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The Book of Dust: Volume II (Spoilers for HDM and La Belle Sauvage)

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YEp, bought my lovely hardback copy this weekend at Waterstones. Selling very well here at least. Sadly i’ve managed to screw my reading order by rereading The Gentleman Bastards so i have a backlog before i can read this

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Having this arrive the month after a little hatred is about as good as it gets for me. It's like when Spartacus was on straight after GOT on Monday night. 

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I just started reading La Belle Sauvage although I purchased it originally when it came out...it's just been sitting here waiting for me to read it.  And right away I'm pulled back into the world and the story.  Once done I'm thinking of rereading the original trilogy before then potentially staring in on the new book.

I have a slight reluctance regarding The Secret Commonwealth and an older Lyra...at the end of The Amber Spyglass when Lyra and Will say goodbye and make their promise about sitting on the bench in Oxford at the same time - that is just such a bittersweet perfect ending moment in a book for me.  You can imagine anything about Lyra's future at that point and what will happen to her and make up your own story about what her future entails.  And then the whole idea if she and Will do go to the bench every year or do for a time but then as their lives progress, stop going.  I really like not knowing what comes after that.  So some reluctance to read more into her future.

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Gigantic spoilery rambles on The Secret Commonwealth below the cut. 

Spoiler

 

Finished it tonight. Getting my thoughts down before I read anyone else's reactions.

Is it me, or is Pullman ageing increasingly into C.S. Lewis, an author whose narrative choices he has previously attacked (rather shallowly, in the case of the absence of Susan from The Last Battle)? At least, I assume that all the stuff targeting New Atheism and Lyra's move towards accepting the Secret Commonwealth is expressing the author's own inclinations. I just wonder where this theme is going to go in Book 3. It would be a bit bonkers, imo, for the final part of the trilogy to be the victory of the Uncanny and the denunciation of all rationality. I don't expect it to be – some kind of accommodation seems more likely. I also couldn't share Book 2's apparent horror at the work of the fashionable rationalist authors; even if their ideas were silly/solipsistic, they were still ideas rather than manifestos.

I also didn't fully get the breakdown of the relationship between Lyra and Pan. Perhaps that was intended, since they didn't seem to get it either. But Lyra, despite the insistence of Pan/the authorial voice, never seemed seriously under the sway of either Brandt or what's-his-face. She always cared far too much about her relationship with Pan to have accepted on any deep level that he didn't really exist. Quite a way into the novel, we also get a few asides about how she'd been a bit mean now and again, and that this had put Pan off her. However, when we actually meet Lyra for the first time since Lyra's Oxford, she's being quite nice and sensible and looking after a friend of hers, going out for a good meal, chatting with the senior servants.

That said, I loved the plot that this set up – Pan setting off on his own, Lyra in pursuit. I just wish that a) I had been more convinced by its genesis and b) the departure from Brytain had happened earlier on. Loved the Oxford manoeuvrings, but I felt it made the novel as a whole a bit uneven. A novel with a more explicit see-saw structure – half in Oxford centred on my darling Alice (who needed far more page space), Hannah, the ghastly new Master of Jordan; half in Smyrna/Constantinople with Pan, Malcolm, Lyra etc. I think you'd need to put Geneva in there too. I'd remove/adapt as many of the European sections as possible to give more space for the cities in Asia Minor to breath.

I liked this book, but at the same time I was wound up by a couple of things quite a bit. More so than by anything in La Belle Sauvage. I didn't like the way that Malcolm remembered the final episode with Bonneville père – the first time round. He remembers that he killed him and left Asta to save Lyra, as opposed to trying to rescue Alice. I find the whole – apparent? - romance plot with Lyra deeply skeevy. If we end Book 3 with Lyra and Malcolm together, Lyra having been cured of her depression through the power of true love, that's one volume that will be going on a one-way trip through my upstairs window.

I like Malcolm. I loved his big POV debut, La Belle Sauvage. I just don't want him mystically erotically bonded to Lyra, or vice versa. (I did almost laugh aloud at the bit where Lyra explains very clearly what didn't happen with Will. Pullman seemed on the verge of writing: “A/N: Nothing like that went on in that section in The Amber Spyglass, you know the one I mean, you PERVERTS! Now stop bothering me about it!”).

