I can see without a doubt that The Color Purple is one of those books that I might never have read without the help of fellow bloggers. I bought it a few years back thinking it was one of those books I should read, but there are SO MANY books like that on my shelf . . . it just never stood a chance. Then I saw that Nicole from Linus’s Blanket was hosting a read-a-long and, despite the fact that I am already participating in a (very demanding) read-a-long, I figured what the hey, may as well go for it.
The Color Purple started off with teenage Celie. She is being raped by her father and she has had two children as a result of that sexual abuse. Sounds familiar, right? I swear the beginning reminded me so much of Precious that I didn’t want to go on. Yes, it was a different time period—not the urban setting of Precious, but still, that seemed to be the only difference. Obviously, if anyone copied anyone, it would have been Sapphire copying Alice Walker, so I decided to keep on with it, as it was really no fault of Ms Walker.
Luckily, the book got better from that point. Celie is given in marriage to an older man, Mr—, who had originally been courting her younger sister Nettie but settled for Celie because his wife died and he needs someone to care for his kids. Celie is emotionally abused by Mr— and his children. She becomes sullen for awhile, keeping to herself and losing her spunk. Because although she doesn’t stand up to her tormenters, it is apparent from the start that Celie has a fire in her. Celie is eventually able to feed that fire with the help of her husband’s mistress Shug.
Shug comes to stay with Mr—‘s family, much to thie chagrin of his father, old Mr—. Shug’s got a reputation, and it is not a good one. She has lived a fast life as a performer, but she has a positive attribute that Celie doesn’t possess—Shug sticks up for herself and does what she pleases, almost to a fault.
Now, eventually we get into a bit of a lesbian relationship between Shug and Celie. Makes sense, right? I mean, why would Celie ever want to be with a man? All the men in her live have abused and degraded her. None of them have built her up as a person the way Shug does. It was hard for me to tell how physically attracted Celie was to Shug—I felt more like she just finally felt comfortable with someone and she had found someone who treated her right, so the sexual relationship just came with it, if that makes any sense.
Anyway, Celie is eventually able to “find” herself. And by that, I mean she discovers what is important to her and what she wants out of life. She no longer allows herself to be held down by the will of others. She essentially is able to free herself and become truly happy.
Now, onto the wrap up questions that were posed to the read-a-long participants.
What was your perception of this book coming into the read-a-long? Had you read it before? Seen the movie? Always meant to read/watch it? Did your initial perception influence your read-a-long experience?
I had never read the book or seen the movie. As I said before, it was just one of those books that I felt that I should read. The fact that there was a read-a-long just gave me the opportunity and extra push to read it.
For new readers: Was the book what you expected it to be? What DID you expect?
I knew that Oprah starred in the movie. That was all. For all I knew, it was a story about slavery. Oh, and I knew it was considered a modern classic. So you could say I went into the book with basically no expectations.
Do Celie’s letters to God and her letters to Nettie have a different feel to them or do they seem the same? What do you think of Celie’s habit of ending her letters to Nettie with “Amen”?
Yes, to me they seemed very similar. I think in both cases, the letter writing was therapeutic for Celie. And once she had Nettie to write to, she didn’t need to write to God anymore. She didn’t have anyone to talk to initially, as she thought Nettie was dead, so God was her only outlet.
Is the story believable to you? Why or why not? Does believability matter to you in a “real-life” type book?
Totally realistic. As heartbreaking as The Color Purple is, I had not one moment of disbelief, which I think is important in a book like this. You don’t feel so invested in characters and their individual plights if the book doesn’t seem realistic. The reason readers can feel Celie’s torment so clearly is because she seems to real and fleshed out.
So I now have another successful read-a-long under my belt. This was a short, easy read, so I really shouldn’t pat myself on the back too much. I would definitely recommend it to others as it is a glaringly honest portrayal of a life that is so different than one any of us would know or understand.
I bought this book, although it was so long ago I can’t say where I purchased it from.