I've been watching the BBC documentary, The World of Philip Pullman. First broadcast in 2001 and written and narrated by novelist and bographer D.J.Taylor, it's an incisive appraisal of the work and beliefs of a man who, from a garden shed in Oxford, conjured another world. I'm referring, of course, to His Dark Materials, the trilogy for which he is best known, children's books which have found an enormous adult readership.
Northern Lights, the first book in the series, was recommended to us by a publisher friend not long after it came out. I read it avidly, unable to put it down, and went straight on to volume 2 The Subtle Knife. Then we had to wait for the third book The Amber Spyglass, but when eventually it was published it was one of only a handful of novels I've bought in hardback on the day of release - I had been so captivated by the earlier ones that I was impatient for the conclusion. That it went on to be the first children's book longlisted for the Booker prize, and is a work which "bridged the divide between age and gender", says much.
The documentary refers to Philip Pullman's range, likening it to that of Beethoven in moving from "the delicate and light to the hugely tragic and enormous", and it praises the sophistication of his writing. Interestingly, Pullman describes himself as a realist, not a fantasist, interested in how real people behave but finding "the mechanism of fantasy useful".
It's been 12 years since I turned the final page of the trilogy and I'd love to read it again. Have you read Philip Pullman - any of his books - and if so, what did you think?