Antonia Byatt’s personal account of the end of the Gods. Ragnarok [Edinburgh: Canongate, 2012] owes its origin to wartime reading by a clearly autobiographic ‘thin girl’ who poured over a copy of Asgard and the Gods using a torch under the blankets. That early reading and regular re-reading led the thin girl’s enquiring mind to read deeply and broadly about Norse and other myths on the origin of the world and, due to their limited capacity for reason and rational analysis, the end of the Gods.
A novel from Antonia Byatt is not just a book; it is a whole literary experience: and this is certainly true of Babel Tower [London: Chatto & Windus, 1996]. If one has read her earlier novels, The Virgin in the Garden and Still Life, one picks up straightaway that this is the continuing story of the talented Frederica, with a depth and breadth of literary knowledge, empathy and understanding that is probably only matched by that of the author herself.