“this is my book and i am writing it by my own hand.”
Mary and her three sisters awaken every day to back-breaking farm work 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, dare 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 own family farm, the vicarage is a world away—a curious, unsettling place unlike any she has known. Teaming with the sexuality of the vicar’s young son or 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 with a devastating price as is made gradually 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 The Color Purple’s Celie, The Colour of Milk is a quietly devastating tour de force that reminds us that that knowledge can devastate even as it empowers.