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Montgomery, Alabama, 1918-1928--as Brown, less infectiously than in Ruby fruit Jungle or Six of One, celebrates anything-goes sexual exuberance and scampers up and down the ladder of social class. Hortensia Reedmuller Banastre, well-born and well-married mother of two, falls in love with Hercules, a young, strong, educated black teenager half her age, she even bears Hercules a daughter--but only after he has died from massive bleeding after a train accident (thanks to a slow, blacks-only ambulance). And this daughter, Catherine, is raised by Hortensia's cook--naturally--until the situation is nearly wrecked entirely by Hortensia's mad, perverse, oedipal son Paris. There's also a somewhat parallel sub-plot concerning a local girl, Grace Deltaven, who becomes a star of the silent screen and marries doomed matinee-idol Payson Thorpe--which permits Brown to throw a huge Southern wedding scene, one of the book's very best. And we also get glimpses of Blue Rhonda Latrec and Banana Mae Parker: flourishingly entrepreneurial whores who drain off the hypocritical sexual energies of the vast majority of the town's white male citizenry. Yet, as generous as this concoction wishes to be with its equable sexual fizz, it isn't nearly the endearingly popping production that Six of One (1978) was: this time Brown is straining, with too many balls launched into the air to not enough purpose and effect--and though warm all the way through, the fun comes only in small, effortful pockets.

Pub Date: March 17th, 1982
Publisher: Harper & Row