Book of Dust (Pullman) - Discussion Questions

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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