Speaking of La Belle Sauvage, it was a very different kind of book in feeling to TSC, even though it shared several plot beats – an extended beginning “at home”, an abduction/murder by an Oxford waterway, CLUES, followed by a long, dangerous journey with various picaresque goings-on. La Belle Sauvage was self-contained, and relatively light in terms of its baggage on the grounds that Malcolm was 11 and new to everything. Mrs Coulter appeared, and Lord Asriel, and Farder Coram, but he didn't know them; they were appearing as new to him, fresh, for the first time. And being so young, he didn't have a past to reflect on. Things happened, he paid careful attention to them, he acted when he felt he had to.

The Secret Commonwealth gives us an older Lyra, much more introspective and also retrospective. She has lost her carefree spirit, and becomes evermore conscious of that as the book goes on. She remembers her friends, the dead and the few survivors, and seems hardly able to turn a corner – until the final chapters when events push her to concentrate on the now – without some recollection coming to her, even though at one point her narrative though-stream claims that she can only remember slivers of her journeys in the North. To me she seemed both gripped by nostalgia for her lost youth, and suffering from something like PTSD. She won't even think properly about her father (that line more or less actually crops up in her thoughts at one point), though for a surname she immediately chooses a reference to his name, showing that he's not far from the surface of her mind. Is she someone trying to recover from a difficult past by denying it? Is this what has been disturbing Pan?

The overall effect was a little deadening. Lyra's POV chapters make quite a difficult read. Not boring, exactly, but slow and less visceral than most of La Belle Sauvage. She was still clearly the most developed and well-rounded character in the novel. Meeting Malcolm again was nice, but we've been out of his life for two decades. He's now a scholarly super spy (an absolutely fair development of his character from what we saw in La Belle Sauvage). Still, he seems if anything to have lost depth in the intervening years. It would be nice if he had acquired something – some phobia, some bitterness, some oddness, some imperfection – on the way. Apart from his “love” for Lyra, whom he hasn't really spent much time with as an adult, and which may not register with Pullman as an imperfection, I can't see any trace of one. I thought for awhile that Malcolm's daemon might have settled as a cat partly because his childhood experiences left him with a horror of water, but no.

Onto the antagonists. Delamere was a flat evil uncle character. This in fact seemed to be nodded to in the recap of the plot of Jahan and Rukhsana. He serves to get events moving, and his takeover of the Magisterium was unnervingly plausible; at the moment, he doesn't seem likely to be of interest for more than his ability to move the plot forward and put pressure on our heroes.

I am intrigued by Olivier. He is, in the accurate words of Malcolm, “a slippery, vicious little brat”. At the same time, he seems to have a limited kind of self-awareness. He's a brat rather than a man. Currently he seems likely to mature into someone every bit as nasty as his father (horrible man, very effective - i.e. terrifying - primary villain!). Still, there is the faint glimmer of hope for him in that he doesn't seem to be a complete psychopath, if not by much – he chooses to shoot Lyra from a distance, not trusting himself to do it close to.

I think it would be nice if he was allowed to improve a bit in the next book, but he probably won't. Pullman isn't especially fond of redemption arcs – the closest he came was with Mrs Coulter, and (not having read The Amber Spyglass since I was 14/15, it's a bit hazy) I don't think I was convinced by that. In Pullman, most good people stay good, and bad people stay bad. The personality is symbolically fixed when the daemon keeps to one shape. Though the multiple references to people who'd parted ways with their daemons after personality clashes could suggest that change and continuity is something the author will explore further in Book 3?

Actually, the most effective antagonists were minor ones. The soldier-policemen who may work for the CCD, who dragged away Alice, and wrecked Hannah's home. The cowardly bursar, who wouldn't stand up for his colleagues, claiming mendaciously that he was allowing their unjust suffering in order to “protect the staff”! Characters full of a terribly mundane sort of evil. Brutes that don't seem to have sufficient moral imagination to desire or form another way of proceeding. Well-paid middle-aged suits who prefer to ignore the mistreatment of the people close to them, rather than do anything at all to help.

There were a lot of minor characters who were nicely sketched and good to meet too From the afterword, it looks as if we'll be seeing a couple of them again; sadly, Pullman didn't mention Princess Cantacuzino among them – at least there's a good chance we'll meet with her passionate daemon Phanourios at some point.

