I found an entry on my pre-blog reading notes, on the day of finishing reading The Golden Compass for the first time, eleven years ago. The date was 9/11/96…
“I was Devastated.
How could the book end such way? I was all hoping for a completion, a happy reunion, a resolutioin.. and was thrown the cliff-hanger for BOOK II — which is NOT available yet. Oh.. what agony.
/complaint mode off!
What a treat. What a complicated and yet simple, deep and yet playful, violent and yet gentle, and moving and yet chilling book!
One thing that is so charming and yet so unsettling about Lyra is that, even though she has a truth-reader, and she is a truth-teller — she also masters the art of lying. She knows the truth about the people (or creatures) that she confronts, and then uses that knowledge to manipulate them and gain upperhand. Even though, since she is pure at heart and means only well, she does not apply that skill to harm people (just to kill the bad ones!) She is indeed the same as her mother, who is also a master in the art of deceit.
Pullman’s portrayal of a parrallel world to 19th century earth (Oxford, London, The Arctic, etc.) is almost hypnotic. The fascinating description of Daemons (substantial representations of humans’ souls that live and die with their humans and share all pain and joy with them) and the strong BOND between them and the humans is what draws me to the book in the first place and still is what works for me all the way til the end.
This is the 1996 Andersen award winner and rightly so.”
I couldn’t find an even earlier note about how by that time, I was losing heart at the state of Fantasy fiction for children and how I seemed to have lost my appreciation of this genre but The Golden Compass saved me and rekindled my love and faith in this genre.
Then… 11 years and 1 month and 20 days later — I sat in a friend’s apartment, at a small gathering of children’s lit. lovers, eating pizza and sharing stories and toasting the upcoming movies, the online community of child_lit listserv, and the friendship we forged through discussing children’s books — with Philip Pullman! I told him in person how I felt when the first book ended. He asked my opinions over which Harry Potter to read (The Third, of course) and also whether I liked Jonathan Stroud’s work and Megan Whalen Turner’s books and genuinely valued what I had to say about them. We talked about the bench and he related the tender story of discovering a wooden heart left on THE BENCH, with the carving dedicating it to Lyra and Will.