Band of Angels, Robert Penn Warren, Random House Inc, 1955, 313 pp
Of the three novels I have read by this author, this was the weakest. Robert Penn Warren likes to take a big theme or idea and expound on it through a story. All The King's Men was about truth; World Enough and Time about justice; and Band of Angels explores freedom, which because the author is a southerner, centers on slavery.
The trouble for me with this novel was twofold. The story itself covers time before, during and after the Civil War. I have read so many tellings of this tale and in this one found nothing new in either details or insights. The other more distressing problem is the main character.
Amantha Starr learns at the age of 16 that she is the offspring of her beloved father and a slave. Her mother died in childbirth so Amantha was raised by a mammy and her doting father. Once this father dies and the shocking truth is revealed, she is sold off as a slave. Eventually she gets her freedom and marries a white man.
But Amantha is not a convincingly drawn character. She dithers like some Frank Yerby heroine, yet has deep pondering ideas. The first person voice is not consistent because Amantha often sounds more like Robert Penn Warren than a mixed race southern woman.
So, not a success, not a good or fun or edifying read, but an interesting study in the exigencies of first person writing.
(Band of Angels and World Enough and Time are available in paperback by special order from Once Upon A Time Bookstore. All the King's Men is available in the store in the classics section.)