Rate this book

Ragnarök: The End Of The Gods (2011)

by A.S. Byatt(Favorite Author)
3.51 of 5 Votes: 3
0802129927 (ISBN13: 9780802129925)
Grove Press
Canongate Myths
review 1: I am aware that over the years I have become more and more of an intellectual lightweight. I read Moby Dick when I was ten, and The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists and The Grapes of Wrath and the like when I was in my teens, so I started off well, but maybe now I just don't have the grit to wade through pages of apparently random verbiage peppered with the names of Norse gods. Maybe there is art here, maybe there isn't, but really I'd rather be reading the latest John Sandford. Another reviewer said the last chapter was beautiful or delightful or some such, so I went back and read that, just to show willing. It was at least an understandable story.Not for me then. Maybe it's like black olives, or fino sherry, or Stilton cheese, and you need to work at it to get your palat... moree in, but really life's too short.
review 2: I regard public libraries much as I do public transport, a good thing in themselves but not really for me. In my defence let it be said that I cycle to most of the places to which other conscientious citizens would normally travel on the bus; and most of my reading is either e-books or second-hand books, so I may not be charged with extravagance. My wife uses the public library enough for two people, and most of my visits are on her behalf. I happened to see this book on the shelf the last time I was collecting a book for her, and it looked just the thing: a brief and palatable treatment of Norse mythology by a writer some of whose work I admire (I think I've read three books).I see that the Wikipedia entry for A.S. Byatt lists this book as fiction which it is, but not really. Byatt was invited to contribute to the Canongate Myths series in which distinguished modern authors re-tell myths in their own way. Myth and fiction are quite separate entities. This book preserves the mythical element as myth by a simple device. Readers are introduced to a character called simply "the thin child in wartime", apparently a self-portrait of the author at the same time of life, who has a book called Asgard and the gods. The myths are retold as they exist in the child's imagination, out of time and geography, free from any constraint of mundane reality, true to the nature of myth. The thin child is a literary device. To the extent that characterisation is developed, it is to describe the ways in which the Norse myths are more satisfying to her than Bunyan's Pilgrim's progress or the vicar's tales of gentle Jesus. The child relates the nightly sounds of aircraft passing overhead to Odin's wild hunt. This is a dangerous and threatening world, and the child is living with a constant sense that, like Asgard, it may soon come to an end. The book continues after the child has been re-united with her father, her world has not come to end and there is no more to tell of her; it continues with a very adult discussion of myth, of sources, of alternative tellings of the Ragnarök myth, citing ideas she attributes to Neitzche, George Eliot, Hobbes, Ludwig Feuerbach and others, and speaks of the author's personal sense of the myth. I have only a passing acquaintance with the Ragnarök myth, gleaned from a variety of sources including the recent Canadian-Irish produced History Channel television series Vikings, written by Michael Hirst. I read this book for my own instruction. I am in no position to pronounce on whether A.S. Byatt has given a full and faithful account of the Ragnarök myth, but I will say this: her telling of it does have the true feel of myth, and I found it quite satisfying in that way. less
Reviews (see all)
Not an easy read, but utterly engrossing retelling of ancient Nordic myth.
I love mythology so I enjoyed this a lot.
My least favorite Byatt book.
Write review
Review will shown on site after approval.
(Review will shown on site after approval)