Northern Lights by Philip Pullman

This book is an absolute joy. If I could, I’d lay down and roll around in it, then wrap it around me like a blanket. I received the paperback as a Christmas present many moons ago – I’d peg myself around 13-15 at the time, so we’re talking at least thirteen years ago. I remember being a bit skeptical upon reading the blurb, not entirely sure why my mum had thought I’d enjoy this. And then I remember the rest of Christmas day slipping away in the background, a low-level distraction as I romped through the streets of Oxford with the inimitable Lyra.

I’m older now, and Pullman’s masterful interweaving of academia and religion don’t leave me quite so baffled. Don’t get me wrong, I whole-heartedly loved these books – I’m just not sure I absolutely understood them. Perhaps that’s why His Dark Materials has been the only series on my favourites shelf I’ve never re-read – until now, that is. It’s taken me a long time to return, but almost the moment I began listening to the audiobook, that feeling of long-remembered joy descended on me again. I was only fifteen minutes in – not even a whole chapter – when I began begging a fantasy loving friend to add this to her audio list.

There’s a description mid-way through in which Lyra begins to master her alethiometer – she likens her understanding of it to letting her mind sink down and relax into the meaning. That’s how coming back to this book felt – like slowly descending back into a place I never fully left, rediscovering old friends and remembering old adventures. The ten hours slipped by as though no time had passed at all. The narration itself is wonderful, and the cast all do a superb job. I’ve moved straight on to The Subtle Knife, and could happily wander in this world forever.

[Read from 28-30 March 2016]

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