Fallible gods

Ragnarok: The End of the Gods, by AS Byatt, Canongate, RRP£7.99, 177 pages

A girl known only as the “thin child”, evacuated during the second world war, kills boredom and avoids considering her absent father by immersing herself in a discovered volume of Norse mythology. A good three-quarters of Byatt’s latest slim novel delves into these myths, from the tree of life that supports the gods’ home in Asgard to Odin’s violent and capricious reign and the somewhat juvenile behaviour of the fallible gods. Byatt’s narrative explores the vengeful machinations of shape-shifting Loki, whose offspring are hurled from Asgard, and periodically drifts back into the consciousness of the thin child.

How “things, creatures, stories” percolate into the thin child’s mind appears to be the purpose of this consciously literary work, but remains largely opaque. Byatt is a Booker prize winner and crafted prose captures the mellifluous cadences of the heroic saga. But Ragnarok is perhaps one for devotees of myth and legend.

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