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Ragnarok

3.48  ·  Rating details ·  4,697 ratings  ·  834 reviews
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 autobiographical and linguistically stunning, this book is a landmark work of fiction from one of Britain's truly great wri ...more
Hardcover, 177 pages
Published September 8th 2011 by Canongate
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Sandra Junier Not really. The gods are not really characters, more representions of certain traits or moods. And the girl reading the myths is thinly sketched.

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Average rating 3.48  · 
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Dolors
Aug 30, 2019 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Lovers of erudite, polished prose
Recommended to Dolors by: Yearning for the Icelandic lands
Shelves: read-in-2019
Few epilogues have fascinated me as much as Byatt’s did in this retelling of “Ragnarök”, the end of the world in Norse Mythology.
Instead of trying to attach human traits to the Norse gods to give a modern touch to the original story, Byatt remains faithful to the nature of the myth as such, allowing chaos, destruction and darkness to rule over the deeply flawed, insensitive gods.

Using her own childhood memories during World War II, Byatt introduces a nameless “thin child” who hides away in the
...more
Jaidee
Nov 07, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: five-stars-books
5 "Byatt speaks to me like nobody else" stars !

5th Favorite Read of 2015

Quite simply...Byatt is the reason I read.

She has written the unbelievable novel "Possession" who along with Tolstoy's "Anna Karenina" are my two favorite novels and I have read each of them several times throughout my life and I feel nostalgic, like I've come home after being exiled and I can sit and commune with the wonderful characters and plots that lie therein.

Ragnarok was the only Byatt I had left to read. I was trep
...more
Cecily
Jan 22, 2012 rated it really liked it
This is a remarkably good book, that I somehow failed to enjoy as much as I wanted or expected, but I think the failing is mine, rather than Byatt's, and reading my notes below, I'm puzzled that I liked and admired, rather than loved it (all-too familiar in my relationship with Byatt).

"The thin child in wartime"

The child is a semi-autobiographical version of Byatt herself. She is given a book of Norse legends, that she treasures. Those stories are retold through her eyes and thoughts, intersper
...more
Riku Sayuj

Ragnarok: The End of The Gods – A Re-view
or
Ragnarok: The Twilight of the Reader

While the others in the Cannongate series re-imagined the stories, Byatt reread it. And then told the tale of reading it. Underwhelming? To an extent, yes. But, the Norse myths are magnificent enough to come alive of themselves even when the author decides to color them distant.

Byatt gives her reasoning for this approach in the end - saying that she believes myths should not be humanized and the experience of imbibin
...more
Richard Derus
Apr 04, 2012 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Rating: 1* of five (p41)

"...Airmen were the Wild Hunt. They were dangerous. If any hunter dismounted, he crumbled to dust, the child read. It was a good story, a story with meaning, fear and danger were in it, and things out of control."

I have Byatted for the last time. I love the Norse myths, and this precious twitzy-twee retelling of them through "the child"'s horrible little beady eyes made me want to Dickens up all over the place.

I tried. I really tried. I read some of Possession. It was lik
...more
Paul
Jul 21, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: myth-and-legend
This is in the Canongate myths series and is a retelling of the Norse myths. Byatt tells them pretty straight but puts them in the context of her own childhood. Ragnorak is the Norse version of Armageddon (Gotterdammerung in Wagner’s Ring Cycle) and the retelling is very much as the original. Byatt uses her experience of being evacuated to the countryside at the beginning of the war. In the book the child is only known as “the thin child” and there is no conversation with anyone else. The myth c ...more
Paltia
Oct 07, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Damn all intrusions and consider yourself fortunate to get lost in this story. The thin child at war time has moved to the countryside where she learns to live in the black world of myth. As a way to make sense of the events around her she turns to reading Asgard and the gods. This fulfill her yearnings as she crosses over into their world and forges fantasy with her reality. This book reminded me of being a child first discovering the magic of reading. All those otherworldly and enchanted realm ...more
BrokenTune
Sep 03, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I really liked it. I don’t even know why.

Ragnarok was really short but it was very much the opposite to Nesbo’s Macbeth (which I had read right before this), and thus perhaps exactly what I needed.

I only realised it when I started the book, but Byatt wrote the book as part of the Canongate Myths series, i.e. a retelling of a myth – so very much another similarity to Macbeth which was the retelling of a Shakespeare play as part of the Hogarth series.
Where Macbeth discouraged me from looking deep
...more
Terence
Oct 22, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Terence by: LRB advert
Update (8/15/12): A week or so ago I listened to the Audio CD and was impressed - again - with just how good this book is. The reader (whose name I've forgotten) does an excellent job, and I gained a better understanding of what I had read from listening to it.

