Thursday, 9 February 2017

Book Review: Bright Air Black by David Vann

Title: Bright Air Black
Author: David Vann
Publisher: Grove Atlantic
Publication Date: 7 March 2016
Pages: 288
Format: eBook - PDF
Genre: Fiction
Source: ARC via NetGalley

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Following the success of Aquarium which was a New York Times Editor’s Choice and garnered numerous rave reviews, David Vann transports us to 13th century B.C. to give a nuanced and electric portrait of the life of one of ancient mythology’s most fascinating and notorious women, Medea.

In brilliant poetic prose
Bright Air Black brings us aboard the ship Argo for its epic return journey across the Black Sea from Persia’s Colchis—where Medea flees her home and father with Jason, the Argonauts, and the Golden Fleece. Vann’s reimagining of this ancient tale offers a thrilling, realist alternative to the long held notions of Medea as monster or sorceress. We witness with dramatic urgency Medea’s humanity, her Bronze Age roots and position in Greek society, her love affair with Jason, and her tragic demise.

Atmospheric and spellbinding,
Bright Air Black is an indispensable, fresh and provocative take on one of our earliest texts and the most intimate and corporal version of Medea’s story ever told. (Goodreads Synopsis)

Bright Air Black is a book that snuck up on me. At first I wasn't keen on the free form prose, finding it a little jumpy and disjointed, but once I got a feel for it, I grew to enjoy it. The story is a familiar one, but David Vann breathes new life into the tale, taking the reader deep into Medea's psyche. It is certainly atmospheric and poetic, and Vann manages to maintain a sense of tension and expectation, despite the fact that readers will likely already know how it's going to end. This book will appeal to those interested in Greek myth; however, you also need to be open to fairly poetic, free prose.

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