‘The Amber Spyglass’
I’ve decided to intersperse my themes and characters posts with some alphabetty fun. Carole Heidi came up with the idea – click the picture to visit her blog!
The Amber Spyglass was, I think, the first book that I got really excited about when it was released. I remember being desperate to get a copy, desperate to know what happened in the final instalment of the His Dark Materials trilogy.
My wonderful Godfather, ever keen to encourage our love of literature, went out to try and buy it from our local Smiths. The thing about our local Smiths though, is it’s tiny. It has a pretty good selection of folders, but not much by the way of books. He couldn’t get it, so he bought me Philip Pullman’s other series instead – the Sally Lockhart books.
I remember (I’m not sure why this has stuck with me for so long, I was probably fourteen when this happened) being really disappointed at the time. I’d been so desperate for so long to finally find out what happened to Lyra and Will, that three other books was not a good trade off. I was grateful, of course, but even the allure of a brand new series by my favourite author wasn’t enough to take the sting out of the thought of having to wait even longer for The Amber Spyglass.
When I did read the Sally Lockhart series, I absolutely loved it, so I’ve always thought of The Amber Spyglass as not only the most epic, brilliant conclusion to a trilogy I loved, but also the reason I read another series I love.
I’ve talked about my love for His Dark Materials on this blog many times. It was a children’s book that didn’t try hard to be a children’s book. It was challenging, explored complex and often dark themes. It was epic in scope, but with brilliant character moments that kept you rooted in the story. They were easily the best books I’d ever read at the time of reading them.
And Amber Spyglass didn’t disappoint as an ending. It was much longer than the other books, which I appreciated – it gave me longer to spend in the multiple worlds – and took the story to whole new depths in terms of the mythology. The sequence where Lyra and Will head to the afterlife is one of my favourites – the idea that Lyra saves everyone from being trapped in the nasty afterworld by telling stories, the power of the spoken word and the truth: these were things that really resonated with me as a young teenager.
It was saddening to think that the trilogy was over. There’s always a bittersweetness, I think, with endings to something you’ve really enjoyed. On the one hand, I was desperate to know what happened and overjoyed to finally find out, but on the other the experience of that world and that reading pleasure was over.
Except it wasn’t, because some time later my Godfather took us to see the theatre production of the trilogy in London. It starred Timothy Dalton as Lord Asriel and a pre-famous Dominic Cooper as Will Parry. Lyra was played by Anna Maxwell Martin (who later showed up in an episode of Doctor Who). The trilogy was done in two parts – each the length of a full play, so we were in the theatre for about six or seven hours watching it. It had some of the best stagecraft I’ve ever seen, and was magnificently adapted from what should have been a near impossible text. The creativity and craftsmanship on display was almost as magnificent as seeing these characters I loved brought to life in front of my eyes, in the intimate medium of theatre.
Now, many years later, I have two bookshelves in my house. One is for books that are transitory – things I’ll read and get rid of, things borrowed from friends. One is for books I want to keep. The Amber Spyglass is there on that shelf, kept through several prunings of ‘keep’ books as the shelf space filled and room had to be made for new favourites. The series is one I hope to read to my children one day, should I have them, and one I can imagine re-reading again and again.