by A.S. Byatt
No, not the one with a Hemsworth, this is ‘The End of The Gods’, retold by the Booker winning author and poet.
Hmm. I struggled with this, in part due to the lengthy quasi-religious opening half where not much happens but the earth is created, partly through an endless succession of clauses, subbed, perhaps, to pack in the pretty time consuming act of world-building, but partly, for style, I felt.
It is a retelling of the classic of Icelandic lore over the shoulder of a young girl, living through the war, who sees in the death of the gods a parallel to her own father’s death [SPOILER] only, when he returns from the war, she is gifted a hope for the future that the original text doesn’t contain.
I almost gave up on this, amidst the fashionable insistences that ‘life’s too short to read books you don’t love’. This is something I can kind of agree with, but this felt like it was an important book and so I persevered and in the end, I’m glad I did, if only for the essay at the end which clarified what I had hoped I would find in the fiction: an exploration of how Myths and stories are all for the retelling (something which fascinates me enough to write a book that investigates such a thing myself).
And, the book itself is a beautiful object. Hats off to (publisher) Canongate for investing in the typography and set; the attention to detail in the separately coloured chapter heads and the use of illustrations, which all give it the feeling of a classic, and although I didn’t enjoy in an obvious, immediate way, I will look to add a copy to my shelves for the purpose of rereading and to have: there is surely more here than I gleaned first time.