Read-a-long Wrap up: The Color Purple

The Color Purple

Alice Walker

Mariner Books

304 pages

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.

Other Reviews:

Caribous Mom

Linus’s Blanket

Age 30+ . . . A Lifetime of Books

Care’s Online Book Club

things mean a lot

I bought this book, although it was so long ago I can’t say where I purchased it from.

Part 1: The Brothers Karamazov

Ok, so not only did I finish part 1 of The Brothers K, but I am only a few days late.  I must say, I am feeling a bit proud of myself!

So, since this was the beginning of the book, I was introduced to all of the characters.  Now, I must admit, the Russian names throw me through a loop.  They are all so long and they also sound similar to me, so it took me awhile to get the who’s who.  I’ve got the main characters down though– you’ve got Alyosha, who is living in a monastery and is the only Karamazov with any scruples.  Then you have his two brothers, Dmitri and Ivan.  The whole crazy family is capped off by dad, Fyodor Pavlovich.  And when I say this family is crazy, I mean it.  Dad is the craziest cat of them all, which makes him my favorite character thus far.

So we’re introduced to the background of the family in book 1.  Fyodor has had two wives and, although he pretty much has everything he could want, he is a brutish, stubborn man who is constantly putting his family into chaotic, destructive situations.  Book 2 then begins with the three Karamazov brothers in their twenties.  The family goes to Alyosha’s monastery, which turns into a huge farce, with Fyodor making an ass of himself once again.  Book 3 brings us into a very interesting love triangle . . . although I suppose triangle wouldn’t be correct.  Dmitri is engaged to the beautiful Katerina Ivanovna, but he and his father are both in love with a slattern named Grushenka.  Meanwhile, Ivan sees Katerina being slighted by Dmitri, so he is trying to latch onto her.  Smitri is so crazed by his love for Grushenka that he is intent on killing his father.  He has also demanded that Alyosha go to Katerina and explain that he will no longer see her, thus ending their engagement.

I was nervous starting out that The Brothers K would not be an engaging read.  Boy was I wrong! For being classic literature, it is unbelievably readable.  The third book especially was entertaining because–let’s face–who doesn’t love to read about the degradation of a completely warped family?  It’s impossible not to feel sorry for Alyosha.  He knows his family is certifiable, but because they are family, he cannot walk away.  Instead, he is constantly finding himself stuck in the middle and doing everyone’s bidding.  He is by far the only normal one.

I especially loved the scene between Grushenka and Katerina.  I was flummoxed at first, not completely understanding Katerina’s motives, and thinking her a bit vapid for it.  And I loved how Grushenka just flipped everything on her.  I love a good cat fight!  The best part is, this was only the tip of the iceberg.  It is obvious that the Karamazov’s have only just gotten started.  I can’t wait for all the drama yet to come!

For those of you who want to join in on this read-a-long, there is still time!  Here is the reading schedule:

Book 1: 7/10-7/16
Book 2: 7/17-7/23
Book 3: 7/24-7/30
Post #1: around July 30/31
Book 4: 7/31-8/6
Book 5: 8/7-8/13
Book 6: 8/14-8/20
Post #2: around August 20/21
Book 7: 8/21-8/27
Book 8: 8/28-9/3
Book 9: 9/4-9/10
Post #3: around September 10/11
Book 10: 9/11-9/17
Book 11: 9/18-9/24
Book 12 plus the short Epilogue: 9/24-10/1
Post #4: around October 1/2
The End (you might want to consider a shot or two or three of vodka to celebrate)

The read-a-long is being hosted by Jill at Fizzy Thoughts.  Sign ups can be found here.

The Sunday Salon

I hope you all are having a great Sunday.  My husband and I were out late last night for my best friend’s birthday, so we slept in late this morning and have been taking it easy ever since.  The best kind of Sunday is a lazy one!

I have been woefully slow with my reading lately.  I suppose you could say I am in a reading funk.  I read only one book this entire week–The Color Purple, by Alice Walker.  There is a read-a-long going on for this book, so I went ahead and read it since I already owned it and had been meaning to read it anyway.  Other than that, I have read one chapter out of A Short History of Women, by Kate Walbert, and I have decided to forgoe this one indefinitely.  It is for my bookclub this coming Wednesday, but it appears that every single one of my fellow book club members hated it, so I decided to skip it.  I rarely ever do that, at least without giving the book a fighting chance, but I am just not in the mood for this particular book right now, and the fact that none of my friends liked it makes me leery.

So instead of reading A Short History of Women today, I am going to start Red Hook Road, by Ayelet Waldeman.  I think it sounds like just the type of story that will catch my attention and get me out of my funk.  I hope the rest of you get some reading in today too!