Published by Ecco
Publication date: December 26th 2012
and if i could stop time that is what i would do and i would stay in that minute for all my life and for ever.
but a minute can not last for ever.
Mary is an illiterate farmer’s daughter. The youngest child in her family, she is also deemed the least valuable because she was born with a deformed leg and cannot move as quickly as her sisters. What she lacks in physical dexterity she makes up for with her naturally sharp and inquisitive mind, not something that endears her to her father, who views his offspring as subpar for being girls and good only for manual labor. When the vicar down the road needs a maid and companion for his ailing wife, he hires Mary out for room and board with her pay going to him.
The colour of milk is one thing Mary knows for sure. It is the color of her hair. She also knows it is 1831 and she is fourteen years old. Beyond that there is much she doesn’t know about the world including what a blanket and pillow are, how to read and write, and the luxury of taking a bath. Her move to the vicar’s house reveals her ignorance about much of normal life and immerses her in a world for which she is ill-prepared. There is the vicar’s son who she knows has been with her older sister and now enjoys making her feel awkward and the family cook whose feelings toward Mary run hot and cold, meaning she either confides in her or hits her. Fortunately, Mary’s plain spoken manner engages the vicar’s wife and despite her longing to return to her sisters she becomes an important addition to the household.
there ain’t a lot i let worry me. If i can’t do nothing about summat then i don’t let it worry me. If i can do summat about it then i put it right and then there’s no need to worry anyway.
In The Colour of Milk Nell Leyshon takes a smart outspoken farm girl from a life of privation and introduces her to wonders she never knew. The most extraordinary of these is learning to write. It is only as the novel and Mary’s skills progress that one begins to see how knowledge, attached to a mind of strength and personal truth, can lead to untenable circumstances.
The Colour of Milk is composed in the style of a young child who has just learned to write and is not familiar with the complexities of punctuation and sentence structure. It is raw and rudimentary and yet the thoughts Mary conveys are advanced beyond her years and filled with a wild beauty and wisdom. She is so desirous of learning and expressing herself but so naïve that she doesn’t realize the gift may come at a price she is unwilling to pay. Leyshon’s portrayal of both the girl and the life is austere and urgent as Mary races to express herself while she still can.
writing takes a long time. each word has to be lettered and spelled on to the page and when i am done I have to look at it again to see if I have chosen right.