Peter's Reviews > The Golden Compass

The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman
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Nov 23, 07

bookshelves: tutoring
Read in August, 2007

The Golden Compass, by Philip Pullman, picks up where the Harry Potter series leaves off. As in Rowling's series, the hero of The Golden Compass--Lyra, a pre-teen girl in Oxford, England--is plucked from her mundane existence to become supremely important to the fate of the living world.

However, unlike the Potter series, The Golden Compass, immerses us immediately in political, religious, and cultural conflict as well. While the central character is indeed a child, which lands this title in the children's section, the themes and conflicts in the novel are often very adult, the action sometimes gruesome, and characters' behaviors and motivations quite complex.

The sophistication of the story will be lost over children's heads.

Nonetheless, the action will sustain.

For children, The Golden Compass is the story of Lyra Belacqua's adventure to the arctic to rescue her friend Roger, who has been kidnapped by adults who run experiments on children. The story is set loosely in our world and in the past, but in Pullman's revision, every human being has a "daemon" that is a physical manifestation of that person's soul in the form of an animal that is psychically, or perhaps spiritually, connected to the person. The experiments involve the investigation into and hideous manipulation of that connection. Along the way, Lyra meets talking bears, flying witches, and much, much more.

For adults, the novel asks questions about the relationship between religion and science. It explores political coercion and subterfuge. It examines class differences. And, to a very real degree, I think, it focuses on adult obsession with innocence and experience--both in a religious context and in a childhood/adolescence/adulthood context.

The result of all of this is a multi-layered novel. It's fun, but also thought-provoking--and potentially scandalous.

Do I recommend it? Yes. Fun and thoughtful: a novel vision.
Would I teach it? Hard to say. Likely not. It's a wonderful and intricate piece of writing--some of the passages are beautiful and the content generates many talking points--but much of it feels too overtly didactic.
Lasting impression: This is another magnificently realized escapist fantasy like the Harry Potter series. And, from the very beginning it is laden with complex political and social intrigue the stuff of which appears in "grown-up" fiction.
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Comments (showing 1-5 of 5) (5 new)

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Crystal Spot on!


Simeon "The Golden Compass picks up where the Harry Potter series leaves off."

Lol... The Golden Compass came out 5 years before Harry Potter.


Missy Series always have cliff hangers its not to make more money but to draw out the suspense and most of lyra's questions were answered (except for what is Asriel going to do)
you got the dæmon and Christianity part mostly right- yes its about Christianity but written by an Atheist and its not shunning either, although if you read some of the interviews by Pullman he hates CS Lewis with a passion.
Read on to find out what Dust is.
The universe in the sky is not Heaven! (altough later in the other books you could say he's trying to go there but never makes it)


Isabelle Ummmmm . . . I like The Golden Compass . . . but it will never be Harry Potter. You shouldn't compare them because they're nothing like one another.


Jennifer Rose Yeah, um, Golden Compass was published several years before Harry Potter...


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