Date Read: June 10th 2015
Publisher: Pocket Books/Washington Square Press
Life wasn’t easy for Celie. But she knew how to survive, needing little to get by.
Then her husband’s lover, a flamboyant blues singer, barreled into her world and gave Celie the courage to ask for more – to laugh, to play, and finally – to love.
Review – ★★★★ (4 stars)
The Color Purple is an excellent book and it has won several awards: the Pulitzer Prize (1983), The National Book Award for Fiction (1983), National Book Critics Circle Award Nominee (1982); plus a (Steven Spielberg directed) movie adaptation starring Danny Glover, Whoopi Goldberg, Oprah Winfrey among others! But I think I would have been more blown away by this novel if I read it when I was younger. I’m sure the plot and some incidents from this book would have been quite traumatizing to me had I read this if I were 13 years old. Anyways, The Color Purple is my second Alice Walker novel of the year and I love love love her writing! Check out my review of her excellent short stories collection: You Can’t Keep a Good Woman Down.
The Color Purple is about the survival of Celie in the world, during the 1930’s over about forty years. This novel is in epistolary form where Celie and her sister Nettie write letters to each other. In the beginning of the novel, Celie mostly writes letters to God and these letters seem more like diary entries where Celie expresses her sincere feelings of joy and pain. Celie is a loving, kind, docile soul who wouldn’t even hurt an ant. She is initially perceived to be ugly, dumb and worthy of being abused by her ‘father’. At the age of twenty Celie is married off to Mr. ____ to help raise his three children.
After she moves in with Mr. ____, Celie meets Shug Avery – her husband’s lover, and they eventually form a strong bond. Shug’s sassiness and confidence begins to rub off on Celie and she starts to evolve into a brave, outspoken woman, still full of love in her heart. I believe Celie’s transformation allows her to reap huge blessings for the many years of verbal, physical, mental and emotional abuse she endured during her childhood and marriage.
In my eyes, Celie was a lesbian. The sisterhood and love story between Celie and Shug Avery was very interesting to read – I always enjoy stories that feature same-sex relationships. The same-sex relationship in this story keeps The Color Purple very relevant, even in present day 2015. This book has a lot of characters with a lot of subplots, and I absolutely loved three characters:
Nettie: Celie seems to be everyone’s heroine, but my favorite character is Nettie – Celie’s younger sister. Nettie is an intelligent, respectful, good-spirited woman. The love Nettie and Celie share is the driving force that pervades this novel. I gained a lot of appreciation for Nettie as she wrote Celie letters on the happenings of her missionary adventures in Africa with the ‘Olinka’ tribe (this is a fictional tribe). In the letters she wrote Celie, it is evident that Nettie is more educated than Celie, as she writes in standard English instead of vernacular/broken English as seen in Celie’s letters.
Shug Avery: Shug is a mystery to me. She’s the type of woman who makes men fall in love with her lustful ways of singing and crooning crowds, but would also have relations with a woman. Is Shug bisexual? Shug isn’t the typical woman of her time. I loved Shug’s ability to live her life as she pleased without allowing the public’s negative perception of her lifestyle to taint her confidence and goals.
Sofia: Sofia is Harpo’s wife (Harpo is Mr. ____’s oldest son / Celie’s step-son). I have never read about any character like her before. She is crazy! Sofia is big, aggressive, abusive, brave, loud, rude, strong, wild, carefree! She’s the type of woman that fixes the roof on a house. She’s the type of woman that makes her husband weep! (No, not tears of joy). I enjoyed reading about Sofia’s boisterous ways and I was satisfied with her character development by the end of the novel.
Alice Walker’s ability to develop these characters so thoroughly made me forget that they were fictitious beings! This classic carries a lot of (heavy) themes that I’d love to discuss! But if I say more, I will surely give away some spoilers and that wouldn’t be right. I recommend this to anyone who enjoys Alice Walker’s work, anyone who loves reading about African-Americans (of the South), anyone who appreciates feminism/womanism concepts, anyone who can stomach some pain, and anyone who simply desires to cuddle up with an uplifting book!
Given that The Color Purple was published over 30 years ago and it is such a classic, I observed that it has several lovely book covers!
(Check out the new and improved Book Covers Showcase section of the blog that features collages of colorful book covers from my favorite literature genres – HERE).
★★★★ (4 stars) – Great book. Highly recommend!
This is another oldie but goodie from my Mom’s bookshelf. The Color Purple can be purchased on Amazon.