I don’t normally cry that easily but there were sections of Alice Walker’s book which caused me to tear up and on the final pages I struggled to read because my eyes were so full. but this book will make you laugh as well.
Therefore it comes as no surprise to discover The Color Purple won Walker the coveted Pulitzer Prize and a host of other awards back in 1983. The only surprise for me is that it has taken me this long to read the novel.
It has been described as a piece of feminist work about an abused and uneducated African American woman’s struggle for empowerment, recognition and acceptance.
Through numerous letters the loyalty of Sisters Celie and Nettie reaches across time, distance and even long periods of silence as the book drags the reader on an uncomfortable journey pockmarked and punctuated by bouts of domestic and sexual abuse.
This book will make you laugh
Apart from being a bloody good read setting you on an emotional roller coaster of a journey, The Color Purple’s characters are superb, especially the female characters.
The protagonist is Celie whose traumatic and eventful life charts the emotional highs and lows of a black American teenager dragged up in rural Georgia.
Celie’s story is told by Celie herself through letters, often using Black English vernacular but her words are finely crafted, eloquent and articulate as well as being brutally frank, shocking and, at times, heartbreaking.
From the first page, we are plunged headlong into the rape of 14-year-old Celie at the hands of her abusive father, Alphonso, who warns her not to tell anybody, especially after she starts to “grow big” as she reveals.
So Celie holds her silence and, instead, writes letters to God about her baby. The abuse continues and she has a second child – Alphonso removed both children leaving Celie to believe that they were killed. Nettie runs away from home but then the letters change from being addressed to God to being written for Nettie.
I’m not going to do story spoilers other than to say, Celie, who is thrown into an abusive marriage, subsequently begins to build relationships with other black women.
Some of these women are also abused and oppressed but others refuse to be cowed by any form of oppression whether it’s from their own menfolk or white people.
The characters are compelling, amazing, beautiful, bad and some are beyond redemption but they are all so believable and that’s what forms the backbone of the Color Purple.
One of the most powerful women is Shug Avery, a glamorous and independent singer who strikes up a remarkable relationship with Celie.
Religion and beliefs about God are often raised both in positives and negatives as is the issue of gender equality, racism and colonialism.
Throughout her books and poems, Walker champions racial and gender equality and, in the current climate of Black Lives Matter, I would urge everyone – regardless of status, class, skin colour, nationality, gender to read or re-read The Color Purple.
You know in those competitions about which famous/historical figures you would invite to dinner, Alice Walker would definitely have a place at my table of literary greats.