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The Color Purple by Alice Walker
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The Color Purple (1982)

by Alice Walker

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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15,693279233 (4.13)605
As a young, black woman living in 1930s Georgia, Celie faces constant violence and oppression. She survives the brutality of incest before being married off to "Mr.," who routinely abuses her both physically and emotionally. Eventually, Celie develops a deep bond with her husband's mistress Shug, and it is through this relationship that she understands she is a woman capable of being loved and respected.… (more)
1980s (49)
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English (271)  Swedish (2)  Vietnamese (1)  Hungarian (1)  Italian (1)  French (1)  Dutch (1)  German (1)  All languages (279)
Showing 1-5 of 271 (next | show all)
So here is what I knew about this book before I went in – it's confronting, it's a major work of Black feminist (or womanist) literature, it's been banned in a lot of times and places, and Alice Walker refused to allow it to be published in Israel out of support for the BDS movement.

So there's our starting point. It's also probably useful to know that it's set in rural Georgia over the first half of the twentieth century, spanning a period of 30 years, because I didn't know this when I started out I was guessing a much earlier setting. It is a confronting book, especially the beginning, which is a seriously brutal way to start a book. It actually squicked me quite a lot so it took a long time for the book to grow on me, but by the end, I really liked it. Probably what turned things around for me was Celie's pursuit of happiness – with the help (and love!) of her friend Shug, she's able to stop being someone who horrible things happen to all the time and start to be her own person, which I appreciated.

There's a lot in here, and a large cast of characters; I hadn't actually expected that the narrative would make it to Africa and comment on female genital mutilation practices (as well as the relationship between Africans and African-Americans). But it did. I hadn't really expected it to be so spiritual either, but it was that too (and that's where the title comes from, too – reflecting on the wonder of the colour purple). Indeed I would say spirituality is the thing this novel seeks to impart most of all; the need to accept God is no white man, but inside and a part of everything. I'm not really sure about that, honestly, but taking wonder in the natural world is something I can understand. I was less keen on Celie forgiving her long-time abusive husband. Sure, I guess it shows there are reasons why lower-class or marginalised men abuse – alienation, feelings of powerlessness – but just on an emotional level, I did not like it.

The novel also attracts some comment for its "subversion of gender roles", but honestly it just depicts people as they are (or were), which often is not totally in line with gender roles, even when that pressure is there. For instance, Harpo tries to be a violent, domineering husband because that's what he's been taught, but every time he tries to beat his wife Sofia, she bashes him nastily and he can't manage it. He clearly feels insecure about this failing, which just makes him even more anxious to be violent, and so it goes. But I think Walker is good about not just vilifying men on an individual level, but showing what pressure these alienated, downtrodden men are under to conform to this model. Even so, I don't think forgiving them is necessary! And while some women "subvert gender roles" by being confident and assertive, it's not like they're living without the context of an extremely patriarchal society, and they're often punished for it. So I would describe the characterisation as realistic, rather than "subversive". Although I guess those are the same thing sometimes.

Overall, I'd highly recommend this. It was political but never forced, dealing with racism, women's oppression, abuse, lesbianism, and ended on a positive note in spite of the horrifying beginning. Well worth persevering. ( )
  Jayeless | May 27, 2020 |
This is a spectacular book, isn't it? As a white Australian reading this in 2016, I am so far removed from the world of the novel for it to be an anthropological text. Walker's literary skills are superb, leading the reader on despite the often disheartening subject matter. And I can't even explain the thrill that ran up my spine reading sister Nettie's letters about her intellectual awakening in Africa. A classic. ( )
  therebelprince | Apr 27, 2020 |
813.54 WAL
  alessandragg | Apr 16, 2020 |
So I've thought about this for a week and I'm still a bit conflicted on how I felt about this story. In my mind, I couldn't help but compare it to Their Eyes Were Watching God which is one of the most beautifully written books I've ever read and The Color Purple didn't have that lyricism and poetry in it that Their Eyes Were Watching God does. It didn't feel quite as authentic. For the first part of the book, I was completely uncomfortable which could well have been what Walker intended. I was unsure whether or nor I wanted to finish the book but it's one of those that I always felt like I should have read so I kept sticking it out to see what all the fuss was about. And then the letters started and I realized that I was crying. I wasn't just crying, I was bawling. Once the letters started, I began enjoying the book so much more.

This audiobook was narrated by Alice Walker and, although I have seen many places where the Walker is criticized as a narrator, I didn't have any problems with it. I think that the person that read Abileene for The Help would have been a better choice but Walker does okay. She's criticized for reading slowly but I think that Celie might be a slow talker.

Do I recommend the book? Yeah, I think everybody should read it at some point in their lives. But do I think you should run out and read it right now? No.
  melrailey | Apr 7, 2020 |
One of my favorite films is The Color Purple. I actually didn't realize it until recently, as I was reading the book and it just happened to come on cable. I proceeded to watch it twice during the time of reading the book and I remembered how much I loved it. Well, the film in no way prepared me for how wonderful the book is. The film and the book are actually pretty close until it gets closer to the end. The ending in the book blows the movie away. The Color Purple is not just a story of a black woman who struggles with an abusive husband and missing a sister who she felt was the only person who ever loved her. It's a story of a community of black people who try to exist in a world of the white man's disdain and oppression. What makes the book so much better than the movie is that Walker allows the characters to grow in the end. There is a feeling of redemption for all of the characters, not just Celie. I liked it much better. Once again, the book prevails over the movie. Go figure. ;O) ( )
  TheTrueBookAddict | Mar 22, 2020 |
Showing 1-5 of 271 (next | show all)
Walker accomplishes a rare thing: She makes an epistolary novel work without veering into preciousness. Rather, Celie's full-bodied voice emerges, a moody and honest voice, in an inherently intimate literary form.
 
Without doubt, Alice Walker's latest novel is her most impressive. No mean accomplishment, since her previous books - which, in addition to several collections of poetry and two collections of short stories, include two novels ("The Third Life of Grange Copeland" and "Medridian") - have elicited almost unanimous praise for Miss Walker as a lavishly gifted writer
 

» Add other authors

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Walker, Aliceprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Dam, Irma vanTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Juva, KerstiTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Epigraph
"Show me how to do like you. Show how to do it." -Stevie Wonder
Dedication
To the Spirit:
Without whose assistance
Neither this book
Nor I
Would have been
Written.
First words
You better not never tell nobody but God. It'd kill your mammy.
Quotations
Time moves slowly, but passes quickly.
Last words
(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
Disambiguation notice
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Book description
Tells the story of two African-American sisters: Nettie, a missionary in Africa, and Celie, a child-wife living in the south, in the medium of their letters to each other and in Celie's case, the desperate letters she begins, "Dear God."
Haiku summary
A woman's tale
on the politics of black
Georgia, 1930s, grit, faith
survival - told from the heart

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