The Color Purple by Alice Walker
Published by Custom Publishing on December 1st 2010 (first published 1982)
Genres: LGBT+, Classic
Taking place mostly in rural Georgia, the story focuses on the life of women of color in the southern United States in the 1930s, addressing numerous issues including their exceedingly low position in American social culture.
Continuing with short reviews for LGBT+ books I read in 2016 for Pretty Deadly Reviews‘ LGBTQIA 2016 Reading Challenge, it’s now time for the classics!
I’ve repeated it multiple times now, but this is one of my highlights for 2016. The Color Purple had been on my want-to-read list for a while now, and I finally found the book in London last December. When Our Shared Shelf picked it as the book club read for February it was clearly time to read it!
Heart-breaking, breath-taking, beautiful, sad, funny, perfect. Every aspect of this book was amazing, from the style to the characters to every little detail in the storyline. An absolute must-read for everyone.
After the book I also took time to watch the movie. Mehhh. The first half was alright, and then it just went down the drain. Everything I loved about the book disappeared from the movie. So whatever you do, do not watch the movie instead of reading the book..! (as if you would do that..!)
Oranges are not the only fruit by Jeanette Winterson
Published by Vintage on 1991 (first published 1985)
Genres: LGBT+, Young Adult, Classic
Jeanette, the protagonist of Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit and the author's namesake, has issues--"unnatural" ones: her adopted mam thinks she's the Chosen one from God; she's beginning to fancy girls; and an orange demon keeps popping into her psyche. Already Jeanette Winterson's semi-autobiographical first novel is not your typical coming-of-age tale.
Technically I could’ve reviewed this book as a young adult book, but then the numbers would be too uneven 😉
I love Jeanette Winterson’s style, even though it is not always the easiest to read. I read Oranges after The Passion so I was expecting something very lyrical and quirky. However, Oranges is very accessible while still retaining the quirk. Not everything was easy to follow if you didn’t grow up in the UK though. Still, a very interesting coming-of-age novel not just for young adults. I think this is considered a classic by right!
Mr Norris Changes Trains by Christopher Isherwood
Published by Arrow on January 8th, 1987 (first published 1935)
Genres: LGBT+, Classic
On a train to Berlin in late 1930, William Bradshaw locks eyes with Arthur Norris, an irresistibly comical fellow Englishman wearing a rather obvious wig and nervous about producing his passport at the frontier. So begins a friendship conducted in the seedier quarters of the city.
I read this book as a culturally appropriate preparation for my trip to Berlin. Isherwood had been on my TBR for such a long time, so why not read him now? I really regret not doing so sooner! I’m not sure what I was expecting, but Mr Norris Changes Trains was wonderful. I read it in as little time as possible.
The characters, based on people Isherwood actually met during his time in Berlin, were fantastic. I had absolutely no problem imagining them, based on the descriptions. They are so vibrant and really make the characters come to life! Definitely one of Isherwood’s strengths. The characters are loveable and awkward, and by the end of the book you don’t really want to leave them.
So it’s no surprise that directly after finishing, I continued with…
Goodbye to Berlin by Christopher Isherwood
Published by Panther on 1977 (first published 1939)
Genres: LGBT+, Classic
First published in 1939, Goodbye to Berlin is a brilliant evocation of the decadence and repression, glamour and sleaze of Berlin society in the 1930's - the time when Hitler slowly starts his move to power. It is inhabited by a wealth of characters: the unforgettable and “divinely decadent” Sally Bowles; plump Fräulein Schroeder, Peter and Otto, a gay couple struggling to come to terms with their relationship; and the distinguished and doomed Jewish family, the Landauers.
…more Isherwood! Goodbye to Berlin was more of a memoir (although quite strictly not) than Mr Norris Changes Trains. Isherwood’s style is very straightforward and he’s great at descriptions without it ever getting tiresome. I really felt myself transported to Berlin in the 1930s, eager to learn more about the city at that time. (And so I did – I went on Brendan Nash’s Isherwood tour around Nollendorfplatz!)
Goodbye to Berlin is much more fragmented than Mr Norris, with many characters being introduced, floating in and out of “Issyvoo”‘s life. But that is precisely what makes this novel such a slice-of-life kind of ‘memoir’. I loved it, and will definitely be seeking out more Isherwood (especially his post-WWII work, as I’m now quite curious how he has developed!).
Goodbye to Berlin was actually the basis for Cabaret (the 1972 movie), which I really should rewatch..!
On another note, if you’re not a fan of these rather uhm ‘classic’ covers, Penguin’s Vintage Classics has released a beautiful set of new covers.