My verdict on this book will only really be decided once I have the third one in my hands. Based on the set-up, I think it could be spectacular – if Pullman can pull the threads together in an elegant way. And there are a lot of threads to manage. 

 

 

Edited by dog-days

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On 10/10/2019 at 11:15 PM, dog-days said:

Gigantic spoilery rambles on The Secret Commonwealth below the cut. 

  Reveal hidden contents

 

Finished it tonight. Getting my thoughts down before I read anyone else's reactions.

Is it me, or is Pullman ageing increasingly into C.S. Lewis, an author whose narrative choices he has previously attacked (rather shallowly, in the case of the absence of Susan from The Last Battle)? At least, I assume that all the stuff targeting New Atheism and Lyra's move towards accepting the Secret Commonwealth is expressing the author's own inclinations. I just wonder where this theme is going to go in Book 3. It would be a bit bonkers, imo, for the final part of the trilogy to be the victory of the Uncanny and the denunciation of all rationality. I don't expect it to be – some kind of accommodation seems more likely. I also couldn't share Book 2's apparent horror at the work of the fashionable rationalist authors; even if their ideas were silly/solipsistic, they were still ideas rather than manifestos.

I also didn't fully get the breakdown of the relationship between Lyra and Pan. Perhaps that was intended, since they didn't seem to get it either. But Lyra, despite the insistence of Pan/the authorial voice, never seemed seriously under the sway of either Brandt or what's-his-face. She always cared far too much about her relationship with Pan to have accepted on any deep level that he didn't really exist. Quite a way into the novel, we also get a few asides about how she'd been a bit mean now and again, and that this had put Pan off her. However, when we actually meet Lyra for the first time since Lyra's Oxford, she's being quite nice and sensible and looking after a friend of hers, going out for a good meal, chatting with the senior servants.

That said, I loved the plot that this set up – Pan setting off on his own, Lyra in pursuit. I just wish that a) I had been more convinced by its genesis and b) the departure from Brytain had happened earlier on. Loved the Oxford manoeuvrings, but I felt it made the novel as a whole a bit uneven. A novel with a more explicit see-saw structure – half in Oxford centred on my darling Alice (who needed far more page space), Hannah, the ghastly new Master of Jordan; half in Smyrna/Constantinople with Pan, Malcolm, Lyra etc. I think you'd need to put Geneva in there too. I'd remove/adapt as many of the European sections as possible to give more space for the cities in Asia Minor to breath.

I liked this book, but at the same time I was wound up by a couple of things quite a bit. More so than by anything in La Belle Sauvage. I didn't like the way that Malcolm remembered the final episode with Bonneville père – the first time round. He remembers that he killed him and left Asta to save Lyra, as opposed to trying to rescue Alice. I find the whole – apparent? - romance plot with Lyra deeply skeevy. If we end Book 3 with Lyra and Malcolm together, Lyra having been cured of her depression through the power of true love, that's one voume that will be going on a one-way trip through my upstairs window.

I like Malcolm. I loved his big POV debut, La Belle Sauvage. I just don't want him mystically erotically bonded to Lyra, or vice versa. (I did almost laugh aloud at the bit where Lyra explains very clearly what didn't happen with Will. Pullman seemed on the verge of writing: “A/N: Nothing like that went on in that section in The Amber Spyglass, you know the one I mean, you PERVERTS! Now stop bothering me about it!”).

Speaking of La Belle Sauvage, it was a very different kind of book in feeling to TSC, even though it shared several plot beats – an extended beginning “at home”, an abduction/murder by an Oxford waterway, CLUES, followed by a long, dangerous journey with various picaresque goings-on. La Belle Sauvage was self-contained, and relatively light in terms of its baggage on the grounds that Malcolm was 11 and new to everything. Mrs Coulter appeared, and Lord Asriel, and Farder Coram, but he didn't know them; they were appearing as new to him, fresh, for the first time. And being so young, he didn't have a past to reflect on. Things happened, he paid careful attention to them, he acted when he felt he had to.

