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Book Review: The Color Purple by Alice Walker (4/5)

5 Feb

I forget who recommended this to me. I’ve felt for a while like I should have read an Alice Walker book already and a little shocked that I hadn’t and if I was going to read one of her books, it should be this one. I was glad to find an ebook copy that I could check out over and over while I read it slowly. It’s always a treasure for me when I’m able to do this.

Cover image via Goodreads

The Color Purple by Alice Walker

Summary from Goodreads:

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.

Gosh, this book was sad! It cheered up in parts, but overall, I found myself feeling bad for Celie and Nettie and every other character in it. It felt like no one had any luck at all and I wished I could have helped them in some way. I enjoyed Nettie’s story when it came into play and I found her fascinating. Her life was so different from Celie’s that it was almost unimaginable. I was so absorbed in Celie’s world that hearing about living with an African tribe seemed as foreign to me as it must have to Celie.

The characters jumped off the page to me. I believed them wholeheartedly which made it even harder to accept their bad luck and bad circumstances. I did find I had some trouble keeping the grandchildren’s generation straight. I couldn’t remember who was related to who or living with who and I stopped trying by the end. It felt like a big happy family and I think that’s what Celie was able to create.

Nettie was so easy to love. She fostered such a strong love for her sister and cared for her niece and nephew a great deal. I’m not sure if my aunts would find me adopted by another couple and volunteer to serve as a missionary in rural Africa for years just to keep an eye on me! I thought it was amazing that Nettie would make so many sacrifices for her family and she won my heart in doing so.

Sofia was the rebellious voice I think exists inside all of us. She said what she thought when she wanted to and it got her in trouble. There have been many times I wanted to say something but had to bite my tongue so I didn’t suffer the consequences like Sofia did.

Alice Walker
Image via Chartwell Speakers

Shug’s plotline was the most interesting to me. I had trouble imagining a woman like her who was so loved by so many people. She seemed too good to be true. Hearing about her relationship with Celie and how it developed was very rewarding because it was the beginning of Celie’s happiness and I started to finally think that the book could have a happy ending.

This is a bit of a spoiler, but I have to share my least favorite part. Skip this if you don’t want it ruined. Thinking Nettie had died almost broke my heart! I was so sad that Walker included that, especially when it turned out not to be true. I think I cried at work when I read it. It reminded me how poor communication was before telephones and I was just shocked that Celie could get news like that, not have it substantiated, and keep hoping that Nettie was alive. It crushed me a bit, though.

Celie had to deal with a lot. The book started when she was very young and carried her through much of her life. All the terrible things that happened to her were not compacted but rather took place again and again as she grew up. She had to keep her faith. At first, it was writing her prayers. Later, it was focusing on her sister and how much she loved her. Celie’s style of writing and communicating with those she loved kept her going even when everything seemed to be against her. This book is a triumph of the human spirit.

Writer’s Takeaway: The letter or diary style was a great way to write this book. It made Celie approachable and relatable. It allowed Walker to use her dialect and contrasted it well with Nettie’s. It also let Celie talk about intimate things in her relationship with Shug that she might not have discussed in another medium. This style is great for getting to know a character intimately.

I enjoyed the story and learned a lot about life in the time period, something I always hope for in historical fiction. Four out of Five Stars.

This book fulfilled the 1900-1919 time period for the When Are You Reading? Challenge. Per SparkNotes, the early chapters took place during the 1910s so I’ll take it.

Until next time, write on.

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