Aug 18, 2010

The Color Purple

Alice Walker
  • Paperback: 262 pages
  • Publisher: Phoenix (an Imprint of The Orion Publishing Group Ltd ) August 5th 2004 (first published 1982)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0753818922
  • ISBN-13: 9780753818923
  • Source: bought from a local bookstore
  • My rating: 5/5
 Set in the deep American south between the wars, this is the classic tale of Celie, a young poor black girl. Raped repeatedly by her father, she loses two children and then is married off to a man who treats her no better than a slave. She is separated from her sister Nettie and dreams of becoming like the glamorous Shug Avery, a singer and rebellious black woman who has taken charge of her own destiny. Gradually Celie discovers the support of women that enables her to leave the past behind and begin a new life.

If I don't review a book the moment I finished reading it, I run a high risk of its spirit eluding my mind. I've bought and read The Color Purple in February, but due to the stress with the exams, I've postponed the review. The other day while sorting out my bookshelf, I came across this book and read few passages I marked. They brought up the same warmth they did six months ago. Shame on me for putting it aside, for never even mentioning it here, when it had such a great impact....but here I am making it right.

The Color Purple (the color that is always a surprise but is everywhere in the nature, the innate instinct to be, to survive) is a beautifully painful novel. One that goes to show how much of life can be written between the front and back cover. It's pure hope and comfort, a novel with a soul. Though set in the American South between two wars, the message it transmits is universal, erasing boundaries of time and space.Celie is a poor black illiterate violated woman, but she has something that made me watch her with awe; the true spirit of a survivor, an intelligence that comes not from education, but from experience. Alice Walker made me walk in Celie's shoes for a mile (or better to say, for 262 pages), cry for Celie, cheer, cringe in pain, and eventually claim a piece of her serenity and liberation for myself.

The writing is wonderful. Walker tells the story in alternate letters by Celie and her sister, Celie's voice being deliberately grammatically incorrect. Celie's voice is startlingly simple, even when she discusses some huge issues of life, death, love, religion, misogyny, she tells it in a very down-to-earth, easy-to-understand manner. If the following passages don't convince you, I should mention that the novel won a Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1982.

Highly recommended, whether you saw the movie or not, because though it's a gripping story, you need to experience the power of the writing that Alice Walker possesses. 
"It's like seeing you buried," she says
"It's worse than that," I think. "If I was buried, I wouldn't have to work. But I just say, Never mine, Never mine, long as I can spell G-O-D, I got somebody along"  
p 19

"I'm poor, I'm black, I may be ugly and can't cook, a voice say to everything I listen. But I'm here!" 
p 187 

"....You ast yourself one question, it lead to fifteen. I start to wonder why us need love. Why us suffer. Why us black. Why us men and women. Where do children really come from. It didn't take long to realize I didn't hardly know anything. And that if you ast yourself why you black or a man or a woman or a bush it don't mean nothing if you don't ast why you here, period.
So what you think?" I ast.
"I think us here to wonder, myself. To wonder. To ast. And that in wondering bout the big things and asting bout the big things, you learn about the little ones, almost by accident. But you never know nothing more about the big things that you start out with. The more I wonder, he say, the more I love."
"And people start to love you back, I bet", I say.
p 256

 "I think it pisses God off if you walk by the color purple in a field somewhere and don't notice it. People think pleasing God is all God care about. But any fool living in the world can see it always trying to please us back. "


"I am an expression of the divine, just like a peach is, just like a fish is. I have a right to be this way...I can't apologize for that, nor can I change it, nor do I want to... We will never have to be other than who we are in order to be successful...We realize that we are as ourselves unlimited and our experiences valid. It is for the rest of the world to recognize this, if they choose."

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