My rating 5/5 stars
Celie is a young black girl born into poverty and segregation. Raped repeatedly by the man she calls ‘father’, she has two children taken away from her, is separated from her beloved sister Nettie and is trapped into an ugly marriage. Then she meets the glamorous Shug Avery, singer and magic-maker – a woman who has taken charge of her own destiny. Gradually Celie discovers the power and joy of her own spirit, freeing her from her past and reuniting her with those she loves.
This is not the kind of book you curl up and relax reading. It is a raw and heartbreaking and yet I couldn’t put it down.
There is such much to unpack within this novel. Alice Walker’s writing was a real masterpiece filled with such literary skill. The first half of the novel is written as letters to God from Celie. They describe what is happening in her life and how she feels about her situation. At the start of the novel there is no real fight within Celie in fact she states that “all I know how to do is stay alive”. This begins to change when she meets Shug Avery who an empowered woman.
The novel is filled with such beautiful and strong female characters. Celie, Nettie, Sofia and Shug are so well written and were such powerful characters. The abuse they suffer is unparalleled in the novel and something that you would not wish to happen to anyone. And yet, they keep fighting and are such inspirational influences to any reader.
The format of this novel was something quite different as there are passages of time between the letters but they exact time frame is never mentioned. Time passes and Celie’s letters just explain what has happened in the missing time. Surprisingly, I liked this in the novel, I think it meant that a good pace was kept. It also showed how normalised her abuse had become to her as it seemed that to Celie these events were not worth writing to God about.
I can see why this novel has been labelled as a classic as I cannot explain how magical the writing of this novel is. Celie is not a well educated character and as a result her letters use very simplistic writing. However, Alice Walker uses symbolism and metaphor to portray her message with such skill and understanding.
There are so many layers to this novel and yet it is such a hard review to write. This novel is a unique look at what it meant, and means, to be a black female and is a celebration for the strength of women. It is an honest look at the ugly truths of humanity and all its suffering, yet there is a message of hope and redemption. I urge you to read this novel if you haven’t already.
Trigger warnings: domestic violence, abuse and rape