Customer Review

22 of 25 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Great Ending!, 8 Dec 2006
This review is from: The Amber Spyglass (His Dark Materials) (Paperback)
If you don't want to know how His Dark Materials ends, look away now...!

No book is perfect. In this trilogy, the author throws his net so widely that there are almost bound to be some loose ends, inconsistencies, and so on. I doubt whether such things greatly detract from a reader's enjoyment. But the feature of this book which really "gets" to readers is its ending.

In this trilogy, the author has created a universe (or universes) in which anything is possible or conceivable. We, therefore, naturally expect a happy ending. Pullman could easily have provided one. Instead, he has created an ending which is at least bitter-sweet if not downright sad. Readers have been both moved and disturbed by this and, as I think the ending is the book's finest feature, I would like to offer a comment or two.

The love between Lyra and Will is carefully prepared but it nevertheless comes as something of a shock because it occurs so very late in the novel. Pulman has been accused of making an unnecessary assault upon the readers' heartstrings, even of gratuitous sensationalism. I disagree for three reasons. Firstly, the love is an important part of the plot because it actually has a physical impact upon the environment in which it happens. (The author does not explain exactly why this happens - one of the "loose ends" referred to above!) Secondly, the love between Will and Lyra is of an emotional rather than of a gratuitously sexual nature. Many readers, it seems, fail to grasp the distinction. But isn't it possible - especially when young - to be helplessly in love with someone without necessarily wanting to have sex with them? Likewise, is it not possible to lust after someone you don't like very much - like Lord Asriel and Mrs Coulter? Finally, the love element draws together a great many of the moral themes of both the novel in question and the trilogy as a whole. Love is seen not as some selfish gratification of individual desires but as a whole way of living, in which doing the right thing for the right reasons, especially in defiance of power and authority, becomes more important than putting oneself first and getting what one wants. The two protagonists can be seen, throughout the trilogy, as agents of Love opposed to the oppression of authority / religion. Their acceptance of their situation, and their affirmation of the value of life and existence, is thus all the more moving. It certainly haunted this reader for days after finishing the book.

A great conclusion to a great series. I can only think of one other author who offers so much to both younger and older readers and that is Lewis Carrol - a very different author but one whose books, like Pullman's, can be understood at many different levels.

Let us hope that when the book is made into a film, the producers concerned will have the courage to present the ending as Pullman wrote it. And let us all hope that Pullman is never so seduced by success that he yields to the temptation to provide a "happily-ever-after" sequel.

After all - Puccini made a whole career out of making people cry!
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Showing 1-1 of 1 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 3 Aug 2011 20:43:55 BDT
Steve W. says:
"Let us hope that when the book is made into a film" - the good news is that it won't be... it's just not good enough a book to waste all that money on.
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