Saturday 27 October 2007

"The Shadow in the North" and "The Tiger in the Well" by Philip Pullman

Damn, damn, DAMN!!

I've finished another Philip Pullman book. He shouldn't be allowed to put back covers on them, it's such agony to get to the end. There should be a helpline number in the back before the ads for other books.

I didn't realise until I got to the end of "The Tiger in the Well" that it's the third part of a trilogy, which I'm reading backwards now because a friend has lent me the second book "The Shadow in the North". I've just finished that too, so I'm going to have to go out tomorrow like some desperate junky to find a bookshop selling "The Ruby in the Smoke" before the withdrawal gets too bad and I start burgling houses that might have a copy. I cannot get enough Philip Pullman.

It didn't spoil much to have read the third book before the second because I'd forgotten until a few pages beforehand about the untimely death of one of the characters, although knowing it was coming those few pages earlier did then mean spending a little longer in the grip of unbelievable nail-biting stomach-churning bloody tension. People who think of reading as a relaxing activity are not reading the right books.

The plots have me skipping compulsively down the pages, but I have to read every line properly to catch all the subtle expressions, tiny clues, and the beautiful, horrible, detailed and often smelly descriptions of Victorian London streets and houses which give as much character to the places as the people. I found when I was reading"His Dark Materials" that I constantly felt cold, and for the last few days I've been unusually sensitive to bad smells after reading descriptions, for instance, of a forgotten river flowing under London carrying effluent from the pits full of bodies of plague victims.

It's intelligent, riveting and utterly vivid. If you've never read this then go out and get it right now. You might want to fill a Thermos flask so you don't have to stop for tea breaks.


Mousie said...

I haven't read any Pullman yet, although they keep being recommended to me, so I really should.

You must do my four books meme, I'd love to know!

Adrian Windisch said...

They are good, like you im reading them in the wrong order. There a tv version of ruby in the smoke with Billy Piper, its not the book but its not bad at all.

Alice said...

Mousie - I'm still writing my 4 books thing, I keep changing my mind! I'll put it up here as soon as it's finished.

Adrian - annoyingly, the books the BBC have published with Billie Piper all over the covers aren't nearly as nice as the covers of the Point versions which are now discontinued. They're also £1 each more expensive!

The film of "His Dark Materials" is due out this Xmas, and I'm told the trailer looks good - I always just hope that putting a book on screen doesn't wreak it.