I really enjoy Pullman’s writing; I loved His Dark Materials. I know he knocks the established church, but he also seems so perceptive and above all imaginative: a great storyteller. So, in the light of this, I was shocked even by the title of his latest book, this time for adults. It is a story, not some new theory. It re-tells the story we love so much. I recoiled, how dare he!
I then read reviews by no lesser persons than Rowan Williams and Richard Holloway , former Bishop of Edinburgh. They found within the story elements of the perception and imagination I had previously found in Pullman, but also some scenes that jarred and fell wide of the mark. I had decided not to read it, and probably to put my copy of His Dark Materials on the fire; now I’m not so sure. Perhaps there is something to be gained by reading what is an atheist taking another swipe at the established church.
There is one observation to come from the more general idea of attempting to re-tell the story. We have little hard history of Jesus the man, but we can gain a strong sense of who he is by reading the Gospels. If this can be communicated by the means of new stories, then, why not. What matters is that people, who don’t know him, get to know him.