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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.
Author photo © Anita Schiffer-Fuchs, Cologne
Written by 15-year old Mary in her dungeon awaiting the gallows in the 1830s, with a secret she cannot tell - this is an amazing book. Her country, semi-literate voice is highly compelling, forcing you to race through the slim (only 170 pages), highly eventful book which covers only one year. From rural hardship to caring for the vicar's invalid wife, Mary's life seems to blossom until the vicar imposes his charms! Mary is doomed and she knows it. She also know she could save herself but at too high a price. Written entirely in lower case which somehow adds power, this is a remarkable read. The Colour of Milk is the colour of Mary's hair, poor girl. A 'Piece of Passion' from Juliet Annan, Publisher Fig Tree/Penguin... 'The Colour of Milk is a dark, perfectly shaped little gem of a novel. Set in rural England in the 1830s, it is beautiful, disturbing and brutal – and it really packs a punch. It's told from the point of view and in the voice of an illiterate farm girl in 1830: Mary, the girl in question, is telling her own story and, what’s more, she is writing it down with her own hand. How it came about that she can read and write, and what price she had to pay to achieve this is very much at the core of the novel. I absolutely love this book: it is immensely powerful and Mary's voice is totally convincing and everyone who reads it is blown away by the sheer power and force and beauty of Nell's writing, and by Mary's dramatic story. The ending is wonderful, and shocking, but I won't give it away...'