Last night I began to reread Philip Pullman’s Northern Lights. Even though this is one of my favourite books I think I’ve only read it the once, and I can remember that time like yesterday. I can remember discovering the hardback in the Winchester Branch of Waterstones. I can remember who I was with when I found it. I remember being seduced by the cover (title and author on the reverse so as to not distract from the famous illustration of an alethiometer.
It’s possible that I might have heard a review on BBC Radio 4’s Kaleidoscope but I don’t think so. What I do remember is taking it home and starting to read it immediately and being hooked immediately by the characters, the settings, the sense of danger. This was a world just like ours – all too like ours – but one where people have dæmons. Where the rest of His Dark Materials may have got complicated, Northern Lights was pure story, and a gripping one at that. The question is would I feel the same 22 years on…?
I’m still beguilded by the cover as a thing of beauty to revere (I covered the book jacket recently to protect it), and one chapter in, the story is every bit as readable as it was before. So I think, the answer, is yes!