Walls and Houses

The march of historical novelists continues. Back in March, I reported on a visit by Kevin Crossley-Holland, promoting his new children’s novel, Bracelet of Bones. On the same occasion, one of the panellists had been Ian Mortimer (the time-traveller’s guide), who has just reviewed the latest novel by another of our recent visitors, Shieldwall by Justin Hill, which is set in England at the time of Svein Forkbeard and King Knut. I have to confess I am not a huge fan of historical novels, but it is interesting to find out what draws novelists to the period I, in a rather different way, am interested in. It is, paradoxically, often the very same things. A review of Bracelet of Bones in the Guardian a few weeks ago noted that its author ‘brought a poet’s love of words to this Viking adventure’. Something of the same came across in Justin Hill’s talk, and is also evident in Ian Mortimer’s review, in which he picks out some historical inaccuracies, notes the relentless preoccupation with blood and gore, but praises the ‘wonderful, poetic passages’. So it all comes down to poetry in the end. Hurrah. I look forward to reading it, and possibly the rest of the trilogy too.

Speaking of trilogies, I have just discovered the first volume of a projected Lewis Trilogy, The Blackhouse, by Peter May. Its only Viking connection is that it is set in Lewis (the author revelling in the Norse place-names, possibly unbeknown to himself), but readers will know of my addiction to ‘Viking crime’, which I define as any murder mystery set in a part of the world that us true Norse and Viking ramblers like to visit, whether or not it has a Viking theme. It’s a very dark, psychological thriller, and I’m not sure what island reactions to it would be (the Stornoway Gazette has not reviewed it yet), but the descriptions of Lewis are well done, even if the plot is a bit lurid.

Walls and Houseshttp://norseandviking.blogspot.com/2011/06/walls-and-houses.htmlhttp://norseandviking.blogspot.com/feeds/posts/defaultNorse and Viking RamblingsA gentle wander through the Viking worldNew22

Ragnarök Revisited

There were hints of an interest in Norse mythology already in her 1990 novel Possession. Now the distinguished novelist Dame A.S. Byatt is giving it her full attention, in Ragnarök: The End of the Gods, apparently already available as an e-book (what they?), but to be published as a real book on 1 September. In a long article in today’s Guardian Review, she explains why she chose this myth when asked by publisher Canongate to contribute to their myth series. She sees it as ‘a myth of destruction for our times’, which shows how ‘the world ends because neither the all-too-human gods, with their armies and quarrels, nor the fiery thinker [that’s Loki!] know how to save it.’ I particularly like the bit where she refers to her childhood experience of reading the Norse myths: ‘I didn’t “believe in” the Norse gods, and indeed used my sense of their world to come to the conclusion that the Christian story was another myth, the same kind of story about the nature of things, but less interesting and less exciting.’ Sounds like a book to look forward to, then.

Ragnarök Revisitedhttp://norseandviking.blogspot.com/2011/08/ragnarok-revisited.htmlhttp://norseandviking.blogspot.com/feeds/posts/defaultNorse and Viking RamblingsA gentle wander through the Viking worldNew22