As promised, this is the ‘more serious’ book I started last week. It was a book I didn’t intend to read for a long time. I had always heard good things about it, and there was an enormous hype while I was at sixth form, my housemates tell me because it was on the curriculum at the time – even though it wasn’t on ours. It wasn’t until last year, when my brother was playing keys in the recent Mernier Chocolate Factory theatre production of The Color Purple: The Musical, which made me cry more than once, that I decided I wanted to read it. When I got home I found a copy for 50p at my favourite Bristol antique and secondhand shop, and then let it gather dust for six to eight months – this is the classic recipe for a Spiders’ library blog post.
This is an epistolary novel (meaning, it’s written in a series of letters) about a girl, Celie, and her sister, Nettie. Celie, constantly called ugly and small, is our main narrator, writing letters to God about her daily life. She has a difficult life, being sexually abused by her father and having two children by him, who are then taken away from her. She becomes barren as a result, and is married off to a Mr._____, who already has grown up children. Nettie, the smart and pretty daughter, moves away. The book spans many years. Celie and Nettie are separated for the majority of their lives, but never forget each other, but continue on day after day.
And then one fateful day, as is often the way, Celie meets Shug Avery, an older, sexy woman, beloved and be-lusted (neologism for ya) by all. Shug comes into town and Celie starts to understand that sisterly love is not the only kind of love…
Things I liked
The relationship between Shug and Celie. It was beautiful and complicated and simply love. Celie learning about how sexuality is not just a brutal, and mostly boring act as it was with her father and husband.
The narrative voices. When Nettie’s letters start arriving, it is easy to differentiate between the voices of the two sisters in their letters. Even if you’re like me and skip the ‘chapter x’, which in this case is replaced by the name of the recipient – either God, Celie or Nettie – you won’t lose track of who is writing which letters. Nettie is meant to be the ‘smart’ one, her writing style is grammatically correct but keeps remnants of her upbringing. Celie seems to be largely self-taught, sometimes she writes words phonetically, such as ‘appreshation’ (I think, doing this from memory).
Celie’s development through difficult times, finding love, finding a vocation, becoming her own woman. It’s great.
The character of Sofia. I loved her in the musical and she was almost as good in the book, although not quite as badass because she didn’t get to do a ton of singing along with all her other badassery.
The character of Shug. Flawed, sexy, loving, loveable. Natural. Such a woman.
Things I didn’t like
I had no conception of how much time had passed until every once in a while someone would say ‘it’s been almost thirty years since we’ve seen each other’ or something like that. That was difficult to follow. It felt as though it spanned maybe five years, ten years at most. But that could be just because I read it over a week.
Should I read this book?
Yes. This is one of the first books I’ve read on this blog that I would recommend to anyone. Wonderful book, a joy to read. Yes, read it.
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The Book Depository
You can buy the book here: http://www.bookdepository.com/Color-Purple-Alice-Walker/9780156031820/?a_aid=SpidersLibrary
Because I am trying not to use Amazon in my own half-arsed protest-y way, I’d like to recommend to people that they check out The Book Depository, which is a great, user-friendly site with affordable books ranging from brand new releases to classics, and in many different editions at less-than brand new prices. As I am now officially an affiliate of The Book Depository, I gain a small commission if you use my affiliate link to buy books! Please do check it out, even if you don’t buy anything right now.