Reading Challenge #52: A Book Based on Mythology

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Title: Ragnarok

Author: A.S. Byatt

How it fulfills the challenge: This book is an adaptation of the Norse end of the world myth (Ragnarok)

Genre: Fiction (maybe could be considered fantasy? Literary Fantasy…)

Quick Description: A detailed and almost poetic interpretation of a Norse myth with amazing imagery and a complex look at good and evil, power and weakness, as seen through the eyes of a child obsessed with the story.

Opening line: The thin child thought less (or so it now seems) of where she herself came from, and more about that old question, why is there something rather than nothing?

It began slowly. There were flurries of sharp snow over the fields where the oats and barley were ready to be harvested. There was ice on the desponds at night, when the harvest moon, huge and red, was still in the sky. There was ice on water jugs and an increasing thin, bitter wind that did not let up, so that they became used to keeping their heads hooded and down.

Highlights: Beautifully descriptive and evocative retelling of an ancient myth. My favorite section is on Yggdrasil, the great tree that contains so much life and death.

Low Points: I’m not super familiar with this myth, and Byatt does little to familiarize it. Instead she delights in the strangeness and otherness. It’s a more faithful retelling than other adaptations (or so I’ve read), and it feels older and darker, which isn’t a bad thing, it’s just not exactly what I was expecting and it was very different from Byatt’s Possession.

Goodreads rating: 4 stars.

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Women Writers Reading Challenge #67: Possession by A.S. Byatt

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A.S. Byatt is a master. This book is pretty amazing, as Byatt has to create not only her protagonists, their world, and their quest, but also two literary figures and great portions or excerpts of their works. It’s quite a feat.

This is a book that takes a great deal of effort and time, but it’s worth every moment that’s put into it. It’s easier if you’re already familiar with literary analysis (and if you like it) because there’s a great deal of that involved, but it’s also about the power of stories, the power of writing–especially as it pertains to knowledge, and, of course, it’s about love.

This book is perfect for:

  • English majors
  • people who like reading about books and academia
  • people who don’t think books should be shorter than 500 pages