Title: Ragnarok: The End of the Gods
Author: A. S. Byatt
Publisher: Grove Press
Publication Date: 1st September 2011
Format: E-Book - PDF
Genre: Literary Fiction
Source: ARC from NetGalley
During the second world war Antonia Byatt was given a book of Norse myths by her father. She read it and reread it but there was one myth she was drawn to in particular and which has continued to hold her under its spell - the Myth of Ragnarok. The Ragnarok myth, otherwise known as the Twilight of the Gods, plays out the endgame of Norse mythology. It is the myth in which the gods Odin, Freya and Thor die, the sun and moon are swallowed by the wolf Fenrir, the serpent Midgard eats his own tale as he crushes the world and the seas boil with poison. It is only after such monstrous death and destruction that the world can begin anew. This epic struggle provided the fitting climax to Wagner's Ring Cycle and just as Wagner was inspired by Norse myth (it was also Hitler's favourite myth!) so Byatt has taken this remarkable finale and used it as the underpinning of this highly personal and politically charged retelling. (Goodreads Synopsis)
When I first saw this title was available on NetGalley, I was so excited and requested it at once. I've loved everything I've read by Byatt and this story was of particular interest to me as I adore mythology.
I devoured this book in one sitting and loved every minute of it. The story of Ragnarok is told here as seen through the eyes of a young girl, reading the mythology from a book while she lives in the country during the war. I loved the way the child related the story to her own experiences of war and religion.
This book shifts between the child's thoughts and the Ragnarok story, but it never feels fragmented as Byatt manages to balance the two elements perfectly. The prose is beautiful and descriptive yet not overly 'flowery' and it is a real pleasure to read it and lose yourself in the words.
I enjoyed the note from Byatt at the end, discussing the approach she'd used, as that really helped bind the piece together.
It's been a while since I last did any reading on Northern myth, but I now feel inspired to grab up my copies of the Edda and the Kalevala again. This is definitely a book that I will be buying myself a print copy of so that I can keep it in my library and reread it in the future. Highly recommended to both lovers of literary fiction and those interested in mythology.