Rating - Read if you have the time
Thanks to an attempt at exchanging books with voracious reader friends instead of just buying them all the time, I ended up reading this book.
The Colour Purple starts off well enough in its straightforward and unapologetic story of a young black girl in post-civil war America. The first few pages statesmatter-of-factly that the protagonist, Cecie’s, ‘Pa’ has been repeatedly raping her and has given away the two children produced as a result of this.
From here the book slowly begins the story of Cecie. Cecie’s forced marriage to Mr (the name is never told) primarily for the purpose of looking after the latter’s children. Mr’s love for his glamourous, singing diva mistress, Shug Avery. Cecie’s one love in life – her sister Nettie and the disappearance of Nettie.
As the tale continues, Shug Avery begins to help Cecie grow as a person. From accepting her lot in a non-confrontational way, Cecie starts to pay more attention to her own needs. On the way you meet a lot of interesting characters like Mr’s son Harpo, who dithers between treating the woman he loves with respect and treating her like filth as his father is wont to do. Harpo’s wife Sophie, is one of the book’s most charming characters – someone who is born into a world where black women are second class citizens but strongly believes otherwise. Sophie’s brothers and sisters also have uncharacteristically tremendous amounts of self respect.
I liked the beginning. The lackadaisical manner in which Cecie observes her own life, as if all the injustice and violence is happening to someone else and not her, strangely makes you empathise with the character. Ironically, only as Cecie begins to take control of her life, the book begins to falter. The author takes on too many things and it comes out a bit too pat.
A quick Wiki check tells me the book has won a lot of awards and has been popular enough to be made into a movie. For good reasons too. Some stories, no matter how many times you have heard them before, need to be retold again and again. Yet, as a book, I would say it is good but not brilliant.