Book Reviews

‘The best moments in reading are when you come across something - a thought, a feeling, a way of looking at things - which you had thought special and particular to you. And now, here it is, set down by someone else, a person you have never met, someone even who is long dead. And it is as if a hand has come out, and taken yours.’ Alan Bennett

“Many a book is like a key to unknown chambers within the castle of one’s own self.” ― Franz Kafka

Monday, 21 May 2012

The Colour of Milk - Nell Leyshon

'i can't hide nothing in my voice, mrs. least you know where you stand with me. don't reckon i could lie if i was ordered to.'

It is 1831, and fifteen-year-old Mary is writing an account of her life the previous year, dividing it into the four seasons, taking us from Spring 1830 to Spring 1831. She lives with her father and three sisters, a hard life working dawn until dusk on their farm, with her grandfather bedbound. Then one day her father informs her that she will be required to leave them and go and work and live at the Vicarage, tending to the vicar's ailing wife. She writes down what has happened to her as a result of working there.

What an amazing voice the author has created in Mary. We know it is an honest, truthful voice, as she has told us she could not lie, and we know that there is an urgency to Mary's recollections; 'i must write quick for i do not have too much time.' This draws us into the story, what is Mary's situation now, what has happened to her, why must she write quickly? She is thinking carefully about what she says though, her choice of words and why she is writing it. We know that this matters an awful lot, the fact that she has learned to write, as she reminds us, 'by her own hand,' which is certainly unusual for a girl in her position at that time in history. Whatever she needs to tell us, we sense it is important, and it is honest: 'I promised my self i would write the truth and the things that happened.'

Mary is a compelling creation, this girl whose hair is the colour of milk, who speaks plainly and soon grips the reader with her frank, literal way of dealing with people. 'You do speak your mind' remarks the vicar, to which Mary replies 'i only got one mind to speak so i ain't got no choice.' She has a curiosity that has her mother complaining 'you don't never stop asking and asking', to which Mary simply replies 'i like to know things.' She works hard and with determination. Despite the element of warning in her story, the ominous feeling about what she is going to divulge to us, I was not prepared for what was to happen.

This is a very special little book, telling a memorable story through an unusual, honest and quite wonderful voice. It will quite possibly be very different in style from most other things you'll read, and it is definitely worth reading - Mary leaves quite an impact.

Published on May 31st 2012 by Penguin Fig Tree in hardcover and ebook editions. 172 pages.

Thank you to the publisher for kindly sending me this title to read and review.



  1. Replies
    1. Thanks for commenting Rachel. Aw that's wonderful, thank you so much!! x

  2. This sounds beautiful and quite quirky. Thanks for reviewing it, Lindsay. x

    1. Thanks Treez. It is really rather special, and it is indeed quirky. I was surprised how quickly I got used to Mary's style of writing.

  3. I love the title and the cover of the book - it also sounds like an interesting premise for a story. Great review as usual Lindsay :)

    Megan @ Storybook Love Affair

    1. I like how it is just black and white and then one other colour.
      Thanks Megan :)


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