Book review: The Gospel of Loki by Joanne Harris.
“Loki, that’s me.
Loki, the Light-Bringer, the misunderstood, the elusive, the handsome and modest hero of this particular tissue of lies. Take it with a pinch of salt, but it’s at least as true as the official version, and, dare I say it, more entertaining.
So far, history, such as it is, has cast me in a rather unflattering role.
Now it’s my turn to take the stage.”
And thus it begins. Joanne Harris, who is the author of Chocolat, Blackberry Wine, French Cooking and many other wonderful books, has just published her first adult fantasy novel, The Gospel of Loki. I was expecting a good read, silly me, what I got instead was a terrific piece of entertainment.
Joanne Harris has taken Norse Mythology by the hand and taken it on a joy ride. While her story has all the ‘usual suspects’, Odin, Frigg, Thor, various demons and monsters, this version is told by Loki and it is a refreshing and sometimes disturbing slant on the old tales.
“There were a few compensations to having corporeal Aspect. Food (jam tarts were my favourites); drink (mostly wine and mead); setting things on fire; sex (although I was still extremely confused by all the taboos surrounding this – no animals, no siblings, no men, no married women, no demons – frankly, it was amazing to me that anyone had sex at all, with so many rules against it).”
“A demon, if you prefer the term; although to be honest, the difference between god and a demon is really only a matter of perspective.”
And we soon find out how true this is. I found it hard to distinguish between right and wrong, good and evil, as these so called Gods stole, killed, prostituted themselves, lied and manipulated everyone around them – this all contributing to Loki’s disappointment and alienation.
We learn how Loki was recruited from Chaos by Odin and became the “Can Do” guy in Asgard. He is shunned, then lauded, then vilified in turn by all and sundry.
“From this I think we can all conclude that the cow was the primary instigator of everything that followed – war, Tribulation, the End of the Worlds. Lesson One: never trust a rumiant.”
Unfortunately Loki’s quicksilver nature and agile mind leads to his ultimate downfall and his one hell of a spectacular self-destruct, but he makes sure to take them all with him. Joanne’s first-person narrative makes it hard to remain unsympathetic to this powerful but often misjudged being. The humour and clever banter, Loki’s total irreverence, droll and urbane manner is divine. Great characters in all their often flawed glory, wonderful magic and imagery are combined in a perfect balance to make this story a lot more than just another Norse fairy tale. I dearly hope Joanne Harris does some more of the same in the future.
“They tell you revenge isn’t worth it. I say there’s nothing finer.” – Loki
Joanne Harris: Author Profile and Interview.
Joanne Harris (MBE) was born in Barnsley in 1964, of a French mother and an English father. She studied Modern and Mediaeval Languages at Cambridge and was a teacher for fifteen years, during which time she published three novels, including Chocolat (1999), which was made into an Oscar-nominated film starring Juliette Binoche and Johnny Depp.
Since then, she has written eleven more novels, two collections of short stories and two cookbooks . Her books are now published in over 50 countries and have won a number of British and international awards. She is an honorary Fellow of St Catharine’s College, Cambridge, has honorary doctorates in literature from the universities of Sheffield and Huddersfield, and has been a judge for the Whitbread Prize, the Orange Prize, the Desmond Elliott Prize and the Royal Society Winton Prize for Science.
Her hobbies are listed in Who’s Who as: “mooching, lounging, strutting, strumming, priest-baiting and quiet subversion of the system”, although she also enjoys obfuscation, sleaze, rebellion, witchcraft, armed robbery, tea and biscuits. She is not above bribery and would not necessarily refuse an offer involving exotic travel or pink champagne. She works from a shed in her garden, plays bass in the band she first joined when she was 16, is writing a novella for Dr Who and lives with her husband and daughter in a little wood in Yorkshire
Joanne Harris kindly spared some of her valuable time and answered a few questions for Bloody Cake News and all our friends.
JH: I have always written. I realized early on that if I wanted complete control over the stories I wanted to read, I’d have to write them for myself..
BCN: What authors or books have you found inspirational?
JH: So many; the books of Ray Bradbury, Angela Carter, Haruki Murakami, Victor Hugo, Mervyn Peake and Shirley Jackson.
BCN: Do you stick to a routine when writing? Or does spontaneity help the creative process?
JH: I don’t find that sticking slavishly to a routine helps at all. Words on the page are not always of equal quality at all times. I write when I can; I prefer the light months to the dark; the early part of the day to the later. But not all writing is wholly creative; there’s a lot of other work I can be getting on with when I don’t feel particularly inspired. Editing, re-reading, research – all of that is part of the process.
BCN: Now that The Gospel of Loki is out and being enjoyed by all, can you reveal what is in the pipeline for us to enjoy next?
JH: Several things; a novel called DIFFERENT CLASS ( a novel of suspense, set in a boy’s school); a novella for DR WHO, and a little chocolate cookbook, out in the UK next month.
BCN: And lastly, what is your favourite cake?
JH: Cherry Coconut Cake, made to my husband’s (secret) recipe…
Joanne Harris website: www.joanne-harris.co.uk
Many thanks To Marvel Comics and Joanne’s website for images.