The Chicken Chronicles by Alice Walker

 Source: Personal copy

Five words from the blurb: chickens, memoir, Deep South, fruit, experience

The Color Purple is an outstanding book and I currently have an obsession with chickens, so there was no way I could resist buying The Chicken Chronicles when I spotted it in a bookshop. I hadn’t heard of it before, but sadly there is good reason this book is never mentioned. I doubt it would have been published if it hadn’t been written by a literary legend.

The Chicken Chronicles is a slim book in which Alice Walker writes about what happens to her chickens each day. Unfortunately chickens lead a dull life and I was quickly bored by the repetitive descriptions of them walking round her yard looking for food.

I also found the overly sentimental tone annoying. The continual “Mommy loves you” aspect of the text felt weird and managed to turn even the most beautifully written sentence into a cloying sentiment:

Mommy has always thought chickens have a look of erudition; but by now you have a look that is practically professorial. Fleeting, I admit, because usually you are on your way to devouring something: greens, grains, or bugs. But it is there, that look of high intelligence, and Mommy appreciates it.

The additional problem was that Alice Walker’s life during this period of time seemed fascinating, but she left out everything that was interesting. There would be one sentence about returning from visiting the Dalai Lama and then it would go straight back into a description of how shiny corn is. I wanted to know all about her journeys, not how many eggs she ate each day. It’s a shame because she is such an amazing writer and chickens can be entertaining subjects.

I recommend avoiding this one and reading The Color Purple instead.

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I notice that Alice Walker has written a lot of books. Are any of her others worth reading?

 


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8 Comments

  1. This review made me smile twice, nearly laugh out loud. I’ll be honest and say that I’ve never read more than an article or two by Alice Walker. But I will give her credit for bringing Zora Neale Hurston back from obscurity. Without Ms. Walker I never would have found Their Eyes Were Watching God, my vote for the best American novel of the 20th century. One of the top five, anyway.

    1. Jackie says:

      James, There’s no doubting she is an amazing, important woman. I’d love to read more about her life – just nothing about her pets! Glad I was able to make you smile – hope 2017 is full of smiles for you :-)

  2. She’s one of my MRE authors (MustReadEverything) but I haven’t gotten to the chicken stories yet. However, my understanding is that they were drawn from her blog, so not really intended to be read sequentially but in between times. (But of course once they’re put into a book, one can’t help but want to read them cover-to-cover, I agree.) Not all of her fiction has resonated with me as did The Color Purple, but I have really enjoyed some of the essays and poetry, and there is something about her spirit that I find refreshing and inspiring, no matter what she’s writing. Better luck with the next!

    1. Jackie says:

      Buried In Print, Ah. Them coming from a blog makes a lot of sense. They don’t flow together at all, but I can see how they might have worked as individual blog posts. I’ll ensure I try more of her work in future, but I looking forward to seeing what you make of her chicken book. I hope you enjoy it more than I did!

  3. Andi says:

    When I saw this post in my RSS reader I thought, “Oooh! An Alice Walker I haven’t heard of!” Sorry that there’s a good reason for that. Ha! Props to you for reading it if you were bored.

    1. Jackie says:

      Andi, Luckily it was very short. I wouldn’t have finished it if it had been much longer. :-)

  4. I read a lot of her books back in my 20s, and I especially remember liking Possessing the Secret of Joy. But I’ll skip this one, thanks :)

    1. Jackie says:

      threegoodrats, Thanks for the recommendation!

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