The Color Purple by Alice Walker

The Big Read 2016

The Color Purple by Alice Walker

Every year we select a different title as our Festival Big Read, and this year, we are delighted to share Alice Walker’s award-winning novel The Color Purple with you through our series of Big Read events.

Set in the deep American South around the 1930s, we encounter the life of Celie, a young black girl born into poverty and segregation. Celie’s coming-of-age is wrought in difficult circumstances: a brutal upbringing from the man she calls ‘father’, followed by a forced and ugly marriage. She has two children taken from her and is separated from her beloved sister. However, she meets Shug Avery, a woman who has taken charge of her own destiny. Gradually, Celie discovers her own strength and the power and joy one can find in one’s own life.

I think us here to wonder, myself. To wonder. To ask. And that in wondering bout the big things and asking bout the big things, you learn about the little ones, almost by accident. But you never know nothing more about the big things than you start out with. The more I wonder, the more I love.


This is a truly remarkable book, which looks at racism, sexism and religion but, most of all, the triumph of inner strength and the power of the human spirit.

First published in 1982, it won the 1983 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction and the National Book Award for Fiction in America. It was later adapted into an Oscar-winning movie and Tony award-winning stage musical.

I’m sure I share this with a lot of people but this quote is genuinely something I have tried to live my life through. Not in terms of God. I don’t believe in God. Just in terms of noticing the beauty of each moment of nature and the planet we are so lucky to inhabit. I told my daughter about this last week and she was equally moved. She’s 6!

“I think it pisses God off if you walk by the color purple in a field somewhere and don’t notice it.”
Hollie McNish on her favourite quote from the book

If you’ve never read The Color Purple, now is the time. If you have, then now is the time to re-read it. We’re running book groups during the Festival and will have various activities taking place on site, around town and in conjunction with Gloucestershire Libraries. Watch this space for more info.

Celia and Nettie showed me not just how to survive but how to thrive, I am always looking for a flash of purple from the corner of my eye, an unexpected moment of joy. It helped me reimagine God and feel good about myself

Damian Barr