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Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman

We have gathered all the fantastic reviews our Book Club Members have sent us this month.

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Glenys Frost

If you are interested in ancient mythology, this book makes very interesting reading and is definitely a change from the Greek and Roman mythology. However, I don't think that it is written as well as a lot of the Greek and Roman mythology especially tales such as the Iliad and the Odyssey.The Norse gods are nowhere near as endearing as the likes of Zeus, Hera, Athena etc and I often found myself feeling very irritated by their apparent vanity and selfishness.

I knew very little about the Norse gods when I began this book, but have learnt a considerable amount as I worked my way through it. It was definitely interesting but not very gripping.

Amanda Brown

Neil Gaiman's "Norse Mythology" contains a collection of the most well known stories from the old Norse sagas of the Poetic Edda. He primarily follows the key characters of Odin, Thor and Loki. who are all introduced and established well. The book follows the start of the world to the fascinating future event of Ragnarok. Gaiman himself writes that for him, Ragnarok made the myths 'strangely present and current'. He places the myths in the place they were conceived, a cold and harsh land where people would not necessarily like or trust the gods, even positing that tribes may have worshipped different gods. In doing this, he evokes the harsh but beautiful landscapes of the Nordic countries, bringing the landscapes to life in his storybook-like rendition. The book provides an excellent background to understanding Norse religion and culture, and the epic tales which influenced Nordic societies.

I would highly recommend this to those with an interest in mythology or fantasy, and the great influence these myths have over swathes of English literature. Also for anyone interested in the Nordic countries themselves, along with their history, religion and culture.

Sheila Davies

I initially wondered how I would get through a book called Norse Mythology as it is far removed from my normal book choices however, with each page turned you find yourself quickly transported into the world of the Gods, Giants, mythical creatures and their adventures in lands long since forgotten.

It turned out to be such an easy read that I was unable to put it down until I finished it. My husband did the same.

It was effortless to imagine the colourful characters such as Odin Thor Loki and Freya as they leaped from the pages during each chapter. It was easy to see how these characters have stood the test of time and been relived in stories, comics and films over time.

While Odin and Thor are cast as hero’s Loki was the villain and yet at times there is humour too everything you need for an entertaining and easy read thanks to Neil Gaiman’s writing styles. A wonderful introduction into Norse Mythology I would highly recommend reading it.

Jenny Miah

I remember my mother reading Norse mythology stories to me as a child and I thoroughly enjoyed this easy to read visit back to the Land of Gods, dwarfs and giants. Chapter one introduces us to "The Players" where the major Gods Odin, Thor and Loki get a quick biography each and then stories are told involving them. Loki is a very naughty but likeable character seemingly never out of trouble and the trouble is usually of his own making. The folklore is interwoven with the scenery long winters and the Midnight Sun as the seasons follow each other. The author obviously has a fondness for the Gods and tells the tales with humour. Suitable for young and old alike and whilst the book looks big the size of the print and layout mean it was easily readable on my commute over a week. I would recommend it to fellow travellers especially the Baltic cruises although it is not a book I would have chosen myself I am glad I read it.

Jane Hemmings

Many thanks for giving me the opportunity to read this new book and send a short review.

Firstly I appreciated the dust cover of the book which made me very tempted to pick up and read. Also at the time it arrived several bookshops in Cambridge had it in prominent view for sale. It for me proved a very easy read with mainly short, precise sentences and also rather amusing at times - definitely an adult fairy story tome - and a book to read more than once.

Ken Mortimer

Thanks for asking me to review this book.

Unfortunately, Norse Mythology is not a topic I would pick to read. However, once I started, I was interested to find out how the Gods would outwit the dwarfs, etc. as each story unfolded. I must admit, I found the book too light for my taste - more suitable for a 13-year-old.

What it did do however, was make me think about how all cultures have these creatures/stories in their background. David and Goliath, George and The Dragon are not a million miles from the quests of Thor and Odin and the rest of the Gods. Beautiful, opinionated Freya, usually a pawn in the Gods games, could have been any beautiful princess in a fairy tale.

I could not help but compare the chapter "Before the Beginning" to the Bible's Book of Genesis.

Glad I did read it though and I loved the cover design.

