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on 16 May 2003
'The Color Purple' is an intriguing and insightful window into the life of young Celie. Expressed in letter form we journey with Celie through the torments facing her in the deep South of America. She suffers abuse at the hands of the man she refers to as her 'Father' and the easy-to-follow letter format of the novel means that almost anyone can tap into the world of Celie. Friends described it as Feminist, though I struggled with this term. Others called it 'anti-male'. Though it is true that many traditional patriarchal images are challenged in the novel, the horrors of some of the male characters are not the main focus of the novel, nor do any of the female characters of the novel challenge to any great extent the male characters. The novel's purpose is to highlight and to celebrate the resilience and sisterhood of Women. It is a Womanist rather than feminist novel. Despite the horrors faced by Celie, Sophia and others, they endure, remain hopeful and find happiness. The seductive beauty represented by Shug Avery's cosmopolitan yet sensitive image to Celie is strangely taken on board by the reader. As for Walker's discussion of God and his/her role, the text is thought provoking without overtly challenging. The challenges that do exist are expressed through the innocence of ignorance, evoking in the readers mind questions, or even notions that one cannot help but debate later if not with others in our own minds. Do we need to go to church to have a relationship with God? God's cathartic role, and the extent to which this can be transferred to other important influences in one's life. Is the grass ever greener? The Color Purple allows a middle class lad from the UK a unique if limited window into an otherwise unknown world, unknown perspective and richly debatable content... Buy it!
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on 14 March 2010
There's a lot to hate about this novel. First, the epistolary format sometimes makes the plot and chronology a little hard to follow; second the use of sometimes-hard-to-decipher vernacular is difficult; finally the socio-politics. Like I said there's a lot to hate, but these are what make the novel so powerful.

Celie, a poor black woman, writes first-hand from her oppressed life in the (mainly) pre-war Deep South, first to God, then to her beloved and long-lost sister. Alice Walker's portrait chronicles sexual abuse in childhood and adulthood, violence, poverty, racial prejudice (in the obvious US schism between black and white, but also in Africa), and the desperation of finding meaning in the face of such relentless adversity.

Despite the continuing cultural importance of these issues, they remain disturbing, especially in the explicit manner that they are conveyed here, to the degree that this book has been challenged for blacklisting. Such a novel always risks slipping down the slippery slope of cliche or worse, pandering to the artist's desire to shock. However through the novel, although my hackles were vigilant to such manifestations of insincerity, they remained unwoken.

What makes Alice Walker such a skilful storyteller is her ability to weave such difficult but well-covered issues into the story, to make them live and relevant. This is a story of hope and inspiration (I never thought I'd ever write that...) which won over this cynical reader. Love conquers all.
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on 1 January 2009
This is a deeply religious book, in a couple of different senses. First of all, the main character, Celie, narrates the book through letters she writes to God. She is trapped in abusive relationships, first with Pa and then with her husband Albert, referred to by her as Mr ______. She writes to God because she has nobody else to talk to after her sister Nettie disappears, believed dead. Gradually, through her relationship with Shug Avery and piecing together the truth about her past, she rids herself of the traditional view of God as an old white man and comes to view God as a more creative, loving, playful entity, symbolised by the colour purple, put in a field just for the fun of it. Celie finds her sexuality, her ability to stand up for herself, begins to make a living doing something she loves and starts to like life.

It's religious in another sense because Alice Walker has tapped into something deep and rich in creating this book. She starts by dedicating it to "The Spirit, without whose assistance neither this book nor I would have been written" and ends it by writing "I thank everyone in this book for coming. A.W., author and medium." This sets up quite an expectation, but the book delivers. The style is not literary - it can't be, because it's narrated mostly by Celie, who is uneducated and admits herself she can't write well. But still there is a beauty in its simplicity. Normally any kind of dialect begins to irritate me after a while, but this doesn't. It is powerful. The horrific events at the beginning of the book, particularly, when 14-year-old Celie is raped by her father and has two children by him, then sacrifices herself to save her younger sister Nettie from the same fate, are incredibly powerful, and the power is heightened by the simple, childish language.

It's also a political book, in the best sense. It evokes the injustices of the Jim Crow South and of colonial Africa beautifully, and they always feel like part of the story, not like a political sermon. It works well because character always comes first. Everybody in the book has a character - there are no purely symbolic characters or representatives of political positions. They're all introduced and drawn carefully so that I believed they were real and cared about them. And while the book speaks some harsh truths about men, and white men in particular, nobody is a stereotype of evil - most of the characters have some redeeming features, and the "good" characters have flaws too.

