The Colour of Milk: A Novel

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9780062245823: The Colour of Milk: A Novel

The Colour of Milk is a literary tour de force of power, class, and fate, told in the fierce, urgent voice of the irrepressible Mary, a character as indelible as The Color Purple’s Celie and Margaret Atwood’s eponymous Alias Grace.

Set in England in 1830, The Colour of Milk by Nell Leyshon is an emotionally haunting work of historical fiction — hailed as “charming, Brontë-esque...and hard to forget” (Marian Keyes) — about an illiterate farm girl’s emotional and intellectual awakening and its devastating consequences.

Mary, the spirited youngest daughter of an angry, violent man, is sent to work for the local vicar and his invalid wife. Her strange new surroundings offer unsettling challenges, including the vicar’s lecherous son and a manipulative fellow servant. But life in the vicarage also offers unexpected joys, as the curious young girl learns to read and write — knowledge that will come at a tragic price.

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From the Back Cover:

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

Mary and her three sisters rise every day to backbreaking farmwork that threatens to suppress their own awakening desires, whether it's Violet's pull toward womanhood or Beatrice's affinity for the Scriptures. But it's their father, whose anger is unleashed at the slightest provocation, who stands to deliver the most harm. Only Mary, fierce of tongue and a spitfire since birth, dares to stand up to him. When he sends her to work for the local vicar and his invalid wife in their house on the hill, he deals her the only blow she may not survive.

Within walking distance of her family farm, the vicarage is a world away–a curious, unsettling place unlike any she has ever known. Teeming with the sexuality of the vicar's young son and the manipulations of another servant, it is also a place of books and learning–a source of endless joy. Yet as young Mary soon discovers, such precious knowledge comes at a devastating price, as is gradually made clear once she begins the task of telling her own story.

Reminiscent of Alias Grace in the exploration of the power dynamics between servants and those they serve and of Celie's struggles in The Color Purple, this quietly devastating tour de force reminds us that knowledge can destroy even as it empowers.

About the Author:

Nell Leyshon's first novel, Black Dirt, was longlisted for the Orange Prize and shortlisted for the Commonwealth Prize. She is also an award-winning dramatist whose plays include Comfort Me with Apples, winner of an Evening Standard Award, and Bedlam, which was the first play written by a woman for Shakespeare's Globe.

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