Tuesday, August 6, 2013

{Review} The Color Purple by Alice Walker

"I think it pisses God off if you walk by
the color purple in a field somewhere
and don't notice it."
The Color Purple by Alice Walker
Published by Pocket, first published 1982
Paperback, 295 pages
ISBN 0671727796
Genres: adult fiction, African-American literature, classics, feminism, historical fiction, literary fiction

5/5 stars: I read The Color Purple a few years ago and was stunned. I had never read a book quite like this one. It is brutal to the senses and brutally honest. The characters are so very human. There is both a universality regarding the human experience and human development, and yet a very specific message regarding the experiences of African-Americans and Africans in the 19th and 20th centuries. Recently I decided to clean out my tbr shelf and read my own book collection in its entirety before moving on to outside sources. The Color Purple was in the top left corner of my living room bookcase and seemed a logical place to start. I thought I remembered a lot but to be honest, it was like reading it for the first time. There is no preparing yourself for Celie's narration. You just start reading, frequently reread portions, and keep going. One of the most amazing aspects of Alice Walker's writing, and I have noticed this in The Color Purple, By The Light Of My Father's Smile, and Now Is the Time to Open Your Heart, is that it's apparent nothing in her books is intended for superficial shock effect. Honestly, I don't know how she does it. Perhaps it is because of the strong introspection that takes place throughout all of her narration, I'm not sure. But however this is achieved, the characters develop organically and, most importantly, honestly allowing the dark aspects of their lives and souls to be revealed to the reader without confusion as to intent. Additionally, if the reader feels horror at Celie's memories and experiences (and one often does), it is a mere echo of what Celie herself thinks and feels. From the start she takes on the aspect of a historical figure, not a fictional character. It is very apparent that even though Celie specifically is not "real", she, as well as Sophia, Shug, and Netty to name a few, directly represent entire generations who did live in similar circumstances. This realization makes the story even more poignant and worth reading and rereading. The Color Purple is most recognized for discussing race relations and equal civil rights and treatment, and rightfully so. Sophia's experiences perhaps illustrate this the most clearly. It also has very strong feminist, spiritualist, and imperialist themes as well as an emphasis on social reform, which create a richer narrative in less than 300 pages than most authors can squeeze into 600. This is one of the most fantastic, thought-provoking and ethically-significant books I have ever read, and if you haven't read The Color Purple at all or it's been a while, I strongly recommend sending it to the top of your to-read list.

Mary Beth

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