I like the strength in Lilian's face, and the stoic, slightly shy way she faces you. There is also a prettiness about her and a sense of Lilian coming from another time. I love the rich blue of the dress and the way the red scarf suggests the more sensuous side of her nature. In my mind, Lilian's hair is darker and messier than this, and Lilian herself is stronger-boned and more weathered by life on isolated Arapawa Island in 1938 - which is not to say my Lilian is the Lilian. The joy of fiction is that it is a private experience and every reader reads a different story.
I also see Lilian's mouth as less sad - but this reading of her relies on an older reader, I think, someone who can see and understand where Lilian's happiness lies within the pact she's made with herself. [I certainly wouldn't have got it when I was 17 - I know that - I'd have read it as a story of loss and grief....] Or am I kidding myself? I'd be interested to know other readers' responses.
The lower section of the painting shows Lilian's youngest child Billy - 'the one she did her best by'. This speaks volumes about her: one hand is closed almost in a fist, and the other rests only lightly on his shoulder. She is both protective of him and not fully engaged. In the same way, Lilian gazes out and gazes inward at the same time. Can you feel the secrets withheld?
Finally, it strikes me that the whole painting has the formality of a photograph, except that Billy is looking away. This is Lilian. This is the stuff of The Blue.
Postscript: Thanks to artist/writer Fifi Colston for photoshopping the portrait so it's a single picture rather than two scanned parts...