Book Review: “The Color Purple” by Alice Walker

Wow. This book was so much different than what I expected (though I guess I wasn’t sure what exactly to expect in the first place). I initially picked this up when I was a sophomore in high school, but ended up putting it down after reading only the first couple pages. There is pretty graphic abuse throughout the novel, and it occurs at the very beginning of the story. As a young reader who had never really been exposed to anything like that in stories before, it was pretty disturbing and upsetting. However, this time I was determined not to give up. And I’m so glad I didn’t! This book was so powerful and moving, and well worth the discomfort caused by the darker scenes.

Spoiler-Free Review: “The Color Purple” is a classic novel written by Alice Walker. I’m struggling to write a review for this book because a part of me feels like it isn’t really my place to. This book was not written for me, but I still gained so much from it. I will say, some of the issues I had while reading this book were understanding the setting and historical context, as it seemed a little ambiguous at first. I also struggled a little bit at first to figure out who all of the characters were, but this could be in large part due to how I listened to it as an audiobook rather than reading a physical copy. Also, on a personal level, it was incredibly heavy and difficult to read throughout much of the story, which made it hard for me to keep picking it back up. With all of that being said, reading this book is a productive struggle and well worth the effort. There were themes about race, but there were also important themes about womanhood, sexuality, and family. I wasn’t expecting it to be as empowering as it was! I loved its take on religion, forgiveness, and the enduring love of sisters. Though at times difficult to read, in the end it is a hopeful and empowering story about women, friendship, and family.

Below you will find a more thorough review containing my thoughts about the book. If you’re wanting to avoid any spoilers, you are welcome to jump to the TL;DR summary at the bottom of the page if you’d prefer!

“The Color Purple” by Alice Walker
Image result for the color purple book cover
  • Year of Publication: 1982
  • Genre: Literary Classic (Historical Fiction)
  • Summary:

    A powerful cultural touchstone of modern American literature, The Color Purple depicts the lives of African American women in early twentieth-century rural Georgia. Separated as girls, sisters Celie and Nettie sustain their loyalty to and hope in each other across time, distance and silence. Through a series of letters spanning twenty years, first from Celie to God, then the sisters to each other despite the unknown, the novel draws readers into its rich and memorable portrayals of Celie, Nettie, Shug Avery and Sofia and their experience. The Color Purple broke the silence around domestic and sexual abuse, narrating the lives of women through their pain and struggle, companionship and growth, resilience and bravery. Deeply compassionate and beautifully imagined, Alice Walker’s epic carries readers on a spirit-affirming journey towards redemption and love.

Trigger Warnings: Rape. Sexual and physical assault. Graphic language.

Format: Audiobook (Narrated by Samira Wiley)

Themes: Appreciate the little things. Find the strength and beauty within yourself. Stand up for yourself and how you deserve to be treated. Love without fear of rejection or reciprocation. To be loved is the greatest gift.

Character Development: Celie’s growth throughout the story is incredible. She goes from believing she’s worth nothing, to finding her inner strength and beauty and defending herself against those who don’t treat her as she deserves. I also love the growth of the minor characters around her; her transformation inspires them to wake up and become their best selves as well.

Plot/Pacing: Overall, the story is paced really well. There were times when the darkness and hardships seemed never-ending, which was a little difficult to get through. It also sometimes felt like there were subplots that were occasionally drawn out a little too long. However, it’s not a very long book and the main plot moves pretty swiftly. I’d say it’s stronger when viewed as a character-driven novel, though.

Writing Style: This is an epistolary novel written in the format of letters to God. I think this was the perfect way to tell the story. The letters are so personal, raw, and emotional; you can really feel Celie’s despair as she documents and processes her hardships. You can also really hear each character’s voice and get to know them on a deeper level.

“Bingeability”: Moderate. It’s not super “bingeable” due to how heavy it is (you wouldn’t want to read it all at once), but it’s also pretty short and broken up well into short letters. Therefore, due to the content it’s low bingeability, but the format and length bring it up to a moderate level of bingeability overall.

Emotional Investment: Moderate. I was definitely emotionally invested in the outcome of Celie’s story; I really wanted her to finally get the love she deserved. However, there were many minor characters with subplots that I just wasn’t as invested in, which lowered the overall emotional investment a little bit.

Windows and Mirrors: 1930s South. Racism. Sexism. Assault. Domestic abuse. Missionary work.

Overall Thoughts: This book was so different than I thought it would be. Honestly, I didn’t know much going into it, but I was still at least somewhat familiar with it and had never heard anything that described it like this. I knew it would have a lot to do with race considering it takes place in the south in the 1930s. However, it also had strong feminist themes which I wasn’t expecting at all. It was so empowering to read! The way the women in this story take charge of their lives against all odds and stand up for who they are is truly inspiring. There’s also a lesbian relationship in the story, and it’s hinted at that one of the partners in the relationship is bisexual. I was impressed with just how much ground this book covered with its themes regarding race, feminism, and sexuality.

Another thought I have is just that I was confused quite a bit in the beginning of the story. I wasn’t entirely sure of the historical context or when it was set, and eventually had to look it up. There were also a lot of minor characters that I would sometimes get mixed up. However, I felt that the second half of the book was much stronger and more uplifting!

Recommendation: Yes, I absolutely recommend this book. It was difficult to read at times, but well worth it.

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

TL;DR:
Year of Publication: 1982
Genre: Literary Classic (Historical Fiction)
Summary: LA powerful cultural touchstone of modern American literature, The Color Purple depicts the lives of African American women in early twentieth-century rural Georgia. Separated as girls, sisters Celie and Nettie sustain their loyalty to and hope in each other across time, distance and silence. Through a series of letters spanning twenty years, first from Celie to God, then the sisters to each other despite the unknown, the novel draws readers into its rich and memorable portrayals of Celie, Nettie, Shug Avery and Sofia and their experience. The Color Purple broke the silence around domestic and sexual abuse, narrating the lives of women through their pain and struggle, companionship and growth, resilience and bravery. Deeply compassionate and beautifully imagined, Alice Walker’s epic carries readers on a spirit-affirming journey towards redemption and love.
TW: Rape. Sexual and physical assault. Graphic language.
Themes: Appreciate the little things. Find the strength and beauty within yourself. Stand up for yourself and how you deserve to be treated. Love without fear or rejection or reciprocation. To be loved is the greatest gift.
Character Development: Strong.
Plot/Pacing:
Extended sections of hardship and heaviness, and some drawn-out subplots. But a well-paced main plot.
“Bingeability”:
Moderate.
Emotional Investment:
Moderate.
Windows and Mirrors:
1930s South. Racism. Sexism. Assault. Domestic abuse. Missionary work.
Overall Thoughts:
A little confusing at first, but more uplifting in the second half. Ambitious and empowering coverage of themes regarding race, feminism, and sexuality.
Recommendation: Yes
Rating:
4 out of 5 stars

Thank you for reading my review! Leave a comment letting me know if you’ve read this one or have any questions about it, and keep an eye out for my next review!

2 thoughts on “Book Review: “The Color Purple” by Alice Walker

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: