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Reviews

  • This Medea is intelligent and cynical, slighted by a husband and her gender. She is a woman who craves revenge for the fate of being born a woman and thus rendered powerless in a world ruled by men. Vann strips away the softer parts of Medea’s character as ruthlessly as Medea slits throats ... The centrepiece of Bright Air Black is the butchering of Pelias, a long and magnificently gruesome scene, described in stomach-churning detail ... Vann leaves us with the troubling paradox that murderous Medea is also a devoted mother ... Vann evokes this visceral, sensual, brutal world of warring city states, capricious gods and fragile human agency in a fractured prose style, reminiscent of ancient Greek drama and poetry. Short poetic phrases pile up, fall away, stop short. Powerful internal rhythms build and subside, like the waves the Argonauts sail over ... The time and the place may be very different from his previous novels, but Bright Air Black shares the same central structure of a searing family drama set against a backdrop of untamed nature … At the heart of this ambitious, dazzling, disturbing and memorable novel lies the uneasy juxtaposing of the wild and the civilised, and the complex, shifting relationship between the two.

    Rebecca Abrams, Financial Times
  • [Vann’s] genius lies in his ability to blow away all the elegance and toga-clad politeness that have grown like a crust around our idea of ancient Greece and to reveal the bare bones of the Archaic period in all their bloody, reeking nastiness.

    The Times
  • Bright Air Black is a poetic fever dream, beautiful and unflinchingly primal. A vivid and forceful retelling of Medea’s famous story.

    Madeline Miller, author of 'The Song of Achilles'
  • [David Vann] allows Medea to devour him and his readers: to read his book is to be swallowed down into her mad mind … Her wonder at the sea, and the way its water buoys her up, prompts a beautiful passage … Vann is indebted to poets, and he grants himself great poetic licence in his handling of syntax … Vivid, often appalling, sometimes piercingly sad and frequently striking.

    Lucy Hughes-Hallett, New Statesman
  • A retelling of an ancient tale, a retouched portrait of one of mythology’s most enthralling and notorious women, Medea … (Vann) gives us a ringside seat to a blood-soaked, viscera-dripping gore-fest. Vann gives us a fresh slant on an early myth, an up-close and in-depth character study. From the outset, his drama unfolds in prose that is both atmospheric and electrifyingVann’s content can be grim but his language has beauty and poise[A] stunning depiction of one of mythology’s most complex characters … The tale is also one of great power and intensity. Bright Air Black possesses the same potency. Its dark energy shocks us and shakes us, yet it is impossible to pull away.

    The Australian

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