The Shadow in the North, Philip Pullman

I just finished the second book in my “Take Against Matt Smith Unreasonably Before David Tennant Even Goes Anywhere Project”, and I shall watch the film version this evening, taking against Matt Smith with all my might.  And if I haven’t taken against him sufficiently, I’ll just, I’ll just look up videos on YouTube and make complaining comments in my head about how his HAIR is stupid and he’s completely COMMON like a little LONDON GUTTER RAT and he keeps on making PRETENTIOUS HANDS.

(I just went and watched a video of him on YouTube and okay, yes, his hair’s stupid, but it’s not nice to make nasty comments about people’s accents, particularly when they’re accents I quite like really; and when the video was over, I noticed that my face was smiling.  So it is marginally possible that I do not absolutely despise Matt Smith, and although of course I’m not admitting the possibility that he will be any good at all in replacing David Tennant (I mean, of course), it’s possible that – I’ve strayed a bit here.  Forget it.  Nothing else about Matt Smith.  I’m sure he’ll be delightful.  Sheesh.)

To return to the point, The Shadow in the North just has absolutely nothing to do with Doctor Who.  It’s the second book about Sally Lockhart, who is now doing plucky heroine financial consulting and sometimes detective work in London, and avoiding agreeing to marry the man she loves, photographer Fred Garland, who is now partners with Jim in doing detective work all over the place.  When he’s not photographing things.  And they all sort of separately get involved in the same distressing plot, which has something to do with mediums and (unfortunately) more to do with industry and shipping companies.

I would have liked this book better if it had been more to do with mediums and less with industry.  Industrial mysteries make me sleepy.  When they take place in Victorian London, they make me sleepy and commit the additional offense of having nothing to do with Oscar Wilde whatsoever, a really unacceptable state of affairs in my life.  Mediums in Victorian London remind me of how Oscar Wilde had his psychic, and how hilarious it was when Hester Travers-Smith started getting messages from Oscar Wilde after he was dead.  Be that as it may, the spiritualism ends up being mainly irrelevant to the plot – which is a bit of a spoiler, I guess, but you might as well know it now, so that when it first comes up, you can start by feeling cheated at Philip Pullman’s having used that as a hook when it wasn’t going to be the point anyway.  Instead of finding out later.  Bah.

Also, this one was more depressing than the last one.

SPOILERS.  By the time I got to the end I felt like that bit from Peter Pan where the Lost Boys have asked Wendy to tell them the story of Hamlet, and she’s all, “Well – Prince Hamlet died.  And the King died – and the Queen died – and Ophelia died – and Polonius and Laertes died, and – well, the rest of them lived happily ever after!”

Okay, that’s an exaggeration.  Sort of.  I don’t know how it’s even possible for people who don’t read the end and do get emotionally invested in books to deal with these depressing events as they occur.  Mind you, in my case, I was careful not to let myself get seriously invested with anyone – apart from, I confess, Jim a bit, as I want him to survive so he can play the Doctor in 2010, even though I’d rather David Tennant stayed on.  Anyway, as I say, I didn’t want to become invested in anyone because I know about Philip Pullman AND HIS WAYS.  Which, clever me, it turns out, since EVERYBODY BLOODY DIES.

This post so far would seem to imply I became more emotionally invested than I am claiming I did.  Only two characters die.  And one of them’s a dog.  But I didn’t want either of them to die, because you know what?  Being a single mother is damn hard!  As I shall discover in the third book, whose exact title I forget, but it’s something to do with a tiger.

(P.S. I don’t like Philip Pullman as much as I like C.S. Lewis.  Even though Philip Pullman is a feminist and C.S. Lewis is a sexist ass.  I still think C.S. Lewis was a better writer.  What nice clear prose that man wrote in!)

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3 thoughts on “The Shadow in the North, Philip Pullman

  1. Hi, I just discovered your blog (through searching on Neil Gaiman’s Susan Pevensie story after I finished reading The Last Battle this morning) and since I love reading and am always looking for new books to read, I started skimming through your list. I’ve read the Shadow in the North a while ago and I was so upset about Frederic dying. I used to be the kind of person that also read the end before the middle; but now I do my utmost best to resist temptation and just read from the beginning to the end. So yeah; I guess I did become ’emotionally invested’. Sigh. So spoiler me; I was actually just about to read ‘The Tiger in the Well’; did you read it? Is it as depressing as ‘The Shadow in the North’? Because if it is, I might not bother…

    On a general note; your blog looks great!

    • I think I stopped after Shadow in the North. I was too depressed that Frederic died, after I had gone and gotten fond of him, and then I read an interview with Philip Pullman that made me mad. What with one thing and another, I never did read Tiger in the Well. I’m about to start rereading the His Dark Materials trilogy; maybe that will motivate me to finish the Sally Lockhart books. Isn’t there one more? The Tin Princess, or something like that?

      P.S. Books are better if you know the end. Return to your old ways and you will be happier. 😛

  2. I’ve read the first 40 pages or so from ‘The Tiger in the Well’. It’s very political again ;-). Yes there’s a fourth, The Tin Princess.

    I loved His Dark Materials! They’re so full of metaphysics (I studied Philosophy at university). A great many characters are slaughtered in that series as well.

    And yeah; it’s often better to know in advance that some major character dies, saves you from getting really upset. I asked my friend to semi-spoiler me on the ‘Inkheart’ trilogy (I thought those were great books by the way); but I recently survived ‘The Shadow of the Wind’ without knowing whether or not it was going to be a happy ending. So it varies really.

    Anyway; thanks for your reply and keep up the great work! 🙂

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