It's been a long time coming, but A Song Flung Up to Heaven
triumphantly completes the six volumes of autobiography that began nearly 30 years ago with Maya Angelou's astonishingly successful I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings
, a work that changed readers' perceptions of what autobiographical writing could achieve. The impact of I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings
(which evoked the author's adolescence and sexual abuse in Arkansas) was unprecedented. It combined frankness and emotional force with a nuanced, poetic style--a style that Angelou has perhaps found more elusive recently. But it's here again, as affecting as ever. The book deals with the years 1964-68, a turbulent period in which Angelou came back to America after her African sojourn. This, of course, was the time of the assassinations of Malcolm X and Martin Luther King; Angelou was on the point of working with the latter in the civil rights movement. Her voice is fresh and exhilarating as she deals with the tragedies and triumphs of a packed life, and there are some set-piece moments, such as her account of the misguided revenge she took on an ex-lover.
Many women have become celebrated as writers and poets, but Angelou has also enjoyed a distinguished career as a civil rights activist, producer, performer, actress, and filmmaker. With all of this under her belt, she can be forgiven for the note of self-congratulation that creeps in at times. But for those who've followed her unique writing, this is a journey into a fascinating life and a riveting picture of a divided America, always informed with that clear-sighted vision Angelou is famous for. --Barry Forshaw, Amazon.co.uk