Jul 2, 2007

The Color Purple by Alice Walker

As most of you probably know, The Color Purple is mostly Celie’s story – Celie is fourteen when the book opens, and has been repeatedly raped by her own father. She had two children from this forced union, and both were taken away from her. Shortly after the book opens, she is given away in marriage to a man who was after her younger sister – a man who does not love her, and whom she does not love, and, worse of all, a man who beats and abuses her.

Like Dark Orpheus, I did not expect to like this book so much. The book is written in the form of letters – Celie writes to God, and later to her sister Nettie, the only ones she feels she can unburden her heart to. Celie’s letters are in what could be called “broken English”, but this only adds to their earnestness.

What I found in this book was mostly a story about abuse – Celie is poor, uneducated, coloured and a woman, and all of these factors make her vulnerable to abuse. What is especially terrible is that those who abuse her share some of her vulnerabilities, and are themselves abused in other circumstances. But is is also a story about struggling, about determination to live, about finding peace and companionship.

I read somewhere that this book brought Alice Walker much trouble. She was accused of portraying black men negatively, and thus adding to racism. This is not what I saw in this book at all, though. I think that to find that here you need to already be predisposed to attribute people’s flaws to their face. Alice Walker looks beyond race. Not that race doesn’t matter – it is, unfortunately, a very important factor that determines these characters’ lives in many ways, and it is an important theme in the book – but it’s not, in any way, an implied reason for the flaws of Celie’s husband or her father, or any other of the men in the book. Alice Walker shows us how circumstances can harden people, and also how, despite that, there is sometimes still hope for them.

I cared deeply about the characters in this book. Not only Celie, but her sister Nettie, Shug Avery, Sofia, Samuel, even Celie’s abusive husband by the end.

This is a very touching book. The two last letters had me in tears. The way Celie finds companionship, and then love, in no one but her husband’s mistress, Shug Avery, is very beautifully described. And the ending is very moving. Without giving too much away, I’ll just say that Celie learns to stand up for herself, and to be content with her life.

I remember watching the movie adaptation many years ago, but all I had left was a very vague recollection of the story. I think now would be a good time for me to watch it again. I would like to see how it compares to the book.

Other Blog Reviews:
Orpheus Sings the Guitar Electric
Lost in a Good Story
Care's Online Bookclub
The Hidden Side of a Leaf
Jenny's books
Kristina's Favorites
Books of Mee

This was my first read for the Book Awards Reading Challenge, and also an extra for the Southern Reading Challenge.

Tomorrow when I leave for the festival, I am taking Toni Morrison’s Beloved to read on the trip – this is another Pulitzer-Winning novel that I have heard wonders about. I’m also taking my most recent book purchase, Banana Yoshimoto’s Rainbow. Banana Yoshimoto is a Japanese author I have heard a lot about, and I thought this book would be a good addition to my Reading Across Borders list. Also, it’s a thin book that will probably make good on the road reading.

Have a nice week everyone, and I will see you in the weekend.


  1. I'm glad you likeThe Color Purple too. There's just this deep sense of redemption within the book itself. And Albert, Celie's husband, comes to a sort of peace within himself at the end.

    I guess I wasn't expecting to enjoy it because it has often been used as a school text - and so there is a kind of prejudice against literary textbooks. (Yes, it's unfair, but I'm flawed that way. :) )

  2. This is one of those famous books recommended to everyone. It's always nice to read that reputations like this are well deserved! I will get around to it one day I am sure.

  3. another nice book you've read nymeth...! and another good review.

    interestingly, from your review the book doesn't sound as "heavy" as i feared. sad and beautiful, but not heavy. is this the right impression?

  4. Nice review, as usual! Like Rhino said, it's another book I will get to one day. I'm actually surprised I haven't read it. I've never even seen the movie!!

  5. Nymeth, I'm glad you liked this book. I used this book for a folklore essay a few years back, so of course I grew attached to it. I haven't read anything else by Walker, but I thought this book was beautiful.

  6. I almost put this on my Book Awards list.

    I'm sorta regretting that I didn't, now.

    Thanks for the nice review and it'll be on my list... wherever that is.


  7. Another beautiful review! I must admit I've never felt the slightest bit tempted to read this book. Don't know why. But now, I must say, I feel compelled. Wish I'd put it on my Book Awards list. Thank you.

  8. I read this recently, too. I'd like to see the movie sometime.

    Feel free to post your full reviews on the BookAwards blog if you want to.

  9. Great review! I had seen the movie (and loved it) a couple times before finally reading the book a few years ago - and loved it even more. Without detracting from the film, it just adds so much more depth and complexity to the various relationships and issues. Such a great book. The Temple of My Familiar is a sort of followup, and although I read it, don't really remember too much about it, so I guess it wasn't good enough to leave a lasting impression.

  10. Dark Orpheus: I know people who had to read it for a class and they complained about it the whole time. That'll teach me not to trust their opinions :P

    Rhinoa: I think you'd like it!

    Jean Pierre: The things that happen in the book are heavy, but I do think the heaviness is somewhat diluted by the fact that Celie writes with such sad acceptance instead of anger.

    Stephanie: thanks!

    Trish: I really need to read some more Alice Walker too.

    cj: maybe you'll have time to add it as an extra!

    Debi: I don't think I'd have picked it up if it hadn't been for the challenges either. But I'm very glad I did.

    3m: I will! I just didn't before because I was out of town the whole week. Thank you again for hosting this challenge. I only hope I like the rest of the books on my list as much as this one.

    Lesley: I really must re-watch the movie.

  11. This is such an amazing book. Your review makes me want to reread it. Definitely watch the movie again now that the book is fresh in your head. It's one of those rare movies that do the book justice.

  12. I plan on watching it next week!

  13. here's mine!


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