Donald J. Claxton’s Book List and Book Review of The Book of Dust: La Belle Sauvage by Philip Pullman
I read Philip Pullman’s The Book of Dust: La Belle Sauvage: last week and was told going in that there were things about the book that are not as good as his previous trilogy, but I’d seen a recommendation for this book regardless, and had decided to give it a read.
To start with, Pullman’s fantasy work is not something I would typically read. It still is not.
(You may find additional books to read on my Book List Page.)
The Book of Dust: La Belle Sauvage–Summary
Reading about Malcom and his daemon Asta was curious I will admit. The first few pages did, I must confess, however, draw me right in. But I have to say, from a writer’s standpoint, at one point I began to wonder how burdensome the daemons must have felt–having to write about another character for every character–because in this version of the world, everyone living must have a daemon very, very near them and if they don’t, it’s supposed to be pretty draining.
My friend Tom at Interabang Books in Dallas said this book didn’t sell like publishers hoped it would. Not in comparison to the previous Dark Materials trilogy. Again, I’ve not read anything else by Pullman, but I can say that I felt there were a few weaknesses in this story. I do not mean to be critical of Pullman. He’s published, I’m not, so there’s that. He also invested a lot of time to create, as have I, so I respect his work from that standpoint. This isn’t easy so anyone who gets their work on paper, heck, even into a computer from start to finish has made quite an accomplishment, so I refuse anymore to tear something to shreds. (Here are some thoughts that confused me, or I thought could have been stronger, how’s that?)
Difficulty in suspending my concepts of physics and reality
What happens when the baby Lyra is taken away by the Holy Police to a nunnery that is supposed to be heavily guarded and damned near impossible for anyone to get in or out of. Malcolm, Alice, and their daemons float up to the place in their boat, find a drain with a metal cover, and lift it, Malcolm and his daemon Asta float in, get past the second drain, waltz up a hallway, get stopped once, claim to have wet the bed, get sent to where they were going, lie down in an empty bed, wait for the head priest and nun to come in and argue about the baby, leave while the nurse in the room is snoring, and then sneak out with the baby unseen.
What was supposed to have been impossible was done without any resistance whatsoever. Mkay.
There is a deluge in England and Malcom’s boat floats from Oxford to London, sometimes being able to float down specific streets, etc. That just seemed like too far a leap for me.
Failure to tie things off
Then the book just leaves one sort of hanging with a whole bunch of characters. Yes, this is going to obviously be a trilogy, but there’s so much non-closure for so many of the secondary characters. They’re literally just left floating in the flood. I was always led to believe that even for a trilogy, you tied everything off, mostly, and didn’t leave things floating.
I read the book from Sunday to Wednesday. It’s 438 pages, and it wasn’t a bad read.
It wasn’t ridiculously hard to understand like Good Morning, Midnight, or something like that, which the local book club chose to read. That is one nutty book unto itself….
Read The Book of Dust: La Belle Sauvage
I can say that I did like reading the story and in going back and cleaning up posts from the past, I can affirm that some of the imagined scenes in this book are still well ingrained in my psyche. I feel like I’m in the boat with the characters floating around in a flooded city and trying to get into a second-floor window just as clearly as I’m looking at the iMac screen in front of me. Mr. Puttman prevailed in his ability to make such a scene remain fresh in my mind throughout the passage of the time since I read this book.