Book of Dust (Pullman)

The Book of Dust: La Belle Sauvage
Philip Pullman, 2017
Random Children's
464 pp.

Malcolm Polstead is the kind of boy who notices everything but is not much noticed himself. And so perhaps it was inevitable that he would become a spy.…

Malcolm's parents run an inn called the Trout, on the banks of the river Thames, and all of Oxford passes through its doors.

Malcolm and his daemon, Asta, routinely overhear news and gossip, and the occasional scandal, but during a winter of unceasing rain, Malcolm catches wind of something new: intrigue.

He finds a secret message inquiring about a dangerous substance called Dust — and the spy it was intended for finds him.

When she asks Malcolm to keep his eyes open, he sees suspicious characters everywhere: the explorer Lord Asriel, clearly on the run; enforcement agents from the Magisterium; a gyptian named Coram with warnings just for Malcolm; and a beautiful woman with an evil monkey for a daemon.

All are asking about the same thing: a girl — just a baby — named Lyra.

Lyra is the kind of person who draws people in like magnets. And Malcolm will brave any danger, and make shocking sacrifices, to bring her safely through the storm. (From the publisher.)

Author Bio
Birth—October, 19 1946
Where—Norwich, Norfolk, England, UK
Education—Oxford University
Currently—lives in Oxford, England

Philip Pullman is one of the most acclaimed writers working today. He is best known for the His Dark Materials trilogy (The Golden Compass, The Subtle Knife, and The Amber Spyglass), which has been named one of the top 100 novels of all time by Newsweek and one of the all-time greatest novels by Entertainment Weekly.

He has also won many distinguished prizes, including the Carnegie Medal for The Golden Compass (and the reader-voted “Carnegie of Carnegies” for the best children’s book of the past seventy years); the Whitbread (now Costa) Award for The Amber Spyglass; a Booker Prize long-list nomination (The Amber Spyglass); Parents’ Choice Gold Awards (The Subtle Knife and The Amber Spyglass); and the Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award, in honor of his body of work. In 2004, he was appointed a Commander of the Order of the British Empire.
Philip Pullman is the author of many other much-lauded novels. Three volumes related to His Dark Materials: Lyra’s Oxford, Once Upon a Time in the North, and The Collectors. For younger readers: I Was a Rat!; Count Karlstein; Two Crafty Criminals; Spring-Heeled Jack; and The Scarecrow and His Servant. For older readers: the Sally Lockhart quartet (The Ruby in the Smoke, The Shadow in the North, The Tiger in the Well, and The Tin Princess); The White Mercedes; and The Broken Bridge.
Philip Pullman lives in Oxford, England. (From the publisher.)

Book Reviews
La Belle Sauvage sometime lags. Curiously for such a gifted storyteller, Pullman includes long stretches of flat dialogue in which Malcolm essentially repeats information he has already heard.… [But] even with its longueurs, the book is full of wonder. By the end, when Malcolm and … Alice embark with Lyra on a perilous watery odyssey replete with strange undersea creatures and various other things not dreamed of in our philosophy, it becomes truly thrilling.… It's a stunning achievement, the universe Pullman has created and continues to build on.
Sarah Lyall - New York Times

"High-octane adventure accompanies ingenious plotting.
Times (UK)

A phantasmagoric waterborne odyssey. Mr. Pullman is a supple and formidable writer.
Wall Street Journal

Enthralling, enchanting. The first half reads like a thriller. The story becomes darker, deeper and even more engrossing when a cataclysmic flood overtakes Southern England. Too few things in our world are worth a seventeen year wait: The Book of Dust is one of them.
Washington Post

Once again, Pullman’s fantasy arrives precisely when it can teach us the most about ourselves, as if it were guided by Dust itself.
Entertainment Weekly

(Starred review.) [A] thrilling alternate landscape of animal daemons, truth-revealing alethiometers, and the mysterious particle known as Dust.… [T]his tense, adventure-packed book will satisfy and delight Pullman's fans and leave them eager to see what's yet to come (Ages 14–up).
Publishers Weekly

(Starred review.) Luminous prose, heady philosophical questions, and a lovable protagonist combine with a gripping plot sure to enchant fans and newcomers alike.
School Library Journal

(Starred review.) Pullman demonstrates that his talent for world building hasn’t diminished, nor has his ability to draw young characters — here, Malcolm, who is layered enough to carry an adventure through multiple dimensionsal.

(Starred review.) Magisterial storytelling will sweep readers along; the cast is as vividly drawn as ever; and big themes running beneath the surface invite profound responses and reflection (Age 13adult).
Kirkus Reviews

Discussion Questions
We'll add publisher questions if and when they're available; in the meantime, please use our LitLovers talking points to help start a discussion for The Book of Dust - La Belle Sauvage … then take off on your own:

1. Malcolm Polstead "came to think of himself as lucky, which did him no harm in later life. If he'd been the sort of boy who acquired a nickname, he would no doubt have been known as Professor, but he wasn't that sort of boy." What does this observation tell us about Malcolm?

2. Consider that La Belle Sauvage is a quest story in which, during a perilous journey, a young hero acquires both strength and wisdom. In what way is Malcolm transformed by the novel's end?

3. Why are the Magisterium AND Gerard Bonneville hunting Lyra?

4. Describe the cultural/political environment — i.e., the theorcracy — of Pullman's world. How would you describe the author's views of religion? Do you see resemblences in La Belle Sauvage to Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale? Where do the nuns at Godstow fit into this picture of an authoritarian religion?

5. What do you think of Alice? How does she change during the course of the novel?

6. How do daemons function in Pullman's novels? What do they represent? What is your daemon … if you have one? Talk about how Bonneville abuses his own daemon. What does such an action say about him?

7. What are the implications, thematic or symbolic, of the name La Belle Sauvage — which is the title of the book, the name of Malcolm's canoe, and an old inn with a sign of a beautiful (and once courageous) woman. What does the appellation hearken back to in history? Why does the novel take its name from the canoe?

8. What is the Dust which infuses both His Dark Materials as well as this book? Characters discover it, study it, or attempt to destroy it. Some readers consider Dust the dark matter of the universe; some see it as representing the change during puberty when the daemons take their settled form; some think of it as "original sin." How do you see it? Any ideas?

9. How does this first volume of Pullman's new series compare to the those of His Dark Materials trilogy?

(Questions by LitLovers. Please feel free to use them, online and off, with attribution. Thanks.)

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