October 25, 2009

The Color Purple by Alice Walker

BOOK #: 74
REASON READ: Banned Book (Woohoo!), Colorful Reading Challenge
PUBLISHER: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
GENRE: Fiction, African-American Fiction
DEAR HALF-BAKED FRIENDS OF THE FCC: Got it from the library.
RATING: 4.5 Stars

Book Summary: 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.

Feelings on the Book: The Color Purple is a story of suffering, a story of violence, a story of love, a story of sexuality, a story of family, a story of finding one's self.

I found the character of Celie to be immediately lovable. I wanted to hug her and be her friend and take her away from the abusive Mr. _____ (this is actually what he is called in the book). I cheered for her when she met Shug and cried for her when her world fell apart again. Then I nearly cried tears of joy for her when her life came back together again. So, yeah, I was emotional reading this. It is an emotional rollercoaster of a book.

What I Liked:
  • The characters were well-developed and three-dimensional. You could picture each of them even if, like me, you had not seen the movie yet. (Although I couldn't help picturing Oprah as Celie just because I knew she played the part.)
  • There was the main story of Celie going through the joys and trials of her life, but there were also several side stories that were well-developed but that did not compete for attention with the main plot line.
  • I liked that I identified with Celie. I may not have been raped or had to give away my children or been in love with a woman, but I completely adored the way she thought. I identified with her emotions- her heart breaking over a lost love, her grief over her sister, her complacency when she was abused, her resoluteness after she realized she was better than that and got the hell out of that situation, her effort to always make the best out of a situation.
What I Did Not Like As Much:
  • I felt there was a lack of transition from Celie's letters to God to the letters to and from Nettie. For the first like half of the book they were almost all letters to God and centered on Celie's life. When Celie discovers Mr. _____ had hidden Nettie's letters from her, all of the sudden there are a hundred pages on just Nettie's life in Africa as Celie reads her letters. It felt very abrupt and went on for so long that I almost became disinterested in the story. It wasn't that Nettie wasn't interesting, because that story line was, it was just I wish there had been more about Celie mixed in with those letters. It's like I missed her during that part of the book.
What You Should Know Before Picking Up This Book (AKA Why idiots ban this book):
  • There are somewhat graphic scenes of violence, including rape, incest, physical abuse and the aftermath.
  • There is a lot of sexuality in the book. There are several relationships written about- marriages, incest, rape, affairs, consensual sex, and a lesbian relationship.
  • There is a lot about religion in the book- whether God is real, whether God is male or female or neither, whether he can or will do anything to help the situations presented, what church is or is not, Celie's sister Nettie goes to Africa as a missionary, Celie addresses a lot of her letters to God, especially at the beginning. If you are a member of the conservative "God doesn't approve of lesbians" train, then this book is probably not for you. But I loved that viewpoint and admire Walker for writing it in a time when homosexuality was not widely accepted, much less that lesbians could be Christians. You rock, Alice Walker.
  • Walker does not ease into these controversial topics but hits you with it immediately on page one so be prepared for that. Of course, for me, it grabbed my attention right away and enticed me to keep reading. But other readers may not like that the hard-hitting stuff is immediate and lasts for the duration.
Other Reviews/Viewpoints on The Color Purple:

Have you read and reviewed this book? Please leave me a comment with the link and I will add it to the post!

21 comments:

  1. Great review, Rebecca! I've seen the movie, but I've never read the book (or wanted to, after seeing the movie). It does seem like a very emotional roller-coaster-type book.

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  2. I read this book earlier on in the year, and really enjoyed it. However, Shug was my favourite character, despite me sympathising with Celie a lot more.

    i really really really hated Mr. - by the end of the book though!

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  3. I remember reading this book years ago when the film came out. I really loved it. I might have to find it again and read it again.

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  4. Glad that you enjoyed this one. This is another of those books that I read as a teen and probably need to re-visit at some point to get the full flavor.

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  5. I absolutely love this book - glad you did too! It's incredible to me how Alice Walker manages to pack so much into a relatively short book, particularly given that Celie's life is (or seems) very circumscribed.

    (I think Whoopi Goldberg plays her in the movie, BTW. Oprah is Sofia.)

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  6. I read this book years ago and just loved it. I'm glad to see it's holding up through the years.

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  7. Some part of me wants to read this book, both because it's a classic and because it deals with sexuality, which is obviously an interest of mine, but knowing how much religion is in the book, I don't know if I'd get through it. I have to admit, religion in books tends to bore me to death. :/

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  8. I read this when it first came out and I remember loving it and having long discussions about it with friends. ANd then we had to pick apart the movie and talk about the difference between the film and book.

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  9. This is one of those classics in literature that I have not read. Shame on me, I know. I've owned it for years!!
    This is a great review. Alice Walker does indeed rock!

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  10. I enjoy learning why books have been banned. I haven't read this one, but I think it's on my list.

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  11. What a great review! I hope you post your link for this and all your banned book reviews at http://unlockworlds.blogspot.com

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  12. I read the book after the movie came out and remember crying my eyes out!

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  13. I love this format that you used on this book. It really gave me a lot of different aspects of the book without giving away anything. I read this a LONG time ago. Beautiful review!

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  14. I've never read this one and a friend recommended it recently when I was talking about american culture. Definitely one I have to try soon.

    Great review.

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  15. Love, love The Color Purple. So much in this book and so well written.

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  16. I also love this book. I read it in my teens as part of one-woman reading challenge.

    What I love most about it isn't what's in the book but how the story affects so many different kinds of people. It explores all kinds of abuse: sexual abuse, racism, imperialism,child abuse, spousal abuse- it is one of those books that I get the urge to re-read every two years.

    It was also one of the first posts I ever did.

    http://dangerouspages.blogspot.com/2008/12/color-purple.html

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  17. I really loved this book. It has been a couple of years since I've read it, but the relationship that I really loved in the book was between Celie and Shug. I loved how that relationship opened Celie up and showed her what it was to have someone care about her.

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  18. I love your analysis of why the book has been banned. I read it years ago and never understood what all the fuss was about. Glad the world is changing.

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  19. I completely fell in love with this book when I read it two years ago. I didn't even notice the transition, which just ones to show I should read it again!

    PS: I wanted to apologize for being such a bad commenter lately :( I'm still trying to adjust to working full time, and I miss my blogging friends!

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  20. I read this book when I was in high school and loved it -- I loved the movie too.

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  21. It has been a long time since I read this book but from what I can remember, you totally hit the nail right on the head. great job. And I'm wondering if you plan on seeing the movie?

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