Remember a few months ago when I posted about Harry Potter (finally)? I told a super cute story about how my husband and I started on January 1, 2019 and read a chapter out loud to each other before bed each night (ish – since he works 24 hour shifts, there were a lot of nights it couldn’t happen). The point is, it took us the majority of the year but we read through the full series together and it was nostalgic and wonderful and such an adorable thing to do. (I love us and I will not be sorry about it.)
When it was over, we decided we weren’t ready to end the tradition. And the next series on our list to re-visit together was an obvious choice. Clearly, we both love Harry Potter (a lot), but my husband has another series that he was very serious about as a child (on par, for him at least, with HP). I had read it, but definitely didn’t have quite the same strength of feels, so I had forgotten parts of the story and was excited for the refresher. As the title of this post spoils for you, the series I’m referring to is His Dark Materials: The Golden Compass, The Subtle Knife, and The Amber Spyglass.
His Dark Materials by Philip Pullman
The first season of the new tv series His Dark Materials just came out this past year (on BBC and HBO, I believe) and we watched it weekly. My husband was so excited, like “childlike-glee” excited! In all seriousness though, we both really enjoyed it, liked how dark they made it, and generally thought it was a great adaptation (especially considering the travesty that was The Golden Compass movie from 2007). We waited to start reading until after the first season was over (I don’t remember why), but that meant that for both of us, the first book was more like a refresher and an addition of some small details. Moving into the second book, while some characters/parts were review, becuase the show played a bit with timeline for introducing characters, for the most part large chunks of it were new for me. And the third book…honestly it was like I had never read it before. Which actually, I didn’t dislike. My husband was able to answer any quetions I had and it was fun to not know exactly what was coming.
I won’t be doing a full review for these books, not like I normally do, and in the same way that I didn’t “review” Harry Potter. Honestly, it’s becuase these books hold special places in our hearts and lives and from our past and that kind of bias makes it feel not right for me to judge them as I normally might. I did have some struggles with Pullman’s writing that I didn’t remember from the first time: choppy writing, unnnecessarily complex (and basically superfluous) jargon, questionably believable dialgoue, etc. And I had a lot of theoretical and philosophical questions for my husband as we read – some I liked because it made me think and some I was frustrated by because I felt like it wasn’t explained well within the context of the story. But, at the end of the day, I can absolutely see why these novels captivated both our imaginations as children (and again as adults). And I love the way Pullman calls into question many religious tenets and structures that I believe, deeply, are very suspect. Plus, the world-building in general is superb.
Overall, another great joint reading experience. Before anyone asks…no, we aren’t yet reading Pullman’s new series set in the same world (or worlds, really), The Book of Dust. We plan to, but it isn’t finished and neither of us is interested in waiting for a “next book” once we start. Plus, I have heard mixed reviews (but haven’t told my husband…hopefully he doesn’t read this post too closely). However, we had a new series in mind already anyways, one that neither of us has read yet but, from tv and video games, we are already familiar with (anyone want to guess what it is?). We actually already started it, about a week ago now, and are loving it. And so our bedtime reading tradition continues…stay tuned!