The Secret Commonwealth gives us an older Lyra, much more introspective and also retrospective. She has lost her carefree spirit, and becomes evermore conscious of that as the book goes on. She remembers her friends, the dead and the few survivors, and seems hardly able to turn a corner – until the final chapters when events push her to concentrate on the now – without some recollection coming to her, even though at one point her narrative though-stream claims that she can only remember slivers of her journeys in the North. To me she seemed both gripped by nostalgia for her lost youth, and suffering from something like PTSD. She won't even think properly about her father (that line more or less actually crops up in her thoughts at one point), though for a surname she immediately chooses a reference to his name, showing that he's not far from the surface of her mind. Is she someone trying to recover from a difficult past by denying it? Is this what has been disturbing Pan?

The overall effect was a little deadening. Lyra's POV chapters make quite a difficult read. Not boring, exactly, but slow and less visceral than most of La Belle Sauvage. She was still clearly the most developed and well-rounded character in the novel. Meeting Malcolm again was nice, but we've been out of his life for two decades. He's now a scholarly super spy (an absolutely fair development of his character from what we saw in La Belle Sauvage). Still, he seems if anything to have lost depth in the intervening years. It would be nice if he had acquired something – some phobia, some bitterness, some oddness, some imperfection – on the way. Apart from his “love” for Lyra, whom he hasn't really spent much time with as an adult, and which may not register with Pullman as an imperfection, I can't see any trace of one. I thought for awhile that Malcolm's daemon might have settled as a cat partly because his childhood experiences left him with a horror of water, but no.

Onto the antagonists. Delamere was a flat evil uncle character. This in fact seemed to be nodded to in the recap of the plot of Jahan and Rukhsana. He serves to get events moving, and his takeover of the Magisterium was unnervingly plausible; at the moment, he doesn't seem likely to be of interest for more than his ability to move the plot forward and put pressure on our heroes.

I am intrigued by Olivier. He is, in the accurate words of Malcolm, “a slippery, vicious little brat”. At the same time, he seems to have a limited kind of self-awareness. He's a brat rather than a man. Currently he seems likely to mature into someone every bit as nasty as his father (horrible man, very effective - i.e. terrifying - primary villain!). Still, there is the faint glimmer of hope for him in that he doesn't seem to be a complete psychopath, if not by much – he chooses to shoot Lyra from a distance, not trusting himself to do it close to.

I think it would be nice if he was allowed to improve a bit in the next book, but he probably won't. Pullman isn't especially fond of redemption arcs – the closest he came was with Mrs Coulter, and (not having read The Amber Spyglass since I was 14/15, it's a bit hazy) I don't think I was convinced by that. In Pullman, most good people stay good, and bad people stay bad. The personality is symbolically fixed when the daemon keeps to one shape. Though the multiple references to people who'd parted ways with their daemons after personality clashes could suggest that change and continuity is something the author will explore further in Book 3?

Actually, the most effective antagonists were minor ones. The soldier-policemen who may work for the CCD, who dragged away Alice, and wrecked Hannah's home. The cowardly bursar, who wouldn't stand up for his colleagues, claiming mendaciously that he was allowing their unjust suffering in order to “protect the staff”! Characters full of a terribly mundane sort of evil. Brutes that don't seem to have sufficient moral imagination to desire or form another way of proceeding. Well-paid middle-aged suits who prefer to ignore the mistreatment of the people close to them, rather than to anything at all to help.

There were a lot of minor characters who were nicely sketched and good to meet too From the afterword, it looks as if we'll be seeing a couple of them again; sadly, Pullman didn't mention Princess Cantacuzino among them – at least there's a good chance we'll meet with her passionate daemon Phanourios at some point.

My verdict on this book will only really be decided once I have the third one in my hands. Based on the set-up, I think it could be spectacular – if Pullman can pull the threads together in an elegant way. And there are a lot of threads to manage. 

 

 

Agreed on a lot of points.

