The Golden Compass
Written by Philip Pullman
Published by Alfred A. Knopf.

11 year old Gayatri Jayal, a student of Modern School Vasant Vihar and a fierce fan of Lyra Belacqua, wrties her impression of this half-civilised, half-wild young girl, who looks set to take the world of children’s books by storm.

In a world in which there are millions of different worlds within just an inch of space, lives a girl called Lyra Belacqua. She is supposedly an orphan, who grew up and still lives Jordan College, the grandest and richest college in Oxford. In the particular world she lives in, people have only half their souls inside their bodies. The other half of the soul is an animal companion that can change its shape whenever it chooses. This part is known as a ‘daemon’, which is capable of talking. If a daemon gets killed, its human half dies immediately and vice versa.

An excerpt from the book:

Lyra and her daemon moved through the darkening hall, taking care to keep to one side, out of sight of the kitchen. The three great tables that ran the length of the hall were laid already, the silver and the glass catching what little light there was, and the long benches were pulled out ready for the guests. Portraits of former Masters hung high up in the gloom along the walls. Lyra reached the dais and looked back at the open kitchen door, and, seeing no one, stepped up beside the high table. The places here were laid with gold, not silver, and the fourteen seats were not oak benches but mahogany chairs with velvet cushions.”

There is, in this world, a mysterious element called ‘Dust’, not ordinary dust, but a special kind of dust with a capital “D”. Whether it is good or bad, Lyra does not know and no one is willing to tell her. So, accompanied by her friend Roger, and both their daemons, Lyra goes in search of Dust.

While on her journey, Lyra discovers that she is not an orphan. Lord Asriel, a powerful man, whom she had known as her `Uncle’ all this while, actually turns out to be her father. She also gets acquainted with one Mrs. Coulter, a stunningly pretty lady. This lady takes her away from Jordan College on the pretext of teaching her. Later Lyra comes to know that she is actually her mother. Even though she is glad on being reunited with her parents, she also hates them sorely for leaving her as an orphan.

The Golden Compass.Written by Philip Pullman
The Golden Compass.Written by Philip Pullman

Along with her instrument (the only one of its kind), an ‘alethiometer’ which tells the truth of whatever you ask it, Lyra sets off on a series of adventures including meeting witches and their head Serafina Pekkala. She also meets the head of bears, Iorek Bryinson.

Part of Lyra’s soreness for her father is due to the reason that he tricks her and kills Roger in the process of using him. After this, her parents reunite only to leave each other again in a matter of minutes. Seeing this scene, Lyra buries Roger’s dead body and carries on with her daemon in the search for Dust.

This is a remarkable story with a simple meaning. It is full of courage, bravery & loyalty. But most of all, it is a young girl’s tale, whose feelings, indescribable as they are, show a deep striving for love. Although quite happy in her own world, there is a certain element of wanting tucked away in Lyra’s heart, which is almost destroyed when she realises that her parents hate her and don’t want her.

There are now two more books which describe Lyra’s adventures and which also include new characters. They are ‘The Subtle Knife’ and ‘The Amber Spyglass’. Would you believe it, Philip Pullman wrote these books sitting in the cafeteria of the Museum of Modern Art in Oxford!

657 words | 6 minutes
Readability: Grade 6 (11-12 year old children)
Based on Flesch–Kincaid readability scores

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