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Daemon Voices, by Philip Pullman - a review

I have a soft spot for books about the craft of writing, so when I saw “Daemon Voices: Essays on Storytelling” by Philip Pullman I knew I had to get it. For those who don’t already know Philip Pullman wrote “His Dark Materials” including the novel – Northern Lights/Golden Compass. I expected him, like me, to have some interest in magic. It turns out that he’s an inveterate materialist, but he’s no less fascinating because of it. “Daemon Voices” currently rests beside “On Writing”, by Stephen King, “On Writers and Writing”, by Margaret Atwood, and “What I Talk About When I Talk About Running”, by Haruki Murakami. Like the others, I’m sure I’ll dip back into its pages on a regular basis.

The hardback version has colour plates at the centre and is beautifully bound. It contains lectures and articles by Pullman about books and writing. There’s considerable repetition because these talks and essays were intended for different audiences, but rather than becoming boring, the repeated points help to reinforce important and recurring themes. Taken as a whole it is a feel good read for aspiring and accomplished authors. It talks of the importance of literature in people’s lives and the challenges many authors face, then dips into work by giants like Milton, Blake, George Elliot and Lewis Carroll to illustrate salient points. It discusses philosophy, religion, science, paintings, poetry and prose with an intelligent honesty that draws the reader in.

The book concludes with the hopeful chapter “The Republic of Heaven” and a plea to all those of a humanist persuasion to keep pushing towards a secular paradise on Earth with acts of kindness, by finding our own connection with the world we are all a part of, and by creating and sharing our own myths and stories to bring truths and facts into alignment.

5/5 stars.

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