This classic book is set in the early 1900s in America’s poverty-stricken deep south. It tells the story of Celie, a young black girl who knows only struggle, segregation and suffering. She is repeatedly raped by her ‘Pa’ who then takes away the two children she bears, forced to marry an older man who mistreats her and then loses her beloved sister Nettie after she is sent away. She seems destined to a life of drudgery and pain. Then she meets the alluring singer Shug Avery and life begins to change for Celie. Shug is an independent woman who refuses to marry and has a career that takes her all over the country. She shows Celie there is a different life to be had and that everyone deserves to be loved. Slowly, Celie begins to embark on a journey of self discovery; finding her worth and finding joy in the most unexpected places.
I have had this book on my shelf for over three years. My partner bought it for me for my birthday that year as part of a theme of my favourite colour, purple. I’d obviously heard of the book and the film but had never thought or desired to read it before and in all honesty knew very little about it. As it was a gift I thought I would read it eventually, but it was never a high priority over the multitude of other books sitting waiting to be read. I decided to finally pick it up for three reasons: (1) I kept seeing it come up on Bookstagram, (2) the BookBum Book Club theme for September was ‘Back to School’ and the book is on current school curriculums, and (3) as part of Operation Clear Your TBR on Bookstagram.
As I knew little about this book I had absolutely no idea what to expect. I certainly wasn’t expecting the opening pages to hit you like a bomb, with the horror and violence of this young girl’s life is instantly thrown at you. I found my stomach in knots at her anguish and resignation to such a brutal existence forced upon her. Her helplessness breaks your heart as she allows herself to live this way. She knows fighting against how her Pa and husband treat her would mean ending up dead and to Celie being alive, even if it means suffering, is better than dead.
I did initially find the book hard to read as it is written exactly how Celie speaks and it takes a little time to adjust to that. However I do think writing the book that way helps the tone of the book and enables you to really get inside Celie’s mind. I also loved how it was written as letters. To me this felt like I was really reading about someone’s life and not a work of fiction.
Having now read The Color Purple I have no idea why I waited so long. It is a beautifully written book that is haunting, heartbreaking and wonderful all at the same time. I devoured this book and could have read it in one sitting very easily. This novel deserves it’s classic status and if you haven’t read it then I suggest you do so as soon as possible.