The Color Purple, by Alice Walker – Book Review

The Color Purple, by Alice WalkerThe Color Purple, by Alice Walker
Harvest Books – May 28, 2003 (Original Publication 1982) – Paperback – 290 pages
Source: Personal Copy

Celie writes letters to God, and her sister Nettie after circumstances separate them, leading to them experiencing  vastly different lives.  Celie suffers to find her place in a family and then a marriage where she suffers horrific treatment – abuse alternating with disrespect and neglect.  Spanning the course of a lifetime, we see Celie’s evolution spurred by hard times, betrayal, great love, and friendship.

The Color Purple was nothing short of  a stunner for me, and though it was a painful story, the novel and its characters transcended that in so many ways by being a truthful story – a beautiful story.   The novel started out in the most brutal way with the sexual abuse of a young girl by her father.  She is then saddled with the responsibilities of the family when her mother dies not many years after the start of the abuse.  I was touched by so many parts of this book which is paradoxically uplifting instead of depressing, in spite of the grim subject matter and events depicted throughout.  I was deeply touched by Celie’s undying love for her sister and the way that she ends up building a life that eventually has pieces of joy after having made that joy out of the barest scraps of what is offered to her.

Each of the female characters portrayed by Walker are complex and strong in face of having to endure in a man’s world.  Sofia struggles to have a relationship with her husband Harpo that is on their own terms, but she is battling stereotypes of male-female relationships that a father would pass to a son desperately wanting his approval.  Later Sofia goes on to butt heads with the even stronger institution of a patriarchal and racist society which would have her bend.  Shug is a woman ahead of her time and in the innovative ways ways that she experiences life and love proves to be a profound influence and catalyst for Celie.

I had no idea that I would start reading this book one morning and finish it in the same day, but that is exactly what happened.  I am usually a little suspect about epistolary novels because I get caught up in how a letter can have such an amazingly detailed recall of events.  I find the notion rather distracting, especially when there is a lot of  dialogue involved.  I was so involved with these characters that it was never a thought in my head, and I found the letters to be warm and personal.  Walker does an amazing job exploring tough issues that women can face and how they forbear, how one woman reached high to transcend what had been a miserable existence.

A Must Read.

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  1. I’ve seen the movie, which is crazy good, but never read the book. I think it probably needs to be on the list of “must read before I die”. I’ve got alot of catching up to do in this category. I am about to help start a literary society at the club where we belong, and I think this would be a perfect suggestion.

  2. I agree! This is simply an amazing book. One of the books you must read before you die. I read it when I was a teen, and then early in my twenties. I lived in a total bubble and honestly this was the first book I read that dealt with the issue of racism. It forever changed my life. I try to read it at least once a year.

  3. Epistolary novels don’t always work for me, but I absolutely loved it in Color Purple, probably because the narrator didn’t waste time with too many abstract descriptions, wrote the letter just as any real person would write, and kept the letters short. I loved the movie as well, and that’s rare for me. Great review!

  4. I read this book in college and it completely blew me away. It is definitely on my list to reread. I’m glad you found it to be powerful.

  5. I’ve never read this one, and I didn’t realize until all the reviews of it came along lately that it’s written in letters! Holy crap! That makes me even more curious to read it. Glad it worked so well for you.

  6. I have been meaning to pick this one up for a long time. Every time I see it in the bookstore I usually have my hands full of other books and I keep passing it up in exchange for newer books. Your review, Nicole, makes me think I need to get my act together and purchase a copy sooner rather than later.

  7. I started re-read this for the read-a-long, but I just never got around to finishing it. I remember being blown away by this book when I first read it years ago.

  8. Nicole, I really enjoy reading your reviews. They are always so succinct. Mine kind of ramble. In this case, it looks like I re-wrote the book! But there’s a lot to say about it. The links to my read-along responses are at the end of the review. I meant to get this to you earlier; then I ended up not blogging very often last month.