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Editorial Reviews

The Color Purple is a story of survival, spirituality, and the strength of the bond between two sisters, spanning two continents and nearly three decades. To hear Alice Walker read her own Pulitzer Prize-winning novel is an absolute treasure. Walker’s voice is clear, strong, and true — a testament to the courage and hope that carries the main character Celie through the story.

Celie’s circumstances are unimaginable — poor, female, uneducated, motherless, and African American in the Deep South — she is without anyone to protect her, except her God. It is her communication with God — and her other savior, her sister Nettie — that sustains her and supplies the narrative of The Color Purple. At the beginning of the novel, Celie’s communication with both God and Nettie is one-way, however, as Nettie has been swept away from her, all the way to Africa, and God sends her few signs he is watching over her.

As Celie survives sexual abuse from her stepfather, the death of her mother, the violent loss of her two children, and marriage to the monstrous and cruel “Mister”, she remains kind and loving through it all. When the beautiful and liberated singer Shug Avery comes into her life, Celie is opened up. Shug tells Celie, “I think it pisses God off if you walk by the color purple in a field somewhere and don’t notice it.” Someone other than Nettie finally loves Celie, and she begins to truly see the beauty around her and believe her life is worth something.

In the preface, Walker says The Color Purple is the story of Celie’s journey from her place as “a spiritual captive” to “the realization that she…is a radiant expression…of the Divine”. Throughout the novel, Walker’s voice audibly breaks free of the bonds of abuse and cruelty into the freedom of spirituality and peace. It is almost as if Walker’s voice contains within each note the whole of the African American experience — encapsulated in the courage and triumph of Celie’s story. —Sarah Evans Hogeboom

Publisher's Summary

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.

Celie eventually learns that her abusive husband has been keeping her sister's letters from her, and the rage she feels, combined with an example of love and independence provided by her close friend, Shug, pushes her finally toward an awakening of her creative and loving self.

©1982 Alice Walker (P)2009 Alice Walker and Recorded Books, LLC

Critic Reviews

  • Pulitzer Prize, Fiction, 1983
"[A] striking and consummately well-written novel." ( New York Times Book Review)

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

Overall

  • 4.6 out of 5.0
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Performance

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Story

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  • Overall
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  • Michelle
  • Gilbert, Arizona USA
  • 12-22-17

Fave book & movie, not fave audible

Would you recommend this book to a friend? Why or why not?

I've read the book, seen the movie, and been to the play; I have recommended this story to many people. I would not recommend this reading to a friend, however.

What did you like about the performance? What did you dislike?

I thought that the author would have expressed more enthusiasm for her own characters. This read was very dry and I feel the characters were not well represented.

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Beautiful, Thought-provoking and Triumphant

What made the experience of listening to The Color Purple the most enjoyable?

I read this book many times. Hearing Ms. Walker read it with the inflections she put into each character was incredible.

Who was your favorite character and why?

Sophia has always been my favorite character. She is both nuanced and simple all at once.

Have you listened to any of Alice Walker’s other performances before? How does this one compare?

I've read all of her books but have not listened to the narration of any others at this point.

Who was the most memorable character of The Color Purple and why?

Shug Avery was my favorite character because wanting to give and receive love is her achilles heel.

Any additional comments?

Keep up the great work Audible.

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Just wow

Listening to the narrator speak made me feel as if I was watching the movie with the original actors. Excellent!

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AMAZING

I love this book!! I had to read it for my AP Language class, but it did not feel like a forced read at all. I HIGHLY RECOMMEND to people in high school and above!

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What can I say?

Awesome character development. Intriguing story. Interesting dialogue. A slice of very important American history. It's no wonder this book is loved by so many.

AUDIBLE 20 REVIEW SWEEPSTAKES ENTRY

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Amazingly Good

If you’ve seen the movie and are wondering if this is worth listening to, please listen. The book is brimming over with poetry. There are 100 things in here a movie could never capture. Normally I’m wary of authors reading their own work. At first, I was worried that applied here. But Alice Walker gives a perfect performance. You just have to grow to know and love the characters as the book goes on. It doesn’t take long. This is honestly a work of genius. Filled with commentary on social injustice, love, family, colonialism, and so much more. A phenomenal piece of literature. I recommend in the strongest possible way. It will move you.

