Ragnorok: The End of the Gods
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.
The author of Possession proves her mastery of language in this introspective retelling of Norse Mythology as seen through the eyes of a “thin child in wartime.” Based on the authors own experiences reading Asgard and the Gods as a young girl, this book is not a traditional story but a series of impressions and images. The thin child is not so much the narrator as the mind through which the reader is introduced to tales of gods and monsters all careening toward an inevitable fate.
The thin child evacuates with her mother to the English countryside in the midst of World War II. It is here amongst idyllic meadows and woods the thin child practices air raid drills, learns of a Christian god she does not understand, and begins to believe her father will never come home. She discovers the book Asgard and the Gods. These tales are not real nor do they become her belief system but their very strangeness and otherness make them all the more important. She sees in the stories of Odin and Loki and the great tree Yggrdrasil more truth and life than in any reality she encounters.
This is an exceptional work filled with imagery so rich it threatens to overwhelm you. It is a book of truth and loss and the end of the world. Byatt devotes most of the book to retelling the Norse Myths and yet it is the thin child herself who lingers in the memory after the book has closed. Whether you are a fan of mythology or simply looking for an exceptional read, I highly recommend this book to anyone looking for something out of the ordinary.
-- by Mollie H.