Culture Street

The title of the first volume of Philip Pullman’s highly-anticipated The Book of Dust has been announced today, Friday 26 May, as La Belle Sauvage. The identity of its hero has also been revealed, along with an extract released exclusively via The Guardian.

La Belle Sauvage will be published simultaneously on 19 October 2017 by Penguin Random House Children’s and David Fickling Books in the UK, Random House Children’s Books in the US and Penguin Random House in Australia.

In the first extract from La Belle Sauvage, readers have been introduced to the story’s hero: 11-year-old Malcolm Polstead and his dæmon, Asta, along with his boat La Belle Sauvage. It is revealed that Lyra is being sheltered – from her own father – by the nuns at Godstow Priory near Oxford. The extract comes from chapter ten, where Malcolm is persuaded to help Lord Asriel secretly see his infant daughter.

On the title, Pullman says, “Who or what is La Belle Sauvage? She is a boat, a canoe to be precise, and her owner is a boy, Malcolm Polstead, the hero of this story whom we have seen in an earlier part of Lyra’s story (if we were paying attention. He only had a walk-on part there). The canoe is important in this part of The Book of Dust, because some of the story is set during a massive flood.”

Pullman refers to his next series as an 'equal' saying in stands beside His Dark Materials rather than before or after. Since the ‘equel’ was announced, fans around the globe have cheered the return of Lyra Belacqua, heroine of His Dark Materials. In a short film released by his publisher, Pullman revealed the ingredient for success behind His Dark Materials: Lyra’s ordinariness.

“The thing about Lyra is that she's not a special child." Pullman says. "She's not especially gifted or talented - she's a very ordinary child. When I was a teacher, I taught many girls who were like Lyra. They were brave, inquisitive, curious, disobedient: all those interesting things for storytellers. I think the reason that people have read this long and complicated story is because they're with Lyra. She doesn't know the things that are threatening her and she's in the same position as the reader, because the reader shares her sense of danger and excitement and curiosity about what's going to happen next. I hope the same thing will be true of Malcolm in La Belle Sauvage.”

Published between 1995 and 2000, Pullman’s spellbinding His Dark Materials trilogy is widely regarded as a modern classic that has captivated readers for over twenty years and won acclaim at every turn. Its heroine, Lyra Belacqua, frequently tops polls as an all-time favorite character, and the series is praised as one of the best, including being named an All-Time Greatest Novel by Entertainment Weekly and a Top 100 Book of All Time by Newsweek, which also said, “Pullman is quite possibly a genius.”

Individually, the three books of His Dark Materials—Northern Lights, The Subtle Knife, and The Amber Spyglass—have won several literary prizes, among them the Carnegie Medal (1996) and the “Carnegie of Carnegies” (2007) and the first Whitbread (now Costa) Book of the Year Award to be given to a children’s novel (2001). The books have been adapted for stage and screen countless times, and His Dark Materials will appear once again in a BBC One adaptation in 2018, produced by Bad Wolf and New Line Cinema.

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