should have been. With Nicole Kidman playing Mrs Coulter and Daniel Craig playing Lord Asriel, it had all the qualities it needed to truly bring this story alive as both are remarkable at acting and would have been able to set the characters to life except that they just didn’t. There was just something missing.

Moreover, the film just struggled to capture Lyra in all of her infinte beauty (inner, that is) and it was hard to sympathise with her when things just continuously went wrong for her. I’m certain that Dakota Richards is a brilliant actress, I have no doubt about that, but unfortunately the directing and plot just let it all slip down the drain. This film simply didn’t have the buzz, excitement and magic that was so well fuelled in the books and thus it didn’t become the box office success it should have been. It is, therefore, not surprising that four years down the line there still hasn’t been a sequel made.

Perhaps, ‘His Dark Materials’, are simply better left on the page, accessable only to those willing to actually pick them up and read the magic that they leave in all of our hearts.

One thought on “The Northern Lights – The Golden Compass (Phillip Pullman)

  1. Adult fans of young-adult fiction have had something of a Garden of Eden lately, with such wonderful novels as the Harry Potter series, Artemis Fowl etc. crossing the line between the genres of young adult and adult. Somewhat less well-known (and, in my opinion, more deserving of credit and praise than either Harry or Artemis) is this series of books by hitherto-unknown Philip Pullman – the ‘His Dark Materials Trilogy’, the first book of which is this, ‘The Northern Lights’.

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