- Expected Feb 18, 2020
The darkly comic second novel from the author of the Man Booker Prize winner Milkman, now available in the United States
In the small town of Tiptoe Floorboard, the Doe clan, a close-knit family of criminals and victims, has the run of the place. Yet there are signs that patriarch John Doe’s reign may be coming to an end. When Jetty Doe breaks into a gun store and makes off with a Kalashnikov, the stage is set for a violent confrontation. But while Jetty is making her way across town in a taxi, an elusive, chatty narrator takes us on a wild journey, zooming in and out on various members of the Doe clan with long, digressive riffs that chase down the causes and repercussions of Jetty’s act.
Before Milkman took the world by storm after winning the Man Booker Prize, Anna Burns had already honed her distinctive voice. In her second novel, Little Constructions, she exhibits the same linguistic brio, coruscating wit, and scintillating insight into men, women, and the roots of violence. A wickedly funny novel that swoops and spirals as it examines the long shadow of abuse and violent crime, Little Constructions explores what transpires when unspeakable realities, long hidden from view, can no longer be denied.
Belfast native Burns's raucous, exacting modernist crime novel (after the Booker Prize winning Milkman) skewers men's incomprehension of women. After a young woman named Jetty Doe confounds a gun shop owner in a town known as Tiptoe Floorboard by snatching a Kalashnikov rifle and throwing a pile of money at him in pursuit of a crime of passion, shop owner Tom Spaders, already traumatized from being stabbed by teenagers in a mugging the year before, copes with the shock by blubbering to a friend about the woman's apparent ignorance over the type of gun she'd wanted. The story then zigs and zags through a wild chronicle of the Doe crime syndicate and its core members' immediate family, whose similar-sounding names Jotty, John, Johnjoe, Janet, Janine, etc. belie their complex, distinct identities (on Julie Doe: "This fifteen-year-old was older than her mother's thirtysomething friend"). Burns's narrator is a garrulous raconteur who drops in damning characterizations of men ("Why couldn't she be quiet and just listen and remain quiet even after she'd listened?," one wonders about his wife) while unspooling the freewheeling account of the Doe family's occult superstitions, their quirky sensitivity to noises, and the bloody brouhaha that follows the arrest of several gang members. While the narrator's digressive woolgathering will test some readers' patience, the acerbic gender commentary tightens the slack. Burns's fans will find much to chew on.