Century of Books

My project to read the top 100 English-language books of the twentieth century.

Location: San Francisco, United States

I am an Australian writer and blogger living in San Francisco. Visit my professional site at caitlinfitzsimmons.com, or my travel and food blog at Roaming Tales or my personal blog at The Niltiac Files. I am also on Twitter as @niltiac. See the full list of books or visit me on BookCrossing.

21 June 2006

The Color Purple by Alice Walker

What a fabulous book! I can see why this is considered one of the great books of the twentieth century. I wonder if it's on all the lists - it certainly should be.

When writing instructors tell their students to "show, not tell", they should simply point them in the direction of The Color Purple by Alice Walker. It's incredibly evocative of character, setting and emotion yet it is not heavy-handed. Books about injustice often fall into the trap of telling you what to think and feel but Walker never falls into that trap.

It was heartbreaking to read about life as a poor black woman in the early twentieth century and devastating to read about the annihilation of the Olinka - African tribal people displaced by roadbuilding and rubber plantations. Walker doesn't flinch from the truth yet she also shows us great love, compassion, loyalty and happiness.

I found this book very easy to read. I really enjoyed both Celie and Nettie's voice. Often I find that when authors try to write in dialect or show an uneducated grammar and vocabulary it doesn't work very well and distracts me from the story. Even something like Irvine Welsh's Trainspotting worked much better for me as a film than a book and that's probably an example of where it's done better than the norm. But Walker does this effortlessly so that you barely notice but it helps to evoke character.

I love at the end that Walker thanks the characters in her novel "for coming".

32 down, 68 to go...

PS I am most of the way through A Suitable Boy!


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