In Bright Air Black, 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.
Bright Air Black is a powerful, haunting, spellbinding novel; it is a novel which has now become a favourite all time read of mine and a novel that has enchanted me. Its beautiful re-telling of the Greek Myths of Medea
and the Argonauts
captured my heart from the very first page. This novel was always going to make me feel this way because I am a huge
Greek Mythology lover and have studied it from a young age; I truly was destined to love this novel from the beginning and love it I did!
The novel opens with a sea chase, with Medea seated on the deck of Jason’s ship – the Argo – throwing butchered chunks of her brother who she has just brutally murdered into the waves to slow down the pursuit of her father. She has does this heinous crime to gain the favour of Hecate
; the goddess of darkness in the hope that this will help her escape her raging father. Bright Air Black is told in two parts; Book I is dedicated to the escape of the Argonauts and the pursuit of Medea’s father Aeetes
. In Book I Medea ruminates on the heinous crime she has committed and what she would do and what she will do for her love Jason and for her own freedom and ascension as she arrives at Jason’s home of Iolcos
Book II is a powerful part to this novel and brings us to Medea’s more desperate time and her trickery to ensure the death of Pelias
so that Jason can reclaim his rightful throne. However matters continue to take a downward spiral from this point onward for Medea and she is lead down a destructive path which she will never be able to recover from. Medea soon starts to resent Jason when he fails to act as a king and their removal to Corinith
. Jason’s withdrawal of love and protection for her and their children and the entrance of a love rival named Glauce
sets Medea in a rage that is everlasting. Her revenge upon Jason and all those who have wronged her is very violet and will have everlasting consequences.
Bright Air Black is a dark, atmospheric novel that will chill you to your core and will stay with you for a long time upon finishing it. It is a lyrical ode to the rage and power and will of one woman, Medea. David Vann’s Medea is not like the woman in the original Greek Mythological story but rather Vann’s Medea is a fierce princess and priestess and although she is madly in love with Jason, she at the same time is fierce and she desperately seeks her own dominion to rule.
From the very beginning this enchanting novel is relentless and there is never a moment to pause and process what you are reading and take a breath. It is a novel that you cant help but submit to and fully submerge yourself in; it is a novel in my opinion that should be read in one sitting as it is not too long but I warn you, it is oppressively dark, sinister and harrowing ; especially towards the end. David Vann has wrote an incredible, dark, violent modern Greek Mythology tale and it is a tale that you cant help but surrender to and fall madly in love with.
Vann’s writing is extremely vivid and enchanting. He spares the reader little, especially with his brutal, gory scenes and descriptions of crimes. His gorgeous prose however does not just relate to these kind of scenes but his descriptions relating to nature and the sea are also poetically beautiful and vividly stunning. Vann’s writing is hypnotic and mesmerising and shockingly brilliant; he has a way with weaving his spell around horrifying scenes with some of the most gorgeous, crafted imagery I have ever read.
Vann’s paragraphs were breathtakingly beautiful in a unique, special way. He has mixed short, fragmented sentences with longer more elaborate ones and the result of this is a stunning, uniquely, written novel.
What made Bright Air Black truly special to me was its narration style as the story is told from a third person perspective of Medea and it is all told in the present tense. Many individual lines throughout this novel were that of short bursts with uneven rhythms and I have to admit, it was a little strange at first but when you are pulled into the web of Medea’s thoughts, instincts and emotions you realise that some paragraphs are written like that for a reason. Overall Vann’s writing truly is poetically beautiful and unlike anything I have read before. He enchanted me from the very first page and kept me hooked all the way through without me ever once getting bored and this is so rare for a writer to accomplish these days so thank you David Vann for providing me with such a blissful, spellbinding reading experience!
Our protagonist Medea is one of my favourite characters of all time; both in literature form and Mythological form. Medea in this novel is a woman full of rage, raging against everything and everybody and this rage of hers if felt during the whole of this novel. She is never soft, never weak, even in her love for her children she is demanding, intense, and borderline frightening. Although Medea is all of these things you cant help but admire her. I loved how the author managed to turn somebody like this, with chilling attributes and make her into a somewhat heroic figure, despite all of her evil deeds. How he has managed to do this I do not know but what I do know is that he has expanded on an already fascinating woman in history and has made me fall madly in love with her and her ways.
To conclude I would say of course if you love Mythology, specifically Greek Mythology then this novel is definitely for you! But I would also say to all the readers reading this who have not read much Mythology but would love to then this also is a wonderful novel for you to read. It is a novel full of great storytelling, phenomenal prose and a brilliantly crafted story which will stay with you for a long time! This enchanting novel gets Five Stars from me!
Thank you so much as ever for reading book lovers! I appreciate it so much! Please do comment below your thoughts on this novel and whether you could see yourself reading it; I would love to know! Please do comment whether you adore Mythology of any kind also, I do so much and love talking with fellow readers about it! Lastly let me know whether you have read any other Mythology inspired books, both fiction or non-fiction! Thank you so much as ever for reading!
Goodbye for now book lovers,
P.S. Here is a preview of the book for all of you lovely readers to enjoy! If you have loved what you have read and want to buy the wonderful novel then you can click the buy on amazon button and it will take you straight to Amazon U.K.! If you are international then click the Book Depository link underneath it! Thank you so much again for reading!
Publisher; Penguin – William Heinemann
P.P.S I have linked some Greek Mythology pages throughout my review for all the readers that might be interested in reading up on some of the characters, places or stories!