- Publisher: Canongate Books Ltd
- Format: Hardback | 192 pages
- Dimensions: 140mm x 212mm x 28mm | 381g
- Publication date: 1 October 2011
- Publication City/Country: Edinburgh
- ISBN 10: 1847670644
- ISBN 13: 9781847670649
- Sales rank: 53,055
Recently evacuated to the British countryside and with World War Two raging around her, one young girl is struggling to make sense of her life. Then she is given a book of ancient Norse legends and her inner and outer worlds are transformed. Intensely autobigraphical and linguistically stunning, this book is a landmark work of fiction from one of Britain's truly great writers. Intensely timely it is a book about how stories can give us the courage to face our own demise. 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 so Byatt has taken this remarkable finale and used it as the underpinning of this highly personal and politically charged retelling
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A S Byatt's novels include the Booker Prize-winning Possession, The Biographer's Tale the quartet, The Virgin in the Garden, Still Life, Babel Tower and A Whistling Woman and, most recently, the Booker-shortlisted The Children's Book. Her highly acclaimed collections of short stories include Sugar and Other Stories, The Matisse Stories, The Djinn in the Nightingale's Eye, Elementals and Little Black Book of Stories. A distinguished critic as well as a writer of fiction, A S Byatt was appointed CBE in 1990 and DBE in 1999.
By Nicola Markus 10 Aug 2011
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.
I received this book as a free ebook ARC from NetGalley.
Byatt is one of the most brilliant minds and speakers of our generation.' - Independent 'Dazzling ... Byatt is an artist of exceptional moral enchantment.' - Jane Shilling on THE CHILDREN'S BOOK, Daily Telegraph 'Superlatively displays both enormous reach and tremendous grip ... sizzling with ideas and alive with imaginative energy.' - on THE CHILDREN'S BOOK, Sunday Tim