January 2013 Indie Next List
“Heartbreaking, breathtaking, and very human, The Colour of Milk reads less like historical fiction and more like a memoir. Mary is a hardworking but willful farm girl in rural England until her abusive father 'sells' her to the local vicar as a servant. Her new position brings her opportunities for education and wider knowledge than she ever had before, but there are consequences. This gripping story of power, family, and self-determination will pull you right in and stay with you for a long time.”
— Caitlin Caulfield, Odyssey Bookshop, South Hadley, MA
"this is my book and i am writing it by my own hand."
Mary and her three sisters rise every day to backbreaking farmwork that threatens to suppress their own awakening desires, whether it's Violet's pull toward womanhood or Beatrice's affinity for the Scriptures. But it's their father, whose anger is unleashed at the slightest provocation, who stands to deliver the most harm. Only Mary, fierce of tongue and a spitfire since birth, dares to stand up to him. When he sends her to work for the local vicar and his invalid wife in their house on the hill, he deals her the only blow she may not survive.
Within walking distance of her family farm, the vicarage is a world away–a curious, unsettling place unlike any she has ever known. Teeming with the sexuality of the vicar's young son and the manipulations of another servant, it is also a place of books and learning–a source of endless joy. Yet as young Mary soon discovers, such precious knowledge comes at a devastating price, as is gradually made clear once she begins the task of telling her own story.
Reminiscent of Alias Grace in the exploration of the power dynamics between servants and those they serve and of Celie's struggles in The Color Purple, this quietly devastating tour de force reminds us that knowledge can destroy even as it empowers.
About the Author
Nell Leyshon's first novel, Black Dirt, was longlisted for the Orange Prize and shortlisted for the Commonwealth Prize. She is also an award-winning dramatist whose plays include Comfort Me with Apples, winner of an Evening Standard Award, and Bedlam, which was the first play written by a woman for Shakespeare's Globe.
“Nell Leyshon has beautifully captured a voice that haunts, long after the last word has been read. Brava!”
-Kathleen Grissom, New York Times bestselling author of The Kitchen House
“A wonderfully convincing voice and a devastating story told with great skill & economy. . . . A small tour de force”
-Penelope Lively, award-winning author of Family Album and Moon Tiger
“I loved it. The Colour of Milk is charming, Brontë-esque, compelling, special, and hard to forget. I loved Mary’s voice—so inspiring and likeable. Such a hopeful book.”
-Marian Keyes, bestselling author of Angels and Anybody Out There?