The Color Purple by Alice Walker
The Color Purple is one of those books that I’ve always intended to read but never got around to, until now. It’s an iconic work of fiction set in rural, 1930s Georgia. It’s written as a series of letters, mostly addressed to God, so it’s almost more a diary than letters. Still, it’s a glimpse into the mind of Celie, our heroine, a rural black woman who is forced to endure more than her fair share of pain and misery before getting to her own version of a happy ending.
Celie’s story is heartbreaking. She endures rape, physical abuse, forced marriage, and isolation from her family, not to mention the racism and sexism that dominated the country at that time, and yet, somehow, she perseveres in the face of it all. While she starts out as a downtrodden young woman, she grows and gains confidence throughout the book, finally being able to claim a life for herself unimpeded by anyone else’s demands or desires.
Celie isn’t the only character we get to know, though. We also see Sofia and Shug, who both defy the expectations of society around them, leading to very different results. We get to know Nettie, Celie’s sister, who manages to escape from Georgia entirely to live among a different culture in Africa. Through these women, we’re told a very vivid story, one in which women can overcome even the toughest obstacles in their paths to find happiness, whatever that might mean for them.
The Color Purple isn’t all just about overcoming racism and sexism and oppression, though. It’s also a story of love and friendship, as we get to see all of the characters interact and develop their relationships. Each part of this book was meaningful and fascinating, from Celie’s relationship with her husband, which certainly wasn’t a positive one, to her relationship with Shug, which changed her life in so many ways. I loved getting to know these characters.
I listened to the audiobook version of The Color Purple, which was narrated by the author. Sometimes listening to an author-narrated version of a book that isn’t a memoir is a terrible idea — not all authors are cut out to be narrators — but this wasn’t one of those times. Alice Walker did a great job bringing life to her book and her characters, and I definitely recommend the audio version.
I gave this book four stars because I really liked it and thought it was well done, but it wasn’t a favorite for me. That said, I definitely recommend giving it a read or a listen!