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The Color Purple: Book Review

The Color Purple by Alice Walker

What's it about?

In the deep American South between the wars, Celie is born into poverty and segregation. Trapped in a bad marriage and after suffering years of male abuse, she finally meets the glamorous and beguiling Shug Avery, a woman who has taken charge of her own destiny, and who will help Celie do the same. 


"I can't even remember the last time I felt mad, I say. I used to git mad at my mammy cause she put a lot of work on me. Then I see how sick she is. Couldn't stay mad at her. Couldn't be mad at my daddy cause he my daddy. Bible say, Honor father and mother no matter what. Then after while every time I got mad, or start to feel mad, I got sick. Felt like throwing up. Terrible feeling. Then I start to feel nothing at all."

"Man corrupt everything, say Shug. He on your box of grits, in your head, and all over the radio. He try to make you think he everywhere. Soon as you think he everywhere, you think he God. But he ain't. Whenever you trying to pray, and man plop himself on the other end of it, tell him to git lost, say Shug. Conjure up flowers, wind, water, a big rock." 

My Thoughts:

This book touches your heart. It’s not a mystery and it’s not a thriller. It’s not fast-paced or suspenseful. It’s as if Celie is just an ordinary person and you have stumbled across her prayer book. It’s this believability and raw honesty which makes the book remarkable.

This is a world where domestic violence is normalised, rape is common, and black people live under constant threat from white people. Women are used as baby-makers, cleaners, caretakers, cooks, labourers, and get nothing in return, not even a loving home. They are thought of as timid and meek at best, and difficult and stubborn at worst. Some of the scenes made my toes curl with rage.

What is most surprising about this book is that Celie is not your typical outgoing heroine. She is not special. She is not bound for greater things. The characters around her have the adventures.

It might have been easier to write a novel about the glamorous, smart-talking, head-strong, bisexual, successful singer Shug Avery; after all, she’s the one who goes off around the country, earning her own money and taking lovers as she pleases. Or the defiant and aggressive Sofia, who refuses to become her husband’s punchbag, assaults the mayor, and ends up working for a white family whom she detests. Or even Nettie, Celie’s sister, who has adventures on another continent.

But Walker chooses Celie as the protagonist, a woman who has constantly been under man's power and on the receiving end of his abuse. As is repeated throughout, she is ugly, black and poor. She does as she is told and doesn’t expect anything more. It is the slow unravelling of Celie’s desires that the book focuses on. She is like a flower bud opening with the sunshine. A common buttercup, if you like; nothing remarkable, but when she blooms, it is beautiful to witness.

Everything in this story is subtle. Walker plays with the complexities of love and abuse expertly, and makes you feel something for even the most detestable characters. People are real here. Sometimes they’re good, sometimes they’re bad, a lot of the time they’re just muddling through trying to survive and get life over with.

It’s the small moments I think Walker wants us to focus on. The unlikely friendships. The blossoming loves. The hardest act of all – forgiveness. The purple flowers in a field. It’s about finding your own God, whoever or whatever that might be. Although a cliché, it really is about finding yourself.

About the author

"Alice Walker is an internationally celebrated writer, poet and activist whose books include seven novels, four collections of short stories, four children’s books, and volumes of essays and poetry.  She won the Pulitzer Prize in Fiction in 1983 and the National Book Award."

Find out more on the website here.

Read more and buy The Color Purple on Goodreads here.

About the author

Delphine Woods

Delphine Woods

Delphine Woods is an author who loves to write historical mysteries and thrillers. 

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