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>> Plot revealed for Pullman's Book of Dust

Plot revealed for Pullman's Book of Dust

Plot revealed for Pullman's Book of Dust

One of the most talked-about books of 2017, Philip Pullman's The Book of Dust, is published today and after eight months of secrecy, the embargo is now lifted on the novel's plot.

La Belle Sauvage is the first volume of The Book of Dust series, the 'equel’ to Pullman's His Dark Materials trilogy. The book cover and chapter heads have been illustrated by Chris Wormell, who called it "one of coolest jobs" he's ever done.

La Belle Sauvage returns to the Oxford inhabited by Lyra Belacqua in Northern Lights, but opens 10 years earlier. Lyra, only a baby, is in danger and being sheltered by the nuns of Godstow Priory. Her father, Lord Asriel, is banned from seeing her by the High Court, but he is not the only character to threaten her existence.

The unlikely hero of this story is 11-year-old Malcolm Polstead and his daemon, Asta, who becomes Lyra's protector following a massive flood that threatens to devastate the UK. He and his trusty canoe, La Belle Sauvage, take centre stage in a cast of characters, which includes new faces such as alethiometer specialist Dr Hannah Relf, as well as old favourites including Farder Coram.

As with His Dark Materials, La Belle Sauvage takes as its inspiration the historic streets, buildings and waterways of Oxford, Pullman's long-term home. Recognisable locations include the Bodleian Library's Duke Humfrey’s Library, the Trout Inn and Godstow Abbey at Wolvercote and Exeter College, Philip's college and the model for Jordan College in his books.

Philip Pullman has said of the book, "I know from their letters and tweets that my readers have been waiting patiently (mostly) for The Book of Dust for a long time. It gives me great pleasure and some excitement at last to satisfy their curiosity (and mine) about this book.

"The first thing to say is that Lyra is at the centre of the story. Events involving her open the first chapter of La Belle Sauvage: The Book of Dust Volume One, and will close the last. I've always wanted to tell the story of how Lyra came to be living at Jordan College and, in thinking about it, I discovered a long story that began when she was a baby and will end when she's grown up. This volume and the next will cover two parts of Lyra's life: starting at the beginning of her story and returning to her 20 years later.

"So, second: is it a prequel? Is it a sequel? It’s neither. In fact, The Book of Dust is... an 'equel'. It doesn't stand before or after His Dark Materials, but beside it. It's a different story, but there are settings that readers of His Dark Materials will recognise, and characters they've met before. Also, of course, there are some characters who are new to us, including an ordinary boy (a boy we have seen in an earlier part of Lyra’s story, if we were paying attention) who, with Lyra, is caught up in a terrifying adventure that takes him into a new world.

"Third: why return to Lyra's world? Dust. Questions about that mysterious and troubling substance were already causing strife 10 years before His Dark Materials, and at the centre of The Book of Dust is the struggle between a despotic and totalitarian organisation, which wants to stifle speculation and enquiry, and those who believe thought and speech should be free. The idea of Dust suffused His Dark Materials. Little by little through that story the idea of what Dust was became clearer and clearer, but I always wanted to return to it and discover more."

The Sunday Times Magazine, in the first UK interview with Pullman, said: "Once again the theme is growing up and puberty as an initiation into the reality of the world... But it is also about what you are given after puberty, when, like Adam and Eve, you find that the world is all before you."

Booksellers up and down the country have celebrated publication by hosting a range of events, signings and parties, pinpointing this as a seminal moment in the cultural calendar. Anticipation and excitement for the book's publication has been building ever since the announcement of the new title in February, when the book to shot straight to Number One on Amazon's bestseller chart through pre-order sales.

Waterstones' highlight event, a midnight moment in one of its flagship stores, Waterstones Tottenham Court Road, involved an evening of exclusive readings from La Belle Sauvage by Caitlin Moran, Mark Grist and Kate Young for 150 fans, before selling the first book at midnight.

Blackwell's Oxford hosted a read-along for fans from midnight till 1am and is marking publication day - and Pullman's 71st birthday - with the first public signing for La Belle Sauvage.

Look out for Experience Oxfordshire's new guided 'Philip Pullman's Oxford Tour', which invites fans to rediscover Lyra's parallel universe as they journey through the historic streets, armed with a bespoke map to help them navigate some of the key locations from the new novel and the original trilogy.

On Friday 20th October, Philip Pullman will headline the London Literature Festival at the Royal Festival Hall at a Foyles-supported event in conversation with Cerys Matthews, followed by an event with Horatio Clare, in partnership with Waterstones and Literature Wales, at BBC Hoddinott Hall, Wales Millennium Centre, on Sunday 22nd October.

There is also a major celebration of Philip Pullman on BBC Radio 4 with the simultaneous serialisation of La Belle Sauvage on Book at Bedtime and Daemon Voices on Book of the Week, beginning with a rare Book at Bedtime omnibus, read by Simon Russell-Beale, on Saturday 21st October.

Daemon Voices: Essays on Storytelling, a unique collection of Philip Pullman's essays, written over 20 years and brought together for the first time, is published by David Fickling Books on Thursday 2nd November.


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