Review: Bright Air Black: A Novel

Bright Air Black: A Novel
Bright Air Black: A Novel by David Vann
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

**Thank you to Grove atlantic for providing me a digital ARC of this novel via Netgalley for the purpose of review**

I was fully braced to hate this novel; I was fully prepped to love this novel. I was not prepared to be hypnotized by it.

Having grown up in a Classical household — my grandfather is a retired professor of the Classics — and spent many a year and academic class studying the Classics, I am attached ot the stories of the Ancient Greeks to the point of being a very harsh critic. I am picky about which reinterpretations or retellings I read to the point of actively avoiding the majority that are published.

But not Bright Air Black.

You see, this one intrigued me: the Argo and the Golden Fleece, Jason and his Argonauts, Medea and her wrath. It’s a myth I don’t often see tackled in modern adaptations — the Olympians or, at the very least, Troy seem to take th popularity prize there. And not only do we have one of my favourite under-utilized myths, but here we also have the story as told by Medea in the limited 3rd person.

And a present-tense limited 3rd person at that! It lends an almost stream of consciousness quality to the storytelling and creates a rhythm to the reading experience that I’ve yet to encounter in another novel, certainly not one tackling a Greek myth. And yet it truly makes Bright Air Black feel more like some kind fo epic, long-form poem than a modern novel. It’s absolutely wonderful.

If there’s any downside to this stylistic choice, it’s that it does make it more difficult to start and stop the novel, as sinking back into the rhythmic flow takes time and concentration. Rather like meditation, you have to be able to be in the right mindset, prepared to be pulled along on the dark, twisted, tormented ride.

Yeah, it’s emotional and, yeah, it’s tragic.
After all: it’s Greek myth…what did you expect?

View all my reviews

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