Update (6/6/12): I found the short story I mentioned in my review below. It's from an anthology titled Starlight 3 and called "Wolves Till the World Goes Down," by Greg Van Eekhout. (view spoiler)
...more
Teresa
Jun 26, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book would probably be more interesting to those who know nothing, or not much, of Nordic mythology. Since I, as Byatt, read stories from this mythology as a child, I found myself looking for more, perhaps a retelling or an allegory (or more of the story of the 'thin child,' which is Byatt herself), which is exactly what Byatt says in her "Thoughts on Myths" (at the end) she didn't want to write.

More than anything else, this novella is Byatt's love-letter to Asgard and the Gods, and shows h
...more
Nicky
I was hoping, when I read this Canongate retelling, for something more along the lines of a reinterpretation. A.S. Byatt's retelling is a fairly straight one, drawing together various different strands of the myth, through the eyes of a child during the war reading the myths and relating them to her life.

I've read the myths myself -- studied them -- so reading about a child reading about them didn't really work as a way to experience them for myself. There is some beautiful language here, but th
...more
Christine
I have been waiting years for this book, ever since I got my first book in the Canongate series.

There is something about a well loved book. Not only can you remmeber the plot, but you can also, quite easily, remember the first time you read the book. The train, the room, the seat, the feeling. It's not every book, but those well loved books. For me they number books such as The Hero and the Crown, Wyrd Sisters, and Duncton Tales.

Of course Possession is one those books.

This book by Byatt starts s
...more
Steven Walle
Jul 20, 2015 rated it it was amazing
A. S. Byaat is an awesome linguist. The words of this book captivate you and you just can't put it down.
It is a book about a young thin girl, in war time Great Brittan. She finds a book about the Norse fables of the Gods and giants and allows her to escape her own very scarey reality. I recommend this book to all ages.
Enjoy and Be Blessed.
Diamond
Gary
Dec 29, 2011 rated it it was ok
I was given this book as an impromptu present (the best sort really) and hence I dislike being churlish about it, but... this is not a real story in the sense that I was expecting anyway. It's a re-telling of the Norse Myths - Odin, Thor, Loki etc. loosely set within the confines of the 'thin' girl's reflections on her own experience of the second world war. It's a very loose narrative setting at that and much of this comes from AS Byatt's own childhood I think. I have enjoyed her books previous ...more
Arun Divakar
Dec 05, 2011 rated it really liked it
I cannot put a finger on what is the one factor that attracts me to Nordic mythology. When I tend to give it some thought, I feel it is the character of Odin that I find to be the most noteworthy. There is to me a certain enigma associated with this characterization of ultimate power. Wandering the world as a one eyed old man in a long & billowing cloak with a hat pulled down covering most of his face is this king of gods. I draw parallels with the hindu god Shiva here for he is shown as an enti ...more
Sookie
Feb 03, 2016 rated it it was ok
Shelves: literary-fiction
Byatt re-read this book as a part of Canongate myth series and managed to make Norse mythology boring - which I thought wasn't possible. A semi-biographical narration goes only so far when the repetitive "that thin child" description becomes irritating. For most part of non-mythological story, I kept thinking, "Why is Byatt referencing to her childhood self as "thin child". Why not the child? Why not anything else?" There isn't a reason unless it was a giant metaphor for war ridden, alienated, l ...more
HBalikov
Aug 07, 2012 rated it really liked it
Byatt has a magnificent skill with description. The story, nominally, is of a young "thin child" who is ill and sent from the city to the English countryside for safety's sake during World War II.

We view the Norse mythos through her perspective. Her touchstone is the book Asgard and the Gods. It is a pretty challenging book for a pre-adolescent. Byatt's exploration of the text with her exquisite interpolations and lyrical extrapolations made this read special.

This young girl is dealing with the
...more
Noelia Alonso
Jun 13, 2016 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-in-2016
I picked it up believing this was going to be Byatt's take on Ragnarok but the blurb had nothing to do with what was within the pages. Basically, this is more a textbook than anything else. And yes, I do love Norse mythology but it wasn't even written in an engaging manner. All in all, a dull and unsubstantial book.
Cynthia
Sep 12, 2011 rated it liked it
I found this book uninteresting in the beginning. It took at least 20 pages or so to spark my imagination. Byatt is a writer I love though so I persisted and it paid off. The nominal narrator is referred to as the thin girl. She loves to read the old Norse tales from her mother’s many books. She’s reading them in the country where she and her mom have gone to escape the London Blitz. Her dad has been away for many years bombing the enemy’s towns. She knows he won’t come back. She reads late into ...more
Jonathan Terrington
The stories of the Norse gods have always fascinated me for a variety of different reasons. Here in this short novella, A.S. Byatt captures the spirit of these myths with short and poetic prose. She tells these stories through the point of view of a 'thin girl' who escapes to this mythology during WWII.

