Review – The Color Purple

The Color Purple by Alice Walker

The Color Purple

I really wish I’d read this with a discussion group – in school or out – because there’s so much going on here.  But what a great novel!

Synopsis from GoodReads:
Celie is a poor black woman whose letters tell the story of 20 years of her life, beginning at age 14 when she is being abused and raped by her father and attempting to protect her sister from the same fate, and continuing over the course of her marriage to “Mister,” a brutal man who terrorizes her. Celie eventually learns that her abusive husband has been keeping her sister’s letters from her and the rage she feels, combined with an example of love and independence provided by her close friend Shug, pushes her finally toward an awakening of her creative and loving self.

Most people read The Color Purple during the course of their schooling or with a discussion group of some kind, and I can see why.  However, I changed schools partway through high school and they were on different reading schedules.  I’ve been meaning to eventually read this novel anyways and seeing Sam over at Taking on a World of Words reading it inspired me to finally grab it off my shelf.

And I am so glad I did.

The Color Purple is one of the few classics that have really drawn me in.  Normally I’m bored or unable to connect or the language is just too dense or choppy or something else entirely.  But Walker’s use of language not only set the scene and her narrator but drew me right in.  I never struggled to understand Celie and those around her in terms of dialogue.

When it comes to what Celie and the others go through during the course of the novel, of course I can’t truly understand.  I haven’t experienced anything remotely like what Celie goes through.  But Walker lets me feel what Celie does, shows me Celie’s world via Celie’s voice, and so in a way I, too, live through what Celie does by reading it via her.

And that is what makes this novel painful and uplifting by turns.  Because I can truly experience what Celie does.

I’m worried about saying too much and giving away what happens, but I will say that Shug’s effect on the people around her – in particular how she influences Celie and Albert’s relationship from start to end – is possibly one of my favorite things about the novel.  I just love the idea that sharing something that could or should drive two people apart is what actually ends up bridging their issues and leading to peace of a sort.

5 out of 5 stars.

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