The Booker Prize–winning author of Possession breathes life into the Ragnorak myth through the novel of a young British girl during World War II.
Ragnarok retells the finale of Norse mythology: a story of the destruction of life on this planet and the end of the gods themselves. What more relevant myth could any modern writer choose?
As the bombs of the Blitz rain down on Britain, one young girl is evacuated to the countryside. She is struggling to make sense of her new wartime life. Then she is given a copy of Asgard and the Gods—a book of ancient Norse myths—and her inner and outer worlds are transformed.
War, natural disaster, reckless gods, and the recognition of impermanence in the world are just some of the threads that A.S. Byatt weaves into this most timely of books. Linguistically stunning and imaginatively abundant, this is a landmark.
A Globe and Mail (Toronto) Best Book
“A gorgeous, brilliant, and significant performance.” —Booklist, starred review
“Byatt’s prose is majestic, the lush descriptive passages—jewelled one minute, gory the next—a pleasure to get lost in.” —The Telegraph
It is apt that Booker Prize winning English writer Byatt chooses to locate her reimagining of the Norse myth Asgard and the Gods, which describes the destruction of the world, during that most apocalyptic of times in British history, the blitz. The little girl at the center of the story, whom we know only as "the thin child," has been evacuated, with her mother, from London to the idyllic countryside. Her father is a fighter pilot who's "in the air, in the war, in Africa, in Greece, in Rome, in a world that only exist in books." The thin child goes to church and reads Pilgrim's Progress, but finds the concept of "gentle Jesus" na ve and untenable in the face of war. Asgard and the Gods, on the other hand, provides, if not a more believable narrative, one that at least reflects the world she lives in: "It was a good story, a story with meaning, fear and danger were in it, and things out of control." The only question that nags at her is how "the good and wise Germans" who wrote it can be the same people bringing terror to the skies over her head at night. Told in lush prose, describing vividly drawn gods and their worlds, this is a book that brings the reader double pleasure; we return to the feeling of reading or being read childhood myths, but Byatt (Possession) also invites us to grapple with very grown-up intellectual questions as well. A highly unusual and deeply absorbing book.