Saturday, 17 June 2017

Review: The Colour of Milk by Nell Leyshon

Title: The Colour of Milk
Author: Nell Leyshon
Publisher:  Penguin
Pages: 176
Genres: Historical Fiction

'this is my book and i am writing it by my own hand'

The year is eighteen hundred and thirty one when fifteen-year-old Mary begins the difficult task of telling her story. A scrap of a thing with a sharp tongue and hair the colour of milk, Mary leads a harsh life working on her father's farm alongside her three sisters. In the summer she is sent to work for the local vicar's invalid wife, where the reasons why she must record the truth of what happens to her - and the need to record it so urgently - are gradually revealed.
This little novella really packs a punch. I'm not sure what I was expecting, I don't think I was expecting much. It is very, very good.

This is Mary's story, she lives in an undisclosed rural area, on a farm in 1830. Her father is abusive towards her and her sisters and they do backbreaking labour from dawn to dusk. One day her father tells her that she is to help look after the local vicar's wife and the story goes from there. I was sickened, shocked and just fascinated by this intimate look into a common girl's life. Told in Mary's first person narration, I really felt like I knew how she thought and her outlook on life was simple but endearing. I really warmed to Mary as she tries to cope with this harsh life she had the misfortune to be born in.

There is no capitalisation, the language used is basic, and there are no quotation marks. I really loved this writing style as it helps bring Mary's voice to life. The style reminded me of The Colour Purple. It may not be everybody's cup of tea but it helped to immerse me fully into the story. There are quite a few shocks and I by the end of the book I felt sick. I felt similar to the way I felt at the end of Burial Rites, a kind of sick feeling in the gut. This would be amazing as a film.

I think this is a book that goes under the radar, and I am so glad I picked it up. Highly recommend.


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