I have been meaning to read this book for so so so long… I mean, it’s a classic so obviously, I have seen it absolutely everywhere and loads of people have been telling me to read it – but with my already-massive TBR pile, I knew it would be a while until I got to it. BUT THEN… I had to read it for university, so The Color Purple got bumped up to the very top of my reading list. And because it was for university, that’s why there are all of the different coloured tabs in my book. Each coloured tab represents a different theme throughout the book. Anyway! Let’s get into the review!
Set in rural Georgia, The Color Purple focuses on the life of women of color in the southern United States in the 1930s, addressing numerous issues including their exceedingly low position in American social culture. Fourteen-year-old Celie is being abused by her father; she is impregnated and then her babies are stolen away from her. Her sister, Nettie is the only support that Celie has in her miserable life, but she would never dream of standing up for herself because of the consequences.
Then, one day she is sent off to marry Mr. _______, who beats her into doing what he says. With Nettie no longer there to help Celie through the pain, she starts to think that life is impossible. Then, one day Shug Avery comes to town and gives Celie a glimmer of hope…
Wow. Just wow. This book was just… Amazing. How have I not read this already? It is a very hard book to read because of the issues that Walker portrays throughout the novel such as rape and domestic abuse but Walker creates these characters that have so much depth to them, so much love and hurt. There is so much for me to write about this book, but I don’t want this review to be a billion pages long, so I’ll try and just talk about the main things. However, if I digress, please forgive me, there’s just too much to talk about.
As soon as you start the book, you are instantly met with pain. Fourteen-year-old Celie is being raped by her father and her dying Mother and her sister does not know. Celie isn’t fourteen throughout the entire book; by the end, she is about mid-30s? I’m guessing? Walker describes how her hair is starting to grey so I’m presuming she’s around the 30 mark.
One of the things that I didn’t like about this book were the loooooonnngggg letters from Nettie. Most of them were really enjoyable to read, as they offered insight to racism in different parts of the world and also gave us an insight to how the Olinka people lived in Africa. However, a handful of the letters just seemed a bit boring and I just wanted to get on with Celie’s story and see how she was getting on.
“All my life I had to fight. I had to fight my daddy. I had to fight my brothers. I had to fight my cousins and my uncles. A girl child ain’t safe in a family of men. But I never thought I’d have to fight in my own house. She let out her breath. I loves Harpo, she say. God knows I do. But I’ll kill him dead before I let him beat me.”
― Alice Walker,
Also… Shug Avery… You gotta love her and hate her at the same time. She’s such a dominant force within the book. She stands up for herself and doesn’t let anyone walk over her and she teaches Celie about love and how Celie can start standing up for herself. But Avery is also this character who can’t seem to commit. *slight spoiler ahead* Celie falls in love with Shug Avery, Avery loves Celie back. So there we go, what would the problem be? Well, Avery doesn’t commit to Celie. She goes round taking Celie’s feelings for granted as she knows that Celie will always be there, waiting for her. In the end, Celie is just like ‘no. I will always love you, but I will not wait for you forever’. GO CELIE!
Another character that I absolutely loved was Sofia. She was strong, independent and didn’t let herself be dominated by men or white people. Even though she recognised where her place was in the racist society, she was continuously fighting it when she would just do what she wanted. I think she serves as an amazing role model for Celie and also for readers because of how much she fights for herself.
Shug Avery annoyed me sometimes and Nettie’s letters were sometimes too long, but those things are so trivial in the grand scheme of this book. Who cares about letters being a bit long when you’re reading a book that conveys the racial issues that were happening with the 30s – and are also happening now! It’s a book about race, transformation, acceptance, lesbian romance and realising that actually, you DO matter. I think that this is a book that everyone should read as it highlights key aspects of society and is very educating about how black women and black people in general are suppressed within society.
Trigger warnings: rape, abuse, racial hate