Monday, 10 August 2015

The Colour of Milk by Nell Leyshon (4/5)

First published: 2012
Page count: 176
The back says: '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.

I say: The best part of this story - what actually makes this story - was the underlying tone of foreboding in Mary’s retelling of her life. We know that something bad happens somewhere along the line, why else would she be so adamant to defend herself tell her story.

And so the question becomes: what has she done?

However, before we even get there we get to know Mary; free-spoken, bold, brass and without a sense of propriety. I really liked her while she was on the farm, a place where her sassiness fit in, but as soon as she moved into the vicar’s house I found it somewhat unlikely that she would take the tone with him that she did. Or that the household would react to it the way they did. I don’t know, maybe there was more charm to Mary than I noticed that excused their mirth in her demeanour. 

Or maybe I’m just old and grumpy... 

Regardless, the way this is written, in Mary’s own trepidant and sometimes incorrect words, gives it that realistic feel you could never get with a narrator. It also allows for her to explain herself, her actions and what led to the reason she is documenting her life. I have to admit that even though I did see the end coming, it came in ways I had never imagined...

4/5 for this quick and engaging read.

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