Discussing: Ragnarok by A.S. Byatt
THE BLURB (from Canongate myth website)
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? Just as Wagner used this dramatic and catastrophic struggle for the climax of his Ring Cycle, so AS Byatt now reinvents it in all its intensity and glory. Ragnarok is the story of the end of the world. It is a tale of destruction of life on this planet and the end of the gods themselves. What more relevant myth could any modern writer find? As the bombs rain down in the Second World War, one young girl is evacuated to the English 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.
This was also a slightly shorter discussion that usual. A few of us hadn’t had a chance to complete the book. On top of that, as our first meeting we were all getting to know each other.
|Battle of the Doomed Gods – F. W. Heine 1882|
Based on the Norse myth of a series of future events. Ultimately; it is the end of the gods, featuring the deaths of several of the most prominent characters within their mythology even Odin, the father of the gods.
More that that; it reflects on how the gods were in fact the architects of their own doom. Their conviction that there actions had no consequences blinded them to the conflict originating within their own ranks, making it feel increasingly relevant to the world today.
Unfortunately, a few people found reading this book similar to wading through treacle. Though the majority of us found the language to be beautiful; the lack of narrative flow (the story only seemed to kick in during the second half of the book) meant that it was difficult to form a link with any of the characters. Additionally; they were all gods, with a unique view of the world that we couldn’t relate to. With all their superpowers; the reader was utterly excluded from their thought processes.
The most important contextual information for the reader wasn’t provided until the end of the book – for some of us it felt like the conclusion actually read like the introduction.
Personally, I LOVED this book. Having never read an A.S. Byatt book before; I feel in love with her style, the language used, even the backwards structuring. I’m really looking forward to reading EVERYTHING else that shes EVER written.
A few of the book clubber did find that although they might not have enjoyed this book so much; they would be inspired to look up the myths and legends that inspired it. From that perspective alone another Canongate winner!
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