To add to that:

Spoiler

I'm not yet sure if this bothered me or not: but there was a whole lot of people without their daemons. The first trilogy established separation as something so incredibly difficult, that extraordinary circumstances had to be met in order for it to happen. Witches could do it, in a special place and for a special purpose; and Lyra could do it because she had gone to her own afterlife and she and Pan couldn't cross the river together. But in TSC, it felt like every second person Lyra met didn't have a daemon. I think that would have been fine had it not, at a later point, been made apparent that some families sold their children's daemons. What bothered me is how Mrs Coulter went to all that trouble to sever children from their daemons, only for the children to literally wilt, then die. But in TSC it turns out people have been severing their children from their daemons willy nilly. :dunno: And daemons can just leave their humans, apparently, as was the case with that woman whose daemon left her for another woman. I was totally not cool with that. Not cool at all. EDIT: I guess I'm saying it bothered me that successful/non-fatal separation was common to the point of a whole black market existing, a whole town of severed daemons existing, a whole societal stigma existing, etc.

Another thing that kind of maybe bothered me was the sheer amount of coincidences that ended up being important. I was fine when Pan just witnessed the murder, but then all of the seemingly important characters went on to have what I felt were a ridiculous amount of significant coincidences which seem to be essential to the endgame. Like Lyra randomly meeting Mr Kubicek, or Mr Kubicek taking her to the alchemist, or being in the church when the Patriarch was killed, or meeting the man on the train who gave her the cards, or meeting the dude whose wife gave her a makeover, etc.  Lyra, Malcolm and Pan all had too many situations like these, where things just happened to them, but the things themselves were not random or unimportant. And some things happened way too easily, like Lyra talking to that woman whose daemon had left her for another woman, or Pan talking to Brande, or the rose oil peddler saving Malcolm from Delamare. I don't know if I'm explaining it well enough, but it just felt like too many instances of deus ex machina.

I'm also not a fan of Malcolm's sudden love for Lyra. But at the same time, I don't want her to live her whole life loving only Will and not being able to be with him and just descending into heartache over a boy who, over time, will become a romanticised fiction. She's one of those characters I'm really attached to and I just want her to be happy. I'm just not sure I want Malcolm to be that person for her. They've spent no time together and the epiphany was really quite shocking for me (though not really because I've watched/read enough romantic stories to have recognised their initial animosity as she-hates-him-but-she-truly-loves-him-to-death trope).

Strangely though, even with all these complaints, I really loved the book and I couldn't wait to get home everyday to read it. Pullman is such a beautiful writer, and though massive-ish, it was so easy to read. That's why I'm not sure how I feel about it. The third book will be the decider for me; if it turns out that the poem (Jahan and Rukshana) was really super important then I think I can accept it because, I suppose, this is all fate? :dunno:

 

Edited by Kyoshi
Because my thoughts are a mess.

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Also like to add I feel that at this point, The Book of Dust is far ahead of His Dark Materials in terms of retaining the overall quality of the trilogy. IMHO, HDM started falling apart in the second book, if not structurally, then thematically.

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I'm halfway through La Belle and greatly irked that this gets shelved as a children's book here and that it was nominated for YA/children's book awards.  It has a child and a baby in it but its not a children's book in the way that the Golden Compass could pass as one.

I was enjoying it until the flood and now its just a giant stress fest and even I am reading it with one eye closed and my finger flipping pages quickly to get past the bad bits.  I would not let a child or middle grade reader read this book.

I do like Malcolm.  And baby Lyra!  And Pan!

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I finished the book a couple of days ago, I posted some thoughts in the Fourth Quarter Reading thread.

On 10/22/2019 at 8:49 PM, lady narcissa said:

I'm halfway through La Belle and greatly irked that this gets shelved as a children's book here and that it was nominated for YA/children's book awards.  It has a child and a baby in it but its not a children's book in the way that the Golden Compass could pass as one.

I was enjoying it until the flood and now its just a giant stress fest and even I am reading it with one eye closed and my finger flipping pages quickly to get past the bad bits.  I would not let a child or middle grade reader read this book.

I do like Malcolm.  And baby Lyra!  And Pan!

If you think this about LBS then I think you'd feel it even more about TSC, especially one particularly disturbing scene towards the end of the book. It does feel it is more aimed at readers who read the original trilogy when they were children and are now grown-ups.

On 10/10/2019 at 10:15 PM, dog-days said:

Gigantic spoilery rambles on The Secret Commonwealth below the cut. 

