Ragnarök – by A.S. Byatt

RagnarokSynopsis: Greedy, cruel and foolish, the Gods deserve to die … From the Booker Prize-winning author of Possession and The Children’s Book comes a mesmerising tale of the end of the gods and the destruction of life on this planet. Into her version of Ragnarök, surely one of the most thrilling and apocalyptic of myths, A.S. Byatt weaves the story of a young girl evacuated to the British countryside during the Second World War. Struggling to make sense of her life, she is given a book of Norse myths, and her inner and outer worlds are transformed.

Title: Ragnarök: The End of the Gods
Author: A.S. Byatt
Publisher: Canongate Books
Pages: 192
ISBN: 9781847672971

Rating: 4stars

Told through the eyes of a girl in wartime Britain, Ragnarok introduces the reader to Nordic mythology. The girl, known as the thin child, finds a book titled ‘Asgard and the Gods’ in the house she is evacuated in and we learn the stories as she reads them.

Shamefully, all I know of Nordic mythology is what Hollywood has taught me through watching Thor. Once introduced to the myths and legends, I was hooked; and being the greedy reader I am, this small book just wasn’t enough. This is my only criticism.

Given that it’s such a small book, Byatt manages to reweave the Norse cycle of myths from the creation story of Yggdrasil, to the tale of the great serpent, Jörmungandr, to the finale, Ragnarök: The End of the Gods. Getting so much into so few pages is, in my opinion, a feat of epic proportions.

This is a beautiful little book (the cover is gorgeous); and is brimming full of amazing, stunning, powerful, strange, twisted, beautiful, dangerous, dark, and tangled imagery.

I’ve already bought The Djinn in the Nightingale’s Eye by Byatt to read and am looking for more books on Nordic mythology. Recommendations are, as always, welcome.

4 thoughts on “Ragnarök – by A.S. Byatt

  1. literarylad says:

    I must have missed this one! Sadly I don’t get much time to read these days, but because A S Byatt is my favourite living author, and thanks to your excellent review, I feel I’m going to have to find the time to read this!

      • literarylad says:

        ‘Possession’ is her most popular, and very good. I’ve got two of her short story collections, which are beautiful little hardback books (and I liked the stories too). The last of her novels that I read was ‘The Children’s Book’, which was very long, a bit dis-jointed and had too many characters, but was still great – as usual, I didn’t want it to end.

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