Summer of Southern Women: The Color Purple

We're back at the end of week two with another novel crossed off our list! Michelle and I have just  finished up Alice Walker's beautiful novel, The Color Purple, and we're ready to give our thoughts on this much-loved classic.

V: I really enjoyed this book. It wasn't always a happy book, but it gave me good feelings, mostly, to read it, if that makes any sense. The novel is filled to the brim with sayings, characters, and situations that make you think and make you reconsider your own viewpoint on life, and reading it was a wonderful experience.

One of my favorite things about the novel - something I took to twitter to discuss - is its excellent and well-rounded cast of women. I thought Alice Walker did a fantastic job of writing these women, and I think they are some of the best written women I've seen. They managed to be so many different and often contradictory things all at once, just like...*gasp*...real women! They were complex and well-rounded and it made me happy. I really felt for Celie throughout the novel,as she learns both how to stand up for herself and how to forgive, and I wanted nothing more than the happiest ending for her. She deserved it. I think Shug was my second favorite character. She was loving and caring and jealous and sassy and she made Celie happy and therefore I was happy. What did you think of the women in this novel, and did you have any favorites? I know that's kind of a cliche question about books, but hey, it's cliche for a reason, right?

M: Obviously everyone loves Celie and I adored Shug as well, but as far as favorites go I'd have to say Squeak (or should I say Mary Agnes). I want to read a whole book about her! The fight with Sofia, being with Harpo when he was at his worst, running off with Grady and losing herself, and her ultimate return to herself and her music. This novel is populated with so many fully realized characters that whole lives can be imagined about any of them. Because the characters are complex they are sometimes entirely frustrating, but what impressed me most was that they never become unsympathetic. Walker never relies on disagreements and pettiness to move the plot forward - this novel is so much about empathy. You wrote about this on tumblr in regards to Eleanor Jane, and that struck me as well, but also with Corrine. Over time Corrine becomes jealous of Nettie and suspicious of the fact that her children look so like the other woman. This of course saddens Nettie, but the plot never devolves into a "catfight." In hands that are less adept than Walker's these relationships that are so layered and complex would have focused more on conflict rather than understanding. People make mistakes and can be truly horrible to one another, but it is in the best of our nature to learn and forgive.

V: Yes, exactly! And you're completely right about Corrine and Nettie, too. I didn't think about them. I feel that one of the major things I got out of this book was the necessity of forgiveness, but also the necessity of not apologizing for being who you are. Many of these characters have to face down expectations that they should think, behave, believe, and live a certain way. This often manifests in the expectation that wives obey their husbands without question, which these women, on the whole, do not comply or agree with. It was lovely to watch these women characters grow and learn together, especially as they worked to empower each other to stand up for themselves. And I love that through their standing up for themselves, most of the characters learned to better respect each other and coexist peacefully, like with the Sophia/Harpo/Mary Agnes triangle. It seems weird to say it but I actually liked Albert, Celie's husband, by the end of the book. Seeing him change and grow and learn to be better, and seeing how hard he tried to be a good person, definitely helped me - and Celie, clearly - forgive him and think better of him by the end. 

M: This really is a beautiful novel that manages to leave the reader feeling fantastically uplifted without ignoring the difficulties of life. So, now that we are all full of warm fuzzies we move onto the utter weirdness of Flannery O'Connor's Wise Blood. We hope you enjoyed reading The Color Purple along with us whether it was the first time (as it was for us) or a return to an old favorite (as we heard it was for a number of people).

The Color Purple Cover Image
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ISBN: 9780156031820
Availability: Special Order
Published: Mariner Books - November 1st, 2006

Celie is a poor black woman whose letters tell the story of 20 years of her life, beginning at age 14 when she is being abused and raped by her father and attempting to protect her sister from the same fate, and continuing over the course of her marriage to "Mister," a brutal man who terrorizes her.