  Hide contents

Is it me, or is Pullman ageing increasingly into C.S. Lewis, an author whose narrative choices he has previously attacked (rather shallowly, in the case of the absence of Susan from The Last Battle)? At least, I assume that all the stuff targeting New Atheism and Lyra's move towards accepting the Secret Commonwealth is expressing the author's own inclinations. I just wonder where this theme is going to go in Book 3. It would be a bit bonkers, imo, for the final part of the trilogy to be the victory of the Uncanny and the denunciation of all rationality. I don't expect it to be – some kind of accommodation seems more likely. I also couldn't share Book 2's apparent horror at the work of the fashionable rationalist authors; even if their ideas were silly/solipsistic, they were still ideas rather than manifestos.

 

I feel that the whole concept of Dust has always suggested than in Pullman's world there is meant to be something beyond the mundane. I saw an interview with Pullman where he said that throughout his books one of the main things he's been warning against behaviour being policed by its adherence to some unprovable idea whether it is an authoritarian religion or (his example) 'the Will of the People'. I think he might be suggesting in this book that these nihilistic philosophies could be equally dangerous. I do agree that he could maybe have done a bit better at making them sound a bit more serious

I also didn't fully get the breakdown of the relationship between Lyra and Pan. Perhaps that was intended, since they didn't seem to get it either. But Lyra, despite the insistence of Pan/the authorial voice, never seemed seriously under the sway of either Brandt or what's-his-face. She always cared far too much about her relationship with Pan to have accepted on any deep level that he didn't really exist. Quite a way into the novel, we also get a few asides about how she'd been a bit mean now and again, and that this had put Pan off her. However, when we actually meet Lyra for the first time since

Lyra's Oxford, she's being quite nice and sensible and looking after a friend of hers, going out for a good meal, chatting with the senior servants.

I felt their difficulty in explaining why they don't get on seemed reminiscent of how people suffering from something like depression might struggle to understand or explain why they feel the way they do. It does seem irrational that it's gotten to the stage it has, but I think it's meant to be irrational.

I find the whole – apparent? - romance plot with Lyra deeply skeevy. If we end Book 3 with Lyra and Malcolm together, Lyra having been cured of her depression through the power of true love, that's one voume that will be going on a one-way trip through my upstairs window.

I also didn't like that bit, and I hope it doesn't go anywhere. I know they are both adults now but it still doesn't feel appropriate for Malcolm to do anything about his feelings for her. I think I would prefer it if Lyra found someone who wasn't either Malcolm or Will.

 

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On 10/17/2019 at 10:54 AM, Kyoshi said:

Agreed on a lot of points.

To add to that:

  Hide contents

I'm not yet sure if this bothered me or not: but there was a whole lot of people without their daemons. The first trilogy established separation as something so incredibly difficult, that extraordinary circumstances had to be met in order for it to happen. Witches could do it, in a special place and for a special purpose; and Lyra could do it because she had gone to her own afterlife and she and Pan couldn't cross the river together. But in TSC, it felt like every second person Lyra met didn't have a daemon. I think that would have been fine had it not, at a later point, been made apparent that some families sold their children's daemons. What bothered me is how Mrs Coulter went to all that trouble to sever children from their daemons, only for the children to literally wilt, then die. But in TSC it turns out people have been severing their children from their daemons willy nilly. :dunno: And daemons can just leave their humans, apparently, as was the case with that woman whose daemon left her for another woman. I was totally not cool with that. Not cool at all. EDIT: I guess I'm saying it bothered me that successful/non-fatal separation was common to the point of a whole black market existing, a whole town of severed daemons existing, a whole societal stigma existing, etc.

Another thing that kind of maybe bothered me was the sheer amount of coincidences that ended up being important. I was fine when Pan just witnessed the murder, but then all of the seemingly important characters went on to have what I felt were a ridiculous amount of significant coincidences which seem to be essential to the endgame. Like Lyra randomly meeting Mr Kubicek, or Mr Kubicek taking her to the alchemist, or being in the church when the Patriarch was killed, or meeting the man on the train who gave her the cards, or meeting the dude whose wife gave her a makeover, etc.  Lyra, Malcolm and Pan all had too many situations like these, where things just happened to them, but the things themselves were not random or unimportant. And some things happened way too easily, like Lyra talking to that woman whose daemon had left her for another woman, or Pan talking to Brande, or the rose oil peddler saving Malcolm from Delamare. I don't know if I'm explaining it well enough, but it just felt like too many instances of deus ex machina.

