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The Colour of Milk Hardcover – 31 May 2012

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Hardcover, 31 May 2012
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Product details

  • Hardcover: 176 pages
  • Publisher: Fig Tree (31 May 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1905490941
  • ISBN-13: 978-1905490943
  • Product Dimensions: 12.7 x 2 x 19.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (91 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 427,787 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

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Product Description


Haunting, distinctive voices . . . Mary's spare simple words paint brilliant pictures in the reader's mind . . . Nell Leyshon's imaginative powers are considerable (Independent on Sunday )

The Colour of Milk is an astounding read. Like the best bits of Hardy's Tess of the D'Ubervilles . . . Mary is one of the most compelling narrators I've ever encountered . . . packs a powerful punch . . . a very British gem (Stylist )

It is once in a blue moon that an author creates a voice quite as alive and as startling as Mary's. Nell Leyshon

deserves to be showered with awards for The Colour Of Milk

(Sunday Express )

Spare and beautifully crafted . . . compelling . . . Like a love letter to the power of words (Marie Claire )

A small tour de force - a wonderfully convincing voice, and a devastating story told with great skill and economy (Penelope Lively )

Brilliant, devastating and unforgettable (Easy Living )

Leyshon is a master of domestic suspense . . . Slender but compelling, the charm of Leyshon's novella is to be found as much in its spare, evocative style as in the moving candour of its narrator (Observer )

Leyshon's spare, dialogue-centred storytelling is lean and vivid . . . a small potted tragedy (The Times )

Leyshon's novel has a powerful impact . . . one is wholly submerged in the horrific events . . . skilfully captures the young girl's steadily growing confidence in her writing (Independent )

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 )

An urgent tale of class division, poverty and the hardship of life as a poor woman in a patriarchal world . . . packs a punch (Psychologies )

Brontë-esque undertones . . . a disturbing statement on the social constraints faced by 19th-century women (Financial Times )

The economy of her prose heightens the power of this slender but vivid tale (Daily Mail )

The narrative is so direct, so guileless, that the reader feels completely drawn in, as homesick as Mary herself for the known world of her farmhouse . . . The story is shocking and haunting, turning suddenly and violently dark . . . Read it, in one sitting (Spectator )

Memorable . . . the ending will surprise you (Glamour )

About the Author

Nell Leyshon's first novel, Black Dirt, was long-listed for the Orange Prize, and shortlisted for the Commonwealth prize. Her plays include Comfort me with Apples, which won an Evening Standard Award, and Bedlam, which was the first play written by a woman for Shakespeare's Globe. She writes for BBC Radio 3 and 4, and won the Richard Imison Award for her first radio play. Nell was born in Glastonbury and lives in Dorset.

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Keen Reader TOP 50 REVIEWER on 8 Jun. 2013
Format: Paperback
"this is my book and I am writing it by my own hand."

Mary is one of four sisters, working on the family farm, her father harsh and unloving, her mother bowed to the inevitable, and her grandfather the only one with humour and love in him for her, and she for him. And then she is sent away to care for the vicar's wife. Mary's story of 1831, the year of her life when all changed is brief, not even 200 pages, and is given to the reader in the form of her own narrative, written in an uncultured and unlearned way, but true to the soul she carries with her and to the voice she finds within herself.

"I am not very tall and my hair is the colour of milk."

This is a lovely yet poignantly sad book, one which must have been echoed for centuries by girls all over England and Europe. Once read, never forgotten. This is the story of one young girl whose story deserved to be told. Totally recommended.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Susie B TOP 50 REVIEWER on 16 Mar. 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Mary is fourteen years old when her story begins in 1830; she is one of four sisters who live on a farm with their brutal father and their over-worked mother. Mary has, she tells us, hair the colour of milk and, we learn from her narrative, she would be pretty if it were not for her deformed leg. At the outset of her story, we learn that Mary makes the best of her hard life; she works on the farm, toiling in the fields, milking the cows, helping her mother with the housework and the cheese-making, and she enjoys spending time with her bedridden grandfather, who is a much kinder and more understanding man than Mary's father.

When the local vicar's wife becomes ill and additional help is needed at the vicarage, Mary's father arranges for her to live and work at the vicarage until she is no longer needed. Although Mary has no wish to leave the farm, she knows it is useless arguing with her father, who will only answer with physical violence, so she makes the best of the situation and, although she suffers from homesickness and misses her grandfather, she gets on with her lot in life at the vicarage. Fortunately the vicar takes a liking to Mary and her honest outspokeness, as does his ailing wife, and when the vicar decides he will teach Mary to read and write, Mary begins to realise that if she wants to become literate, she will need to stay at the vicarage for longer than she initially thought. But then something shocking happens which changes everything for everyone involved, and it is here that the reader learns of the very high price that Mary must pay for her education - but I shall leave the details for prospective readers to discover.
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20 of 22 people found the following review helpful By Brett H TOP 50 REVIEWER on 22 May 2012
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
This is a tiny book which not only is a mere 170 pages or thereabouts but also measures only some six inches by four inches. I read through it in a couple of hours as many will. However, for all that it was an original and well thought out tale written in her own words in 1831 by Mary.

Mary is from an extremely humble background. Her family are farmers, and at the age of 14 Mary works from dawn to dusk under the rather tyrannical direction of her father , as do her three sisters. She has never been educated, has one set of clothing and shares a bed with one of her sisters. However, when her father comes to an arrangement with the local vicar for Mary to help with looking after his ailing wife, Mary is initially reluctant as this job is so far removed from what she is used to.

Despite the disadvantages of her birth, Mary is a very feisty young lady, who speaks her own mind and, as she says herself, is incapable of lying. When there is a possibility of learning to read and write she is extremely enthusiastic. However, eventually she feels obliged to use her newly obtained skills to write her story and explain what has happened and how she has found herself in her current situation. As it is written in her words, there is very little in the way of punctuation, apart from splitting the story into sentences and paragraphs. That apart there are no capital letters, commas etc. However, this adds to the atmosphere and does not make the narrative at all difficult to read.

This is a very unusual book, but the presentation works well and Mary herself is an interesting and appealing character. Short it may be, but it is nonetheless a worthwhile read.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By CaSundara on 2 Feb. 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This small, simply-written book is a joy to read, despite its depressing themes. I laughed my way through much of it; the protagonist's feisty attitude and hilarious verbal responses were just wonderful.

I also loved the way the book was written as if by a girl who's only recently learned to read and write; it made the character that much more believable and endearing. I've seen claims online that writing like this is a stylistic cheat but it certainly worked for me.

I only wish the book had been slightly longer, as I finished it in two short sittings and couldn't get into anything else that night after such a treat. But for an author to leave a reader wanting more shows considerable talent.

If you like this you'll probably like Snake Ropes, Cassandra at the Wedding, Florence & Giles, and Small Hours.

4.5 Stars- Highly Recommended!
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