A beautiful, insightful book.
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VINE VOICEon 5 August 2007
I saw the film a long time ago. I bought the book around the same time but as often happens with me, I didnt read it because I had just seen the movie and I 'knew what happened'. Then when it made it to our book group short list, and black history month was coming up, I went to look for my book, and I couldnt find it. So off I went into town to hopefully find one. I found one copy in the bookshop.

I started reading it a little half-heartedly since I wanted to read something cheerful and I really didnt remember the film being that cheerful. Anyway, I persevered, and found myself really involved in the story. I put the dvd on expecting it to be really depressing (from memory) and it was really really good. I picked the book up again, waiting for bits in the movie to take place in the book, but the book is slightly different. The general story and the outcome is the same but inbetween is fuller somehow. When I saw the film the first time, I focused on the abuse and the beatings and the miserable existence that Celie has, but that really is a small part of it compared to all the good things that happen to her in the end.

She says to her rotten wife-beating husband:

'Until you do right by me, everything you touch will crumble. Everything you even dream about will fail'

I guess that's a case of what goes around comes around because that's what happens. Treat people mean and expect to be treated the same way. Celie is nice to everyone, even the rotten husband, but in the end things do go right for her. Reading this book made me feel better about life in general. There is hope, people say nice guys finish last, but maybe they run a better race.

The Color Purple is set in 1909+ in the South, the story of a poor, ill-educated, abused, 'ugly*' black woman, writing letters to God and her sister and her sister writing back. The whole book is a series of letters. I would recommend to everyone and has become one of my favourite books.

(*ugly because she is told so many times in the book, until finally someone loves her and tells her she is beautiful)
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 22 May 2013
In this modern classic, we meet Celie who is raped by her father as a child and then given in marriage against her will. She's had 2 children, both of whom she believes to be dead as they were taken from her at their birth. It's a story of oppression and it could be desperately sad but it isn't. The book is in the form of letters, mostly written by Celie to God, her only confidant. Later in the book, she writes to her sister who is a missionary in Africa. She finds love and a meaning in her life, from an unexpected quarter. In the course of the story, over the 1920s and 1930s we see the characters grown and evolve.

I loved the writing; so unconventional but so successful in the way that it forced me to read it in an American Deep South accent. I could just about hear Celie in my head. Her sister, educated and literate, writes very differently. Celie is conscious of her language and indeed, has had her deficiencies pointed out by several people and they have made unsuccessful attempts to teach her. Her homely expressions give the book a real life quality and I was fascinated and gripped through it all. This is a book I'd definitely recommend.
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HALL OF FAMEon 22 December 2005
It began with Celie. Writing letters to God. Under the strong instruction from her father never to tell anyone but God about his abuse, that is who Celie turns to.
This book is written in the form of correspondence, an exchange of letters that as often as not doesn't end up being read by the intended readers for most of a lifetime.
There is abuse, child abuse, sexual abuse, pain that no one should have to go through. They go through it. Celie is a strong enough person to realise that her father might not stop with her, and feels protective of her younger sister.
'Sometime he still be looking at Nettie, but I always git in his light. Now I tell her to marry Mr. _____. I don't tell her why. I say Marry him, Nettie, an try to have one good year out your life. After that, I know she be big.'
Celie delivered children of her father, children who were cast away, presumably dead (although Celie has the intuition to know better).
Celie put up with separation from loved ones, and a loveless, unfaithful marriage, playing second-fiddle to a more flamboyant mistress, Shug Avery. And Celie was raised not to know she deserved better.
She deserved better.
Shug Avery ironically was one who helped teach her that. There was a friendship beyond words that developed, a realisation of humanity and caring beyond the abuses of the world; Shug was neglected by her father, a pain that cut her almost as deep as Celie's pain.
But Celie found out something. Alphonso, her Pa, wasn't her Pa--he was a step. The children weren't to be shunned. The worst sin was mitigated just a bit.
And Celie and Nettie found out more. The land and house belonged to them, not to 'Pa', but rather their real daddy, who left it to them and their mother.
This is a painful story. It is a hopeful story. The courage of the women against family and societal tyranny is strong, but the courage against their own fears and shortcomings is even stronger.
Now, you may be asking, what right does a white man have in reviewing this kind of book? White people are very peripheral in the story, never central, never figuring more than just side characters, and not very human ones at that. I review this book in the hopes that it will be more widely read by those of every colour, as it gives insight into a different side of the human condition that is so far beyond my experience that, without this book, I would never have realised such things are possible.
Such despair. Such longing. Such courage. Such victory.
God is present even in the pain, even in the absence, and Celie resists (much more than I would, or indeed do in less severe circumstances) to judge God. She may be angry at times, but always faithful in her own way.
She believes in her family, even when it isn't deserved. She believes in herself in the end, when it is needed.
The Color Purple -- what does that mean? This is the symbol of God. The royal colour, the sign that all can see, that God is present and has a plan for beauty. This story is beautiful, even in its darkest moments.
'Well, us talk and talk bout God, but I'm still adrift. Trying to chase that old white man out of my head. I been so busy thinking bout him I never truly notice nothing God make. Not a blade of corn (how it do that?) not the color purple (where it come from?). Not the little wildflowers. Nothing.'
Celie learns to see. Learns to love. Even to forgive a little. She finds the love of God in her family.
I am richer for having read this story. I think everyone would be.
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The whole book is a collection of letters, whether they be to God or between Celie and her sister Nettie, and they read like a diary which I found easy to read.