I'm also not a fan of Malcolm's sudden love for Lyra. But at the same time, I don't want her to live her whole life loving only Will and not being able to be with him and just descending into heartache over a boy who, over time, will become a romanticised fiction. She's one of those characters I'm really attached to and I just want her to be happy. I'm just not sure I want Malcolm to be that person for her. They've spent no time together and the epiphany was really quite shocking for me (though not really because I've watched/read enough romantic stories to have recognised their initial animosity as she-hates-him-but-she-truly-loves-him-to-death trope).

Strangely though, even with all these complaints, I really loved the book and I couldn't wait to get home everyday to read it. Pullman is such a beautiful writer, and though massive-ish, it was so easy to read. That's why I'm not sure how I feel about it. The third book will be the decider for me; if it turns out that the poem (Jahan and Rukshana) was really super important then I think I can accept it because, I suppose, this is all fate? :dunno:

 

Spoiler

 

I also loved the book, despite my complaints - and though I think my complaints are by and large somewhat different to yours! In the instance of the many coincidences, I sort of noticed, but at the same time was able to hand-wave them. I spent quite a bit of my late teens and early twenties immersed in Victorian fiction, so developed a high tolerance for coincidence-dense plots.  I feel that Pullman writes in a tradition very much informed by Dickens/Collins/Hardy et al.  Also,  the sense that there's a kind of providence guiding events is there, even though I can't point to a single passage to justify that. (Though, remembering the events in La Belle Sauvage, one feels that the whole sequence was guided by unknown power(s) - the fortuitous brutal flood that disrupted everything, and destroyed many good things along with the bad, and also swept Lyra with Malcolm to refuge in Jordan and away from the massed power of the Magisterium).  We can certainly speak of destiny, since prophecy has been known to exist in HDM since Northern Lights, as far as I recall, and we've both mentioned Jahan and Rukshana. 

On a complete tangent, I find that the picaresque sections of TBS and TSC remind me of Ithaca by Cavafy:

Laestrygonians, Cyclops,

wild Poseidon—you won’t encounter them

unless you bring them along inside your soul,

unless your soul sets them up in front of you.

Not that Bonneville senior ever had much of a place in Malcolm's soul. Though in a reading of TBS for the #metoo age, one can, if so inclined, see what happens in the graveyard show Malcolm completely rejecting the ultra toxic masculinity represented by Bonneville. 

For Lyra, I primarily want her to learn to be happy as herself. Preferably with Pan. I'd rather she did that first, and then perhaps some pointers could be laid to suggest in what direction her romantic feelings were tending. I don't think her psychological struggles in TSC stemmed from her loss of Will, though I'm sure that didn't help. It might be the mass loss of Asriel, Mrs Coulter, Roger, Lee, Will and also Iorek (not dead, but not around) that's undermining her well-being. And, apart from Pan, there's no one to talk to about it. Had Malcolm and Alice coughed up about their secret past rather earlier, plus connections to Oakley Street, she might have been slightly better off by the start of TSC. 

I also wasn't too troubled by the way TSC presents people separated from their daemons. Partly, I think, because it's been so long since I read the original trilogy. A lot of it is pretty fuzzy. Also because I find it believable that Lyra as a child wouldn't be aware of things in the same way that Lyra is as an almost-adult.  Despite all her adventures, the world is a very big place, and adults can try and protect children from certain kinds of knowledge. I can still remember that when I a bit younger than Lyra in Northern Lights,  one of my parent's explained the word "gay" to me (I'd asked) over the breakfast table by whispering the not-very-clarifying clarification "that means someone who is homosexual".  The stuff with the Gobblers and Svalbard is harder to align with the new canon. I suppose one could argue that survival rates depend on the method of severance. In the case of the named characters without daemons, it's possible that they survived because there was an element of choice involved. 

Has Pullman finished book 3 yet?? I want book 3. 

 

ETA: Just found this rather interesting interview with Pullman where he talks a bit about what he was going for with TSC:

https://www.thebookseller.com/news/philip-pullman-secret-commonwealth-launch-1092876

Spoilery if you haven't read The Secret Commonwealth yet, though spoilery more in terms of themes than plot details. 

