Monday, June 25, 2007

BOOKS | The Color Purple

The Guardian has a feature on Alice Walker, and how The Color Purple transformed African-American literature, and Alice Walker's life. [Full Guardian article here]

I read The Color Purple as my first book for the Southern Reading Challenge. I've heard much acclaim for the novel, but I have not expected to like it so much. It is a powerful novel, with a clear, direct message that speaks straight to the heart. I love it, and I want to read more Alice Walker in the near future.

The Color Purple is an ambitious book: it explores the themes of history, feminism, power, abuse, forgiveness and love all at once in this powerful story of Celie and her sister, Nettie. The sisters different journeys - Nettie goes to Africa for missionary work, Celie staying back home as wife/servant to a spiteful man - finally come together at the end in a wonderfully touching scene of reunion and love coming full circle.

The tragedy that was Celie's life opens the novel, with her writing letters to God, telling him about her violation by her father. Throughout her life, Celie is abused, demeaned, and badly used. She was impregnanted by her father, and the babies given away. Later, she is also given away as a wife - but treated less than a servant to a man she could only call Mr.___.

All her life, Celie seems to be nothing more than a sad, broken woman. But the turning point came when Mr___ brings home his mistress - a fiery singer who calls herself Shug Avery. Through her friendship and love for Shug Avery, Celie begins to learn to love herself, begins to gain the self-respect that has been denied her all these years. Finally, she walks out on Mr.___, until he too, begins to learn to look clearly at his own life, and change.

I read The Color Purple as a tale of transformation and coming into your own strength - but there is also a deep, underlying spirituality in the book. Towards the end, when Mr.___ and Celie arrives at a sort mutual respect, and Celie has learnt to accept Shug's absence, she realises this simple truth:

And then, just when I know I can live content without Shug, just when Mr. ___ done ast me to marry him again, this time in the spirit as well as in the flesh, and just after I say Naw, I still don't like frogs, but let's us be friends, Shug write me she coming home.

Now. Is this life or not?

I be so calm.

If she come, I be happy. If she don't, I be content.

And then I figure this the lesson I was suppose to learn.

And that, is a beautiful kind of peace indeed.

6 comments:

stefanie said...

Loved the Color Purple. It's "sequel" is enjoyable though not as good as the first book.

Dark Orpheus said...

Here's where I reveal my ignorance: There's a sequel?!!

Imani said...

I didn't know there was one either.

Nymeth said...

Great review! I added this one as an extra read for the challenge.

Stefanie said...

I was thinking of Temple of My Familiar. I could swear it had some of the same characters in it but now that I pulled it off my shelf to check I may be wrong. It's been quite some time since I've read it.

Dark Orpheus said...

imani - ah, just a small mix-up. no sequel. :)

Nymeth - you're adding an extra book for the challenge? Go!

Have fun with The Color Purple - I read it on the bus home and it sucked me in, so that I didn't put it down until after midnight - because I needed to sleep.

Stefanie - *grin* I have been there. Sometimes different books and characters just overlap and it's like new books are created out of my head.

But how's Temple of My Familiar though? Would you recommend it? Or would you recommend trying some other Alice Walker titles?