The events of WWII are cleverly contrasted against the horrific events of the mythology of Ragnarok and the death of the gods. At the end A.S. Byatt clarifies that she chose to use particular tran
...more
Derek
Bravo! This was a marvel in every sense of the word. It's a simple tale--a thin girl relates Asgard And The Gods plus Pilgrim's Progress to the wartime life she's inhabited. That's what's on the surface. Beneath that, this is a clever book about the end of our own world, but the beauty of it is it's not written as an allegory nor is it a sermon or full of eschatological leaning. It's a story about the power of myths, and how myths can unify a culture. In its deepest honesty this a book about hum ...more
Audra (Unabridged Chick)
This skinny book is really a novella, closed with a brief essay. And in that way Byatt does so well, this small book on Norse mythology also tells a story of marriage and motherhood, war, loss, escapism, violence. Insidious, along the edges of the larger story, what seems to be a straight-forward retelling of some aspects of Norse mythology actually tells us a story of World War II, Byatt-as-a-child, and the way a good story can help us escape our reality.

Unlike some of the other Canongate Myth
...more
Mary Soderstrom
Jun 25, 2019 rated it liked it
Not sure if this should be a Three or a Four star book. It suffers, I think, from my having just finished reading Neil Gaiman's Norse Mythology which is a much less poetic, far more action-filled retelling of the myths of the North, and the end of the world.

Byatt's point of view character is a "thin child in wartime." She juxtaposes the child's magical wandering in the English countryside during a very frightening time when the family has been evacuated out of London during World War II with the
...more
Audrey
Aug 30, 2011 rated it liked it
I received a digital ARC of this book from the publisher through Netgalley.

When I saw this title, I immediately requested it because it combines two of my favorite things: Norse mythology and A.S. Byatt. After doing a little research, I discovered that this is part of Canongate's series of retold world myths by famous novelists. I'm glad I had that little bit of guidance, because I don't know that I would've known what Byatt was trying to do, otherwise.

Don't get me wrong. This novella is full of
...more
Robert
Mar 11, 2016 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition

A.S Byatt's take on Norse mythology is a mixed bag. It is clever, I liked the way she compared Norse mythology with Christian spirituality and integrated that with a girl living in Britain during the second world war and comparing WWII as a modern day Ragnarok. I also thought that Byatt managed to squeeze in a whole saga in 150 pages was admirable. There's also an afterword written by Byatt, which is fantastic.

However my problem with this is the stilted prose. At time it verges on the dry and bo
...more
EditorialEyes
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For this review and others, visit the EditorialEyes Blog.
~*~
5 out of 5

This is not exactly a novel. Not exactly fiction, not exactly autobiography, not exactly allegory. Ragnarök: The End of the Gods, A.S. Byatt’s reweaving of the Norse cycle of myths is, for such a short book, epic. Ragnarök is part of the Canongate Myth Series, which since 1999 has published retellings of famous myths by accomplished authors the world over (you might recognize Margaret Atwood’s The Penelopiad or Philip Pull
...more
Tom
Oct 15, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
More complete and profound a retelling of Norse myths and their power than other less accomplished authors have recently published. Framed by the story of 'a thin child in wartime', Byatt's work illuminates both myth and the tottering world in which we now dwell.
Nick
Nov 11, 2014 rated it really liked it
The Norse tales have always seemed to me the most powerful of the old mythologies that have come down to us in anything approaching a coherent body of work. Unlike the Graeco-Roman corpus, we have not been overexposed to them through Hollywood and cliche (with the exception of Thor, who is relatively uninteresting). The figure of Odin seems to me particularly compelling, the wandering riddler and seeker of wisdom; the Voluspo, the ancient poem in which he resurrects and questions a dead witch ab ...more
Jane
Sep 19, 2015 rated it really liked it
3.5/5. Limpid, flowing telling of Norse myths, using as a frame story "the thin child in wartime", who is reading Asgard and the Gods, periodically relating her experiences and thoughts to the book, e.g., the wolves pursuing the chariots of sun and moon and that of Baldur's death suggest to her that her father won't be coming back from the war. The author's analysis of myth, comparison of the Norse gods to us in their stupidity and greed, and how we are hurtling towards a Ragnarok of our own [wi ...more
Ana
The writing was beautiful, but it would have impacted me more had I known more about Norse mythology before reading this book. There are simply too many gods to care about and it's a testament to the writer that I became invested in the outcome of the girl as much as the outcome of Ragnarok itself.
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A.S. Byatt (Antonia Susan Byatt) is internationally known for her novels and short stories. Her novels include the Booker Prize winner Possession, The Biographer’s Tale and the quartet, The Virgin in the Garden, Still Life, Babel Tower and A Whistling Woman, and her highly acclaimed collections of short stories include Sugar and Other Stories, The Matisse Stories, The Djinn in the Nightingale’s Ey ...more

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“He was beautiful, that was always affirmed, but his beauty was hard to fix or to see, for he was always glimmering, flickering, melting, mixing, he was the shape of a shapeless flame, he was the eddying thread of needle-shapes in the shapeless mass of the waterfall. He was the invisible wind that hurried the clouds in billows and ribbons. You could see a bare tree on the skyline bent by the wind, holding up twisted branches and bent twigs, and suddenly its formless form would resolve itself into that of the trickster.” 38 likes
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