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Discovering The Golden Compass - Jeff's Review

Despite its title, George Beahm’s Discovering The Golden Compass is a wide-ranging book that goes far beyond the single topic of The Golden Compass. Besides a section on the three books of the trilogy, this book also includes major sections on the life of Philip Pullman and on various presentations based on Pullman’s work such as live plays and the recently released movie by the same name.

Discovering The Golden Compass is organized into 7 sections with the following titles:

  • Part 1: Pointing the Way to Philip Pullman and His Dark Materials
  • Part 2: Pointing the Way to the Books of HDM: TGC, TSK and TAS
  • Part 3: Pointing the Way beyond the Trilogy: Lyra’s Oxford and The Book of Dust
  • Part 4: Daemon Driven: Encompassing Philip Pullman
  • Part 5: Pointing the Way to The Golden Compass on the Silver Screen
  • Part 6: Pointing the Way to the many worlds of HDM: Multiple presentations
  • Part 7: Pointing the Way to True North: Resources

The major strength of this book is the account it gives of Philip Pullman as a person, a storyteller and a writer; it includes both an abbreviated chronology of Pullman’s life and a 10,000-word autobiographical essay that seeks to explain the man behind the stories. In the latter, Pullman writes about his grandfather, a parish priest in Drayton, England: “When I was young, he was the sun at the centre of my life. He told stories. … He took the simplest little event and made a story out of it” (page 13). Although inspired by his grandfather’s storytelling, Pullman later became disenchanted with his grandfather’s God. One has to wonder if perhaps Pullman blamed God for his grandfather’s passing and was thus inspired to write about killing God.

Discovering The Golden Compass is an interesting book that covers a lot of material. If you are at all interested in Pullman as a writer and why he wrote his trilogy, this book is especially for you.—Jeff Wise

Discovering The Golden Compass: A Guide to Philip Pullman’s Dark Materials, by George Beahm; art by Tim Kirk. Hampton Roads Publishing Company, Inc., 2007. 206 pages. $16.95 (U.S. paperback).

Reviewer’s rating: *** (out of five stars)

The reviewer works for the Western Recorder newsjournal in Louisville, Ky., and has read extensively in science and theology.

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