The Colour of Milk by Nell Leyshon

The Colour of Milk is Nell Layshon's latest novella through Penguin Books. Set jbetween 1830 and 1831, it tells the tale of Mary, a simple yet outspoken teenage farm girl. From the moment she wakes to the moment she gets into bed at night, her father works her like a slave. Beaten when thought to be slacking and at best completely ignored, her life seems filled with little joy.

One day her father tells her she will be leaving the life she knows, to go stay with Mr Graham, the local vicar, who needs help caring for his ill wife. Her father will be paid her wages and the choice is out of her hands. She packs and leaves for her new life the next morning.

Although she craves her old life back at the farm, she cooks, cleans, washes and cares for ailing employer. When she passes, everthing changes. Soon Mr Graham discovers Mary's passion for learning to read and write, her story takes a dark turn.

The moving story starts quite slowly and written simply to represent Mary's lack of education. This improves to represent her growth throughout the tale. After a while you really warm to Mary's brutal honesty, as do other characters in the book and this makes the actions of Mr Graham even more upsetting. The story peaks in the last fifty pages and will have you gripped to this heroine's heartbreaking struggle to better herself and find her freedom.

Buy The Colour of Milk by Nell Leyshon from Waterstone here.


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