"The Color Purple" by Alice Walker

As most of you probably know, “The Color Purple” is mostly Celie’s story – Celie is fourteen when the book opens, and has been repeatedly raped by her own father. She had two children from this forced union, and both were taken away from her. Shortly after the book's opening, she is given away in marriage to a man who was after her younger sister – a man who does not love her, and whom she does not love, and, worse of all, a man who beats and abuses her.

Like Dark Orpheus, I did not expect to like this book so much. The book is written in the form of letters – Celie writes to God, and later to her sister Nettie, the only ones she feels she can unburden her heart to. Celie’s letters are in what could be called “broken English”, but this only adds to their earnestness.

What I found in this book was mostly a story about abuse – Celie is poor, uneducated, coloured and a woman, and all of these factors make her vulnerable to abuse. What is especially terrible is that those who abuse her share some of her vulnerabilities, and are themselves abused in other circumstances. But is is also a story about struggling, about determination to live, about finding peace and companionship.

I read somewhere that this book brought Alice Walker much trouble. She was accused of portraying black men negatively, and thus adding to racism. This is not what I saw in this book at all, though. I think that to find that here you need to already be predisposed to attribute people’s flaws to their face. Alice Walker looks beyond race. Not that race doesn’t matter – it is, unfortunately, a very important factor that determines these characters’ lives in many ways, and it is an important theme in the book – but it’s not, in any way, an implied reason for the flaws of Celie’s husband or her father, or any other of the men in the book. Alice Walker shows us how circumstances can harden people, and also how, despite that, there is sometimes still hope for them.

I cared deeply about the characters in this book. Not only Celie, but her sister Nettie, Shug Avery, Sofia, Samuel, even Celie’s abusive husband by the end.

This is a very touching book. The two last letters had me in tears. The way Celie finds companionship, and then love, in no one but her husband’s mistress, Shug Avery, is very beautifully described. And the ending is very moving. Without giving too much away, I’ll just say that Celie learns to stand up for herself, and to be content with her life.

I remember watching the movie adaptation many years ago, but all I had left was a very vague recollection of the story. I think now would be a good time for me to watch it again. I would like to see how it compares to the book.