Edited by dog-days

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20 hours ago, williamjm said:

 

  Hide contents

I felt their difficulty in explaining why they don't get on seemed reminiscent of how people suffering from something like depression might struggle to understand or explain why they feel the way they do. It does seem irrational that it's gotten to the stage it has, but I think it's meant to be irrational.

 

Spoiler

Yeah, I found the (two?) outright arguments they had quite disturbing and realistic. It was just that in general it seemed Pullman was relying too much on telling me about what was happening rather than showing it to me. In the interview I linked to above, he said TSC shows "Lyra's estrangement from herself" - I like that phrase. And sometimes I got it in the book, but at other times I felt Pullman was holding back because he didn't want his favourite character to ever be outright unsympathetic. 

 

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For fucks sake, the last 1/4 is depressing as fuck. 

Edited by BigFatCoward

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I’ll need to get these books.

I remember years ago my aunt asking for a copy of The Golden Compass the year the film came out.

So on Xmas Eve (organised as ever) I’m going through every bookshop in Glasgow unable to find a copy (the ones with the film cover had sold out)

Eventually a staff member in the last shop told me the first book was actually called Northern Lights...

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39 minutes ago, Derfel Cadarn said:

I’ll need to get these books.

I remember years ago my aunt asking for a copy of The Golden Compass the year the film came out.

So on Xmas Eve (organised as ever) I’m going through every bookshop in Glasgow unable to find a copy (the ones with the film cover had sold out)

Eventually a staff member in the last shop told me the first book was actually called Northern Lights...

Yeah, you may have missed the optimum age for being introduced to them, but they are a remarkable series. Bits of each book have stayed with me right through my life (since reading Northern Lights when I was around nine or ten). 

@BigFatCoward I found large sections of the whole book pretty depressing, but I do hope that last in the trilogy will be more hopeful.

Spoiler

I wonder if it will be set primarily around the Blue Hotel, or if it will jump around a lot? My bet is on the latter, given that Pullman likes his travelogues, and various important characters are still in Oxford and Switzerland. 

 

Edited by dog-days

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4 hours ago, BigFatCoward said:

For fucks sake, the last 1/4 is depressing as fuck. 

It is a bit weird that the books where lots of children got kidnapped and then have their souls ripped apart or were murdered feels like a happier and more pleasant time.

2 hours ago, dog-days said:

 

@BigFatCoward I found large sections of the whole book pretty depressing, but I do hope that last in the trilogy will be more hopeful.

  Hide contents

I wonder if it will be set primarily around the Blue Hotel, or if it will jump around a lot? My bet is on the latter, given that Pullman likes his travelogues, and various important characters are still in Oxford and Switzerland. 

 

I'm sure a significant part of it will also take part in the place where the roses come from in central Asia.

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On 10/22/2019 at 8:49 PM, lady narcissa said:

I'm halfway through La Belle and greatly irked that this gets shelved as a children's book here and that it was nominated for YA/children's book awards.  It has a child and a baby in it but its not a children's book in the way that the Golden Compass could pass as one.

I was enjoying it until the flood and now its just a giant stress fest and even I am reading it with one eye closed and my finger flipping pages quickly to get past the bad bits.  I would not let a child or middle grade reader read this book.

I do like Malcolm.  And baby Lyra!  And Pan!

As williamjm said, its even harder to view The Secret Commonwealth as a kids book yet thats certainly how i have seen it marketed.

 

eta: This book was surely influenced by the European migrant/asylum seeker crisis right?

I see in the acknowledgements that certain of the characters are kind of memoria,s for Grenfell victims :( 

Edited by HelenaExMachina

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15 hours ago, HelenaExMachina said:

eta: This book was surely influenced by the European migrant/asylum seeker crisis right?

Yes, I think parallels are fairly clear, particularly since many of them are fleeing a conflict in what would be Syria in our world.

I see in the acknowledgements that certain of the characters are kind of memoria,s for Grenfell victims

:( 

The character auction was won by a crowdsourced bid lead by one of the teachers of one of the victims.

https://www.theguardian.com/books/2017/jun/28/philip-pullman-raises-30000-for-grenfell-tower-in-character-name-auction

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