The Color Purple by Alice Walker: Book Review

The Color Purple by Alice Walker Book Cover

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Cover of The Color Purple by Alice Walker

4 Stars

Celie is only a young teen when her stepfather marries her off to their widowed acquaintance, Albert. Celie is little more than a slave to the family. Albert has several spoiled children who terrorize her and he regularly beats her himself. Celie just puts her head down, writes letters to God, and tries to go unnoticed.

As time goes by, Celie loses contact with her beloved sister, Nettie. She starts writing letters to Nettie as well, but she never hears back. Then Albert moves his ailing lover, blues singer Shug Avery, into the house and expects Celie to take care of her. Far from feeling jealous of Shug, Celie is relieved that someone is there to deflect Albert’s attention from her. The women become friends and Celie realizes how much more there is to life than what she’s getting out of it.

I read this in order to have a review ready for Banned Books Week. I’m not sure what on earth possessed me to buy it at a library book sale. I’ve always been a little afraid of it, ever since hearing my grandmother talk about the movie years ago: “Oprah wasn’t going to let that man beat on her.” Wife abuse. Not exactly my cup of tea.

I was surprised to find myself loving the book. I was taken aback in the very first pages, I’ll admit. Rape and beatings and killing babies, and all of this happening to a 14-year-old girl. I didn’t know if I was going to be able to finish it. I’m so glad I stuck with it.

You see, Celie is not obviously a strong person. She is a survivor, but she doesn’t really thrive. She just gets by. Watching her come into her own and become a woman to be reckoned with was a joy. She goes through so, so much. She somehow becomes surrounded by a group of strong women, and she finds the strength to learn from them. Her daughter-in-law, Sofia, “wears the pants” in her family and keeps her husband in his place when he tries to show her who’s boss. Shug Avery does exactly what she pleases, regardless of what her current lover or society thinks. She knows she isn’t hurting anybody, so what’s the harm in living the way she chooses?

Everything else I want to say is a spoiler, so I’ll stop now. Grit your teeth and get through the painful parts, and find a touching story of friendship, love, strength, and faith.

The Color Purple is #17 on the ALA list of the top 100 banned/challenged Books from 2000-2009. I can obviously see why. I’m not agreeing or condoning at all, but I myself found parts hard to read. I would hazard a guess that the people who want it banned have not read the book in its entirety. Difficult as the subjects are, they are a reality in our world. If a book like this, that is ultimately about the things that truly matter in life, can give even one person the strength to get through their own troubles, it should be kept on the shelves.

Read an excerpt.

Find author Alice Walker on her website and her blog.

Read for the following reading challenges:
The Heroine’s Bookshelf
Off the Shelf
Page to Screen
Southern Literature

Banned Books Week

I have an affiliate relationship with Malaprop’s, my local independent bookstore located in downtown Asheville, NC; and Better World Books. I will receive a small commission at no cost to you if you purchase books through links on my site.

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  1. I loved this book and really wish I could share it with my kids, but I would need to be a high school teacher for that. Walker's writing is poetic while addressing such difficult issues, it makes me furious that people take parts of a books which as you mention are difficult to read, but a reality, and not the whole work and claim it is something that should not be read at all.

  2. I love this book. I read it for the first time last year and yeah, the first few pages I was like "holy smokes"…. it is so good though. ANd the movie is awesome too.

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