Holiday Reads 2015: His Dark Materials


After a challenging year, I can’t wait for a break, some familiarity and lots of comfort – some of which, of course, will be found within books. On previous holidays, I’ve chosen to read a variety of titles, but this time I’ve decided to revisit an old ghost for my Holiday Read 2015.

Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials has haunted me since I was a teenager, having read the first installment – The Northern Lights (1995) – over a decade after it was published.  Although I cannot recollect any strong feelings towards this particular book, I know that I was spurred to carry on my perusal with The Subtle Knife (1997). This is when the haunting began.

I’ve always hated giving up on books and The Subtle Knife has been left unfinished for nearly twenty years. I recall fluid windows of time and a rip in the universe, although I cannot tell you if this is true. Right now, I am relying on memory alone. I recall fear, confusion and impatience with this particular installment and never felt compelled to return to its pages.

In recent years, His Dark Materials has touched my life in small moments, none of which were demanding or forceful, but more like flutters and weak trembles. Of course, the film release of ‘The Golden Compass’ was a prominent moment, one that caused me to lay claims about the superiority of the book. This, unsurprisingly, was quite unfounded although I do think the film was rubbish.

In my final year of university, the trilogy made itself present once again on a potential reading list.  Having lost interest at a younger age and being perturbed further still by the film, I decided to avoid its related module and in doing so, missed out on some incredible insights in the world of theology, literature and philosophy. Most recently, this young adult trilogy was a topic of discussion between two colleagues, both of whom I hugely respect. Each took a strong opinion, both differing of course.

Curious to see who I will side with in the office debate, which literary critics I’ll agree with and what philosophies I’ll uncover, I’ve decided to revisit His Dark Materials on holiday and persevere through the aspects that made me feel anxious as a teenager. I look forward to reading all three installments with a more educated mind, reflecting upon my experience of John Milton’s Paradise Lost and its impact on these works. Most of all, I look forward to returning to a part of my childhood after a turbulent time in my still early adulthood, and achieving my own coming of age as a Philip Pullman reader.


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