Sheila Joliffe

I picked a story at random, and started to read. I could not get into a 'reading rhythm' because I could not pronounce the names. I find reading becomes very difficult when I stumble over names.

So I tried another story, but had the same problem.

My feeling is that perhaps these stories are suitable for reading to children, although I did not read enough to know if the content is suitable.

Vicki Owens

I would like to say that the book Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman was exceptional, the description & strories of the Gods were concise & very informative, I have learnt a lot about Norse Mythology from this book.

Robert Dinsmore

As an introduction to this book, I must emphasise that I am not a fan of mythology in general. I was intrigued rather than excited about the reading experience but nonetheless made an effort and, to my surprise completed the whole book.

The introduction, as to be expected, laid the format of the storyline and this enlightened my interest to engage with the writer. However my overall frustration, was in getting to grips with the endless number of characters whose names and identities I found confusing. Thanks heavens for the glossary at the end of the book, which after numerous references assisted me in achieving some relevance of the story.

To summarise, if I was not given the book to review would I have read it, no, probably not. Am I likely to read it again, the answer could be yes, and probably on one of the Viking Longships, which sports one of the many names listed in the book.

As a post script I noticed this week in the Evening Standard newspaper the said book was number 1 in the fiction sales league. Perhaps I need to acquaint myself with more with the study of Mythology.

Steve J. Ray

A beautiful volume that makes old stories accessible.

This is truly a wonderful book. Being a writer I know that research is a vital part of any work. As a lover of mythology I am also acutely aware that said research can be a source of both great pleasure and great pain.

Reading ancient tomes and having to rely on translations that may be inaccurate and, at times, hundreds of years old truly is a labour of love. Mr. Gaiman has taken this task on board and performed admirably in his retelling of these wonderful legends.

This book brings together the most important and famous tales from Norse Mythology and delivers them in a style that is easy to read, simple to understand and in a way that makes the passing on of these tales more fun than ever before.

We learn where and how the Vikings believed humanity began, where poetry came from, how Thor got his legendary hammer and even what causes earthquakes.

One of Neil Gaiman’s greatest accomplishments with this book is his accuracy. It is really impressive.

Previous retellings have embellished and sugar coated the stories, where these versions are far closer to the original content.

These are fun stories with great moral messages, but they’re not all rose tinted Disneyesque fare, princesses, rainbows and unicorns.

There is darkness, pain and violence in these tales. There is war, there is betrayal and there is death. But, just as in life, there is also hope, renewal and rebirth.

I highly recommend giving it a look. It may surprise you.

Jane Katsambis

Whilst I have read about Greek mythology and their gods; Norse mythology has been a new adventure!

Gaiman brings Thor, Loki, Freya and so many more characters (some of whose names I would not be able to pronounce) to life.

He has a certain way of writing that leads you into a mystical and yet almost believable land of giants and monsters and mystery.

His writing to me is poetical – even biblical in style.

I look forward to reading more of Gaiman’s writing, ‘The Day I Swapped My Dad For The Goldfish’ may well be my first choice!

Beryl Whiteside

This book is very well presented and would encourage "bookshop browsers" to pick it out and read the jacket. Fans of fantasy books would probably enjoy the content. As a fan of historical novels, which are loosely based on truth, this book did not really hold my interest.I was surprised to delve into this book to find how much research the author must have made to compile the book. It is a book that I would probably pick up and read one or two chapters at a time.

However, my Christian faith refused to accept the content of the book as the beliefs of the Norse people and I had to keep remembering that the stories are, in fact, myths.

The book will stay on my bookshelf and be useful as a concise reference for other fictional reading in the future and children doing research on the subject at school.

Allen Thomson

An easy and enjoyable read which explains some of the mysteries of Norse Mythology, without being too highbrow and could well whet the appetite for more. Boy o boy wasn't Loki a naughty boy!

Jinty Pyke

Having read other work by Neil Gaiman I was looking forward to his interpretation of the myths but sadly it was disappointing. Yes, the tales are well told and the book is very easy to read but it is not a re-telling as we might have expected. The whole feeling of the book fell rather flat for me. It lacked excitement and the stories were simply recounted in the kind of way that you might read out to school children as part of the syllabus that has to be learnt. It is a shame to be negative about one of Neil's books but sadly I did not enjoy this rendition of these tales.