Book Review: The Color Purple - Alice Walker

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Title: The Color Purple
Author: Alice Walker
Publisher: Phoenix (1 December 2010)
Genre: Classic Fiction
Price: Rs. 378 on Amazon
Pages: 272

I have no idea how I came across this book. When I was looking at books to read during breaks at work, I found a PDF copy of this one in my ebooks list. When I started reading it, I did not know that it would one of the best reads of the year for me. This book tugs into your heart and soul, breaks you into a million pieces and then puts you back together again. Albeit differently.

Celie, 14 and Nettie, 12 are African-American sisters living with their father Alphonso in rural Georgia in the 1930s. Celie has a habit of writing letters to God because her father beats and rapes her constantly. She gets pregnant twice and has two children, but is taken away by her father. When Celie's mother is on her deathbed, she curses Celie and dies. Celie then decides that she is someone who has no value to anyone or herself. She succumbs to her surroundings and lives on with the abuse. When a man, identified only as Mister, approaches Alphonso with the intention of marrying Nettie, Alphonso denies and gets Celie married to Mister instead. Mister, a widower in need of someone to take care of his children and house, abuses Celie at every turn. He physically, sexually and verbally abuses her as do his children. Celie who has decided for herself that she's insignificant, continues to live with it.

When Nettie comes to live with Celie after running away from Alphonso and his abuse, Mister tries making sexual advances towards her. Celie asks Nettie to leave and go seek assistance from a well-dressed black woman that she saw at a general store sometime back. Celie believes that since she's the only woman she has seen with some money of her own, she might be able to help Nettie. Nettie is forced to leave after promising to write. Celie, however, never receives any letters and concludes that her sister is dead. Meanwhile, glamorous Shug Avery, a jazz and blues singer and Mister's long-time mistress, falls ill, and Mister takes her into his house and expects Celie to care for her. For some reason Celie finds herself being fascinated by Shug, infatuated even. The two woman soon become friends and Shug starts protecting Celie from Mister's abuse.

What happens to Shug and Avery? Will Celie ever see Nettie again? Will Celie ever receive some true love in her life or will she continue to feel hollow for the rest of her life?

The Color Purple is an epistolary novel, written in the form of letters from Celie to God and from Celie to Nettie. The entire story unfolds in these letters and does so beautifully. This book addresses many issues like racism, the exceedingly low position of black women in the American social culture, domestic abuse, female genital mutilation and facial scarring, that is prominent in the African tradition. I shall not lie, this book needs to be read with a heart of steel and yet you shall find yourself breaking from within. Celie, oh poor Celie! She goes through so much at every step in her life and yet she continues to live succumbing to her destiny. Imagine the extent of pain and torture one must have endured to believe that their life is meant only to bear all this.

The men in this book only play the part of exercising control on the women and not once wanting to look at them as humans. The women on the other hand, stand out! While Celie is the protagonist and most of the story revolves around her, every other woman exhibits strength of her own in some way or the other and help lift one another. That is the beauty of the book. Shug Avery, the glamorous mistress, stands up to Mister when she learns that he abuses Celie. She is the only one who has the guts to fight him. Nettie tries to make a life of her own, in her own way. Special mentions to Sofia, Mister's son Harpo's wife and Squeak, Harpo's girlfriend, for being rebels and feminists in their own way. All these women together elevate the story to another level.

It is very easy to mistake this book to one being written by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, but Alice Walker does a wonderful job at bringing out this story to the world. She infuses life into her characters that you cry with them and break with them. At times, you can even feel the physical pain! The story spans decades and shows the evolution of the characters through it. When Celie finally begins to realize her own worth and slowly starts standing up for herself, you smile through your tears to applaud her. The story makes such a strong impact! You need to read the book to understand the significance of its title. It is justified beautifully.

The Color Purple won the 1983 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, making Alice Walker the first black woman to win the prize and the National Book Award for Fiction. The novel was adapted into a film of the same name in 1985. It was directed by Steven Spielberg and stars Whoopi Goldberg as Celie. I need to watch this soon.


Verdict: A story about hope, love, struggle and acceptance. Pick it up right now, if you haven't read it already.

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars.

P.S: Leave your email ID in the comments below if you want the PDF copy of this book. I'll be happy to send it over to you.

10 comments:

  1. Loved your review. It was definitely a heartbreaking read. It's so realistically written it pulls you down into Cellie's world. I couldn't read it in one go and needed breaks to come back to it.

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    1. Same with me. The book was an emotional roller-coaster! Exactly why I'm giving myself time to watch the movie.

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  2. I have seen good reviews of this book and hope to read it soon.

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  3. Wow that is an intense read. Even your review is giving me goosebumps. I love books where women uplift women.

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  4. I never got around to watching the movie but I must now. Thanks for sharing your review.

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  5. I am going to pick this one up. Sounds like an emotional one and a read that I will like. Thank you! Keep finding good books and sharing them here :)

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    1. You loved 'Salt To The Sea' then you will love this one! Let me know how it goes :)

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