Alice Walker has written a deep and moving novel, The Color Purple truly is a classic that is worthy of all the praise it’s received. This is my second time reading this book and despite my copy being slightly warn due to age, I treasure it and all that reading it has taught me.
From the back cover:
Set in the deep American South between the wars, it is the tale of Celie, a young black girl born into poverty and segregation. Raped repeatedly by the man she calls ‘father’, she has two children taken away from her, is separated from her beloved sister Nettie and is trapped into an ugly marriage. But then she meets the glamorous Shug Avery, singer and magic-maker – a woman who has taken charge of her own destiny. Gradually Celie discovers the power and joy of her own spirit, freeing her from her past and reuniting her with those she loves.
I don’t even know how to begin to explain all that this novel is, I know already my review will not do it justice but please know, this is a special book that is worthy of your time.
The Color Purple is not the easiest book to read, some of the themes mentioned above may be triggers for some people but through Celie’s hardship, we see hope, happiness and love. Walker touches on themes of oppression, culture, LGBT, feminism and so much more.
This novel can be divided into two parts, part one is Celie’s tale, told in a series of letter to God, later to her sister Nettie. Throughout her life, Celie has endured so much hardship, I’m in awe of her strength, to go through all the abuse and loss she went through and still have the ability to love.
Celie is poor and uneducated and this is shown in her letters, Walker writes at the level of Celie’s education, using broken language to accurately reflect this:
“I was in town sitting on the wagon while Mr._______ was in the dry good store. I seen my baby girl. I knowed it was her. she look just like me and my daddy. Like more us than us is ourself. She be tagging long hind a lady and they be dress alike. They pass the wagon and I speak. The lady speak pleasant. My little girl she look up and sort of frown. She fretting over something. She got my eyes just like they is today. Like everything I seen she seen, and she pondering it.”
Through this use of dialect, Walker pulls on your heartstrings as you begin to visualise Celie as a real person and feel her pain as if it were your own. In fact, I felt this to be so powerful, I had to remind myself at times this is fiction and not a true account.
The second part of the novel consists mostly of Nettie’s letters to her sister as she talks of the life she has lived and her longing to be reunited with her sister. This hope of the sisters being reunited and their unwavering belief that they will see each other again is perhaps the strongest theme, for me, in this book and it shines brightly amongst all that’s bad in both the sisters lives.
Walker also creates some wonderful evolutions of the characters. For example, Celie’s husband, while you will never grow to like him, Walker shows how through time and a little understanding and experience of your own pain, a person is almost forced to change.
The Color Purple is a fantastic choice for a book club read as it raises so much food for thought and delivers important messages. For example, what does this quote mean to you:
“I think it pisses God off if you walk by the color purple in a field somewhere and don’t notice it.”
For me, I think Walker is asking us to appreciate all that’s good in the world, there’s so much hardship and strife, we must take a moment to acknowledge the beauty in this world.
And one of my favourite quotes:
“…have you ever found God in church? I never did. I just found a bunch of folks hoping for him to show. Any God I ever felt in church I brought in with me. and I think all the other folks did too. They come to church to share God, not find God.”
I never thought about how true I find the above quote, I don’t mean to offend anyone, but without people’s faith and belief, is church nothing but a building made of bricks – is it not people’s love that turns this building into a church?
I highly recommend The Color Purple, but please note: you can’t shield yourself from this story, when you read it, expect to be taken through every emotion one can feel, a dynamic cast of characters, a powerful story, unapologetic in its delivery.