Ragnarok: The End of the Gods

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Overview

In this brilliant retelling of the Norse myth about the end of the world, the award-winning author of Possession and The Children’s Book unleashes a story of the destruction of life on this planet and the end of the gods themselves.

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 life, whose dark, war-ravaged days feel very removed from the peace and love being preached in church and at ...

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Ragnarok: The End of the Gods

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Overview

In this brilliant retelling of the Norse myth about the end of the world, the award-winning author of Possession and The Children’s Book unleashes a story of the destruction of life on this planet and the end of the gods themselves.

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 life, whose dark, war-ravaged days feel very removed from the peace and love being preached in church and at school. 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. She feels an instant kinship with these vivid, beautiful, terrifying tales of the end of the gods — they seem far more real, far more familiar during these precarious days.

How could this child know that fifty years on, many of the birds and flowers she took for granted on her walks to school would become extinct? War, natural disaster, reckless gods, and the recognition of impermanence in the world are just some of the threads that Byatt weaves into this most timely of books. Linguistically stunning and imaginatively abundant, Ragnarok is a landmark piece of storytelling from “one of the most brilliant minds and speakers of our generation” (The Independent). Just as Wagner used this dramatic and catastrophic struggle for the climax of his Ring Cycle, so A. S. Byatt now reinvents it in all its intensity and glory.

Praise for the narration of Ragarok by A.S. Byatt, performed by Harriet Walter:

“Narrator Harriet Walter is a superb oracle, telling the ancient tales of conflicts and feuds in dazzling description through the eyes of a young girl absorbed by her book of myths. Byatt reinterprets the prediction of "Ragnarok," or doom of the gods, and Walter delivers every terrible moment....The sensual imagery — color, texture, sound — comes through in this vibrant telling. A listening spectacular.” Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2012, Portland, Maine

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
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” naïve 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. (Feb.)
From the Publisher

“Color and sensation flood Byatt’s writing . . . One of the most brilliant minds and speakers of our generation.” –Independent

“Majestic . . . Dazzling . . . Wonderful . . . . What you see here . . . is the strength and fire of Byatt’s imagination.” —The San Francisco Chronicle

“Bristling with life and invention. . . . A seductive work by an extraordinarily gifted writer.” —The Washington Post

“Spellbinding. . . . Alive . . . Potent. . . . Byatt is a master storyteller.” —O, The Oprah Magazine

“Proves that a serious, intricate book can also be a page turner . . . Manifest intelligence, subtle humor and extraordinary texturing of the past within the present make Possession original and unforgettable.” - Time Magazine

Library Journal
Byatt's retelling of Norse mythology has the fearsome immediacy of modern apocalyptic fiction. The novel's only modern character, a young British girl immersed in reading Asgard and the Gods during World War II—surely Byatt herself—is barely fleshed out; Byatt calls her "the thin girl" in an ironic wink. But through her we feel that impending wartime doom, even as we are treated to the poetical lushness of both the English landscape and the mythical Norse world, the latter more wild than any medieval bestiary. And we learn the power of plot and story, which are stronger than the gods, who knew the end was coming but could do nothing to stop it. The Götterdämmerung can be interpreted on many levels: Loki's daughter Jormungandr, a serpent who greedily eats almost any sea life she encounters until she grows so large that she encircles the world and bites herself painfully on the tail, is a prescient metaphor for our ecological shortsightedness. Byatt's vision is grim and unredemptive; she rejects any Christian interpretation as a corruption of the original myth. VERDICT Required reading for those interested in Byatt, Norse mythology, or stirring story craft.—Reba Leiding, James Madison Univ. Libs., Harrisonburg, VA
Kirkus Reviews
A multilayered retelling of the end of the world from Norse mythology, framed by the award-winning British novelist's analysis of how myth relates to her own work. This slim volume doesn't invite comparison with the expansive novels of Byatt (Possession, 1991, etc.). As she explains, "Gods, demons and other actors in myths do not have personalities or characters in the way people in novels do. They do not have psychology." Yet her narrative strategy recasts the myth through the perception of a reader known only as the "thin child in wartime," a British girl whose name and age are unknown, who finds resonance in this war of the Gods with the war from which she doesn't expect her father to return. Byatt invites some identification of this girl with the author by dedicating this book to her own mother, "Who gave me Asgard and the Gods," a primary source for this retelling. The girl compares the myth of world's end with the Christian faith into which she was born, and to Pilgrim's Progress, which she has also been reading. "Bunyan's tale had a clear message and meaning. Not so, Asgard and the Gods. That book was an account of a mystery, of how a world came together, was filled with magical and powerful beings, and then came to an end. A real End. The end." The girl doesn't come to believe in the Norse gods, a worshipper of Odin and Thor, but the reading experience leads the author to the conclusion that "the Christian story was another myth, the same kind of story about the nature of things, but less interesting and exciting." While the narrative illuminates the essence and meaning of myth, particularly as it shapes a young girl's wartime experience, it also serves as an environmentalist parable, one where we are "bringing about the end of the world we were born into." Though the cadences are like those of a fairy tale, a narrative seen through the eyes of a child, the chilling conclusion is not.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781469278438
  • Publisher: Brilliance Audio
  • Publication date: 3/12/2013
  • Format: MP3 on CD
  • Edition description: Unabridged
  • Product dimensions: 5.37 (w) x 7.50 (h) x 0.50 (d)

Meet the Author

A. S. Byatt

A.S. Byatt is an internationally acclaimed novelist, short-story writer, and critic. Her books include the Booker Prize–winning Possession, as well as The Children’s Book and the quartet of The Virgin in the Garden, Still Life, Babel Tower, and A Whistling Woman. She was appointed Dame of the British Empire in 1999 and has been awarded numerous prizes, including the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize, the PEN/Macmillan Silver Pen Award, and the Irish Times International Fiction Prize. She lives in London, England.

Biography

A. S. Byatt, author of the Booker Prize-winning Possession, is internationally acclaimed as a novelist, short story writer and critic. Her most recent fiction outside this tetralogy is The Biographer's Tale, a novel, and Elementals, a collection of short stories. She was created a Dame of the British Empire in 1999.

Author biography courtesy of Random House, Inc.

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    1. Also Known As:
      Antonia Susan Drabble Byatt (full name)
    2. Hometown:
      London, England; France
    1. Date of Birth:
      August 24, 1936
    2. Place of Birth:
      Sheffield, England
    1. Education:
      B.A., Newnham College, Cambridge, 1957; graduate study at Bryn Mawr College and Somerville College

Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing all of 7 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted May 3, 2013

    Recommend.

    This book is for those who like Norse literature and the gods. The writing is excellent.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 29, 2012

    Good

    Good

    0 out of 8 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 24, 2012

    Yqgffgxd

    Luv dis book awsome

    0 out of 27 people found this review helpful.

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    Posted June 5, 2014

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    Posted July 22, 2013

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    Posted June 14, 2012

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