My first impression after reading only a few pages, was how primitive the characters appeared to be, and they are in many ways, but they're also wonderfully uncomplicated and honest.

The letters from Africa were fascinating and we learn in an interesting and very real way how the African people themselves played a part in slavery. We also gain an understanding of the frustration and injustice of how land and tribes were desecrated in the name of 'improvement' and industry.

I don't think that all the men in this novel were described negatively as some reviewers have suggested. Celie's 'Pa' and Mr________ did treat her badly and were very aggressive and cruel but we see the family cycle borne out in Harpo and how he struggles to understand why he feels he should treat women like his pa but isn't succeeding because Sofia won't put up with his bullying.

Samuel in contrast is shown as a very compassionate person and Celie and Nettie's real pa is described as being very successful as well as '...having a wife whom he adored...'.

The over riding story is about human spirit and strength of character. Love and respect. The strongest line in the book for me is when Celie tells Mr________

"I'm pore, I'm black, I may be ugly and can't cook...but I'm here."

Amen indeed!

What goes around comes around and Celie's 'curse' aimed at Mr________was justified and correct. By the end of the book Mr_________ has gone on his own journey of discovery and realisation and Celie and his relationship is uplifting and mature.
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on 1 April 2013
A story that has the ability to touch and be related to along the spectrum of life and experience.The content of this story was deeply moving and at times heartbreaking. I know that womanist and feminist experiences are different and how can they not be? However the meeting of experience for all women can be seen and felt in that patriarchal setting of control and violation where even the marginalisation of the male of colour doesnt stop him wanting to dominate, I was struck by the struggle of Celie's life and how she survived and became empowered by realising and reclaiming her own sexual/spiritual value. A thouroughly satisfying read a recommended for everyone men and women alike,
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on 27 April 2014
I bought this for my Kindle as I had always wanted to read it. I found the book to be depressing with no redeeming features or light moments at all, unlike other books in this genre which can have moments of hope. I didn't like it but I am sure I'm in the minority.
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on 27 December 2001
'The Color Purple' is an intriguing and insightful window into the life of young Celie. Expressed in letter form we journey with Celie through the torments facing her in the deep South of America. She suffers abuse at the hands of the man she refers to as her 'Father' and the easy-to-follow letter format of the novel means that almost anyone can tap into the world of Celie. Friends described it as Feminist, though I struggled with this term. Others called it 'anti-male'. Though it is true that many traditional patriarchal images are challenged in the novel, the horrors of some of the male characters are not the main focus of the novel, nor do any of the female characters of the novel challenge to any great extent the male characters. The novel's purpose is to highlight and to celebrate the resilience and sisterhood of Women. It is a Womanist rather than feminist novel. Despite the horrors faced by Celie, Sophia and others, they endure, remain hopeful and find happiness. The seductive beauty represented by Shug Avery's cosmopolitan yet sensitive image to Celie is strangely taken on board by the reader. As for Walker's discussion of God and his/her role, the text is thought provoking without overtly challenging. The challenges that do exist are expressed through the innocence of ignorance, evoking in the readers mind questions, or even notions that one cannot help but debate later if not with others in our own minds. Do we need to go to church to have a relationship with God? God's cathartic role, and the extent to which this can be transferred to other important influences in one's life. Is the grass ever greener? The Color Purple allows a middle class lad from the UK a unique if limited window into an otherwise unknown world, unknown perspective and richly debatable content... Buy it!
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