Early Book Review: Ragnarok by A. S. Byatt


Ragnarok by A. S. Byatt is an intriguing combination of autobiographical remembrances of tumultuous times during her childhood and the intricacy of Norse legends. The two come together with striking skill that will speak to anyone that has found myths to be somehow a more real world than the one that we live in. While toe tale ultimately shows how stories, myths, and legends can help us process the reality of our own demise regardless of not knowing when it might come.

Ragnarok is a relatively short work, but I would not call it a quick read. It is deep and layered. I had to set the book aside a couple times to think about my own relation to mythology and the connections the 'thin child' of the story had to her myths, as well as my connection to her. The setting for the 'thin child' that is our main character that frames the book's narrative is the British country side. Her family has been evacuated there while her father is fighting in world War Two, and the world at large is in chaos. The conflicts and chaos of the Norse myth of Ragnarok, the final battle of th e gods and resulting end of the world, is mirrored in the wartime atmosphere and the child's own beliefs about father's likelihood to return. Her retreat into her inner world, and the way she uses that world and the mythology she studies to relate to the world around her, is relatible. It takes the readers along on a journey that no only explains one girls mindset, but compares a variety of mythologies and how they relate to each other in the greater scheme of things.

Ragnarok is a striking work that I recommend for anyone that enjoys mythology, autobiographical stories, or anything that related to World War Two. This is a thought invoking and enthralling work that challenges the reader on a level that has nothing to do with reading comprehension or understanding. There are political, personal, and ecological themes entangled in the journey, some which I am still pondering.

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