Monthly Archives: March 2020

The Color Purple

I’m not quite sure what I was expecting from Alice Walker’s The Color Purple, but I don’t think it was quite what I got.

The story starts out as a series of prayers written to God by a 14-year-old girl who has no one else to turn to. Abused at home and threatened with silence, Celie is unable to do anything but keep quiet and try to protect her sister from their father.

Over the course of the years, Celie finds herself married off to an older man with three children, unloved and unwanted and isolated from her sister, Nettie, the only person she believes ever loved her. Nettie herself escapes the nightmare of their childhood by joining up with a minister and his family and going on a missionary journey to Africa. Though kept separate for many years, the sisters finally reconnect through letters, holding on to the hope of being reunited in person one day.

The Color Purple is a very intense read. It deals with a lot of heavy subjects, including molestation and abuse. It provides a snapshot into the life of a woman who doesn’t know how to escape, doesn’t have the help to escape, and a society that more or less condones the actions a man might take against his wife and/or children. But it’s also a story about the slow empowerment of the same woman, as she realizes she can be more than who she always was.

Walker uses spelling and language fitting for her character, who was never able to finish school. It draws you deeper into the story, forgetting that you’re not quite sure how much time is passing. The combination of fitting style and letters makes the story personal, more so than if it were written in a traditional novel style, I think.

The Color Purple is definitely not a book for everyone. For many people, it may be extremely triggering. However, it’s still an excellent book, moving and evocative. You’re there with Celie, feeling her fear, her confusion, and a whole lot of anger at what she’s been through.

Dune

I’m still on the hunt for that science fiction book that fills some undefinable hole in my heart. I’ve heard a lot about Frank Herbert’s Dune, so I finally decided to pick up a copy and move it up on my list.

Dune is the story of both a young man, and a planet. Paul moves with his family to the desert planet of Arrakis in a political move orchestrated by his family’s enemies. And while they expect betrayal, they don’t know who to suspect until it’s too late. Hunted and left with no help, Paul and his mother must make their own way on the harsh planet–or so they think, until they find unexpected help from the native population.

Paul is someone special, that much is obvious. He could be the hero the Fremen have been waiting for, but first he must win prominence among them and avenge his family, while preventing fanatic devotion that would lead to destruction.

Dune is many things, and I see now why it’s such a classic sample of world building. When you start the book, you’d be tempted to think it was maybe the second book in the series. The political intrigue and drama is already set up, the prophecies and predictions are already in place. It’s almost like entering in at the climax of the story, in some ways. The reader is left to fill in the history, a little bit. It’s not a confusing story, just one that requires attention and patience while you fit the pieces together.

I thoroughly enjoyed reading it and trying to keep up with Paul in predicting how certain actions would change the trajectory of his cause and the outcome for the planet.

While I’m not sure it quite fills the indescribable thing I’m looking for, I think I would like to one day come back to Dune and read it again, along with the rest of the books in the series. But for now, I’ve got too many other books screaming for my attention (including the big King Arthur tome that I’m actually really excited to read, even if it might take me the whole month of March…).

Poems by Maya Angelou

Poetry is a difficult genre that encompasses such a variety of styles. I haven’t had a lot of experience reading it, but since it was the genre for a book club I’m doing for the month of February, I figured it’s as good a time as any to try Maya Angelou.

I opted for a collection of poems and while I can see poetry isn’t a genre I’ll be reading a lot of, I did find that I enjoyed it. Many of Angelou’s poems focused on social issues and experiences of being a person of color. But there were many others that spoke of love, loss, and struggles.

Reading poetry is difficult, I find. It’s easiest for me to read when the cadence is marked easily by the rhyming of the words. Some of the poems were hard to read without lapsing into simply reading it like anything else. And while they were somewhat grouped together in themes, I definitely was trying to see if they followed one after another in any obvious way.

I’ve come to decide that poetry is firstly a method for a writer to express themselves for themselves. From there, it’s just a matter of what words speak to specific people. Certainly some poems are more universal in their impact, but I think also sometimes the most impactful are the quiet words that mean little to another person, but everything to one.

Overall, I like the idea of poetry, and wouldn’t be opposed to more of it, but it’s challenging to read sometimes, so I won’t swear off everything just yet.

The Story of King Arthur and His Knights

So, I decided to just dive right in to Arthurian lore after reading The Mists if Avalon. And though I’m interspersing it with other things, I’m definitely on the path now.

A reasonable place to start seemed to be Howard Pyle’s Story of King Arthur and His Knights. Geared a little more toward children, I’d say, it’s a pretty classic story of King Arthur.

It introduces Arthur as a foster son to a well-known knight. On accident, Arthur pulls the sword from the stone and is revealed as the next king. From there, it’s a series of classic Arthurian tales and adventures: winning Excalibur, wedding Lady Guinevere, the betrayal by Morgana le Fay, and the downfall of various noble figures.

Distinctly missing from the store, though hinted at, was Lancelot. Though for a children’s book, it might be challenging subject matter to handle.

The story moves along quickly enough, and reads easily enough, despite its sometimes archaic language. It’s a fun, quick read to dip your toe into some classic King Arthur, without getting in too deep.