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Narrator not a narrator

Sometimes it’s not a good idea for the author to perform their own work. This is one of those times! Monotonous, awkward pausing, no character distinction

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Life is horrible, then it gets a little bit better

I have spent a lot of the past year or so reading history and other non-fiction about racism, slavery, Jim Crow and the broader African American experience in the US. I have not read a lot of fiction in part because non-fiction I can distance myself a bit.

A large part of the point of fictional portrayals of the African American experience is to engage in an emotional way. I am still reluctant, although I know that is where I need to start going more often.

The Color Purple has been in my library for years. I picked it up on sale on kindle. Then picked up the audiobook on sale. But it wasn’t until the musical Color Purple was included in my Broadway in Atlanta subscription (so I could get Hamilton tickets) that I finally sat down and read The Color Purple.

Alternating between kindle and audiobook, it took me about a week to read the first 20%, but only two or three days the read the last 80%. The opening of The Color Purple is rough. Celie opens the books with short, childish letters to God. She is describing being repeatedly raped by her father as her mother gets sick and dies. And this continues for years after her mother’s death. She gives birth twice, with her father taking away the children into the woods to an unknown fate.

Later, when her younger sister starts to mature and become attractive, she starts to try to protect her. That leads to Celie essentially being sold off to a widower to be his new wife (and sex slave) and mother to his children (who are not much younger than she is.)

The time scale for The Color Purple is decades. As I tried to describe the story to my wife in preparation for the musical, the weight and breadth of the story really came to me. There are a number of characters that are well developed with enough back stories and emotional life to make telling the story difficult.

There are no simple solutions in the story. Characters grow and develop and become independent and better off, or worse off, but there is still a system of oppression that they live under. Racism does not go away. Sexism is just as real and often more tangible for Celie and the other female characters as the racism is.

Children are raised and cared for, and sometimes loved. There are communities and church and society that impact the characters, but they are either not strong enough to really matter, or too strong to resist against.

Alice Walker has an introduction to the Kindle edition I read. She talks about why she framed the book initially as letters to God and how that shifts later in the book. In some ways the pantheism of the book feels like a response to the weakness of a Christian God to actually work in the life of Celie. That is position that many Black atheists have taken from early days and pointed out by James Baldwin and Ta’Nehesis Coates more recently. But also many African American Christians pointed out the lack of true faith by Whites (Frederick Douglass is an early example of this.)

As the Color Purple moves on the sexual abuse and violence recedes as a number of the women get together to become independent and support one another. Celie and another character have a lesbian relationship and even though Celie reconciles with her husband (called Mr____ in most of the book), they do not resume a marital relationship, but only close friendship.

In the end, the family comes back together. The childlike Celie in the beginning has become a capable matriarch. The family relationships are confused and tangled. But that does not matter much.

I have listened to the musical soundtrack twice. The more difficult strands of the story appear to be condensed or glossed over from what I can tell. There is a lot of influence from African American church music, which in part seems like an odd choice given the religious themes of the book. But Black Church music is culturally important as well as religiously important. So it makes sense that some of the music clearly is invoking that cultural touch stone.

I feel like I probably need to re-read the book after the musical to get another take at the story. But I am not sure I can handle it twice in a relatively short period of time.

The writing was clear, evocative, and poetic. It deserves it praise. But it has a clear content warning. If you find violence, especially sexual violence, domestic violence and oppression difficult, this is book you probably should stay away from.

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I Cried For the First Time In Years

Here I am, a 67-year-old white man brought to tears by the ending of this masterpiece of writing and narration. Though I’ve seen both the movie and the play on Broadway, neither touched me like this production. Really superb!

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Such a rich beautiful story

Immersion into thoughts and conversations in an uncommon dialect, particularly in writing, and a forlorn circumstance reminds one of our similarities under the human condition. Alice Walker deserves all the praise she received for this book, and more! Despite the sadness, this book is uplifting for its tenacity of spirit.