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The Colour of Milk by Nell Leyshon

The Colour of Milk

Historical Fiction   Literary Fiction   eBook Favourites   
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Sarah Broadhurst's view...

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...'

If you like Nell Leyshon you might also like to read books by Charlotte Rogan, Peter Ackroyd and Hilary Mantel.

Who is Sarah Broadhurst


The Colour of Milk by Nell Leyshon

The Colour of Milk is the new novel by Orange longlisted author and playwright Nell Leyshon. '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.


'Shocking and haunting. Read it, in one sitting' Spectator

'Charming, Bronte-esque, compelling, special and hard to forget. I loved it' Marian Keyes

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

'Starts deceptively quietly, describing a life of rural hardships and limited prospects, but bit by bit, letter by letter, it reveals a world of potential that is shattered by human fallibility' Daily Telegraph

'Astounding ... one of the most compelling narrators I've ever encountered' Stylist

'It is once in a blue moon that an author creates a voice quite as alive and as startling as Mary's. Leyshon deserves to be showered with awards' Sunday Express

'Brilliant, devastating and unforgettable' Easy Living

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

'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

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

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

About the Author

Nell Leyshon

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

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Book Info

Publication date

2nd May 2013


Nell Leyshon

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Penguin Books Ltd


176 pages


Historical Fiction
Literary Fiction
eBook Favourites

Modern & contemporary fiction (post c 1945)



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