Winner of the Man Booker Prize
“Everything about this novel rings true. . . . Original, funny, disarmingly oblique and unique.”—The Guardian
In an unnamed city, middle sister stands out for the wrong reasons. She reads while walking, for one. And she has been taking French night classes downtown. So when a local paramilitary known as the milkman begins pursuing her, she suddenly becomes “interesting,” the last thing she ever wanted to be. Despite middle sister’s attempts to avoid him—and to keep her mother from finding out about her maybe-boyfriend—rumors spread and the threat of violence lingers. Milkman is a story of the way inaction can have enormous repercussions, in a time when the wrong flag, wrong religion, or even a sunset can be subversive. Told with ferocious energy and sly, wicked humor, Milkman establishes Anna Burns as one of the most consequential voices of our day.
APPLE BOOKS REVIEW
Set in 1970s Northern Ireland, this captivating novel explores timely themes of psychological abuse and surveillance states. From the moment Anna Burns’ unnamed narrator declares her obsession with reading classics because she “did not like the twentieth century,” we were hooked. As the 18-year-old becomes the victim of neighborhood gossip, Milkman’s stream-of-consciousness prose invites us to view the world through her mistrusting eyes. Burns uses few proper names or places. Instead, characters are named “maybe-boyfriend,” “Somebody McSomebody,” and, most importantly, “milkman”—bundling us up in the oppressive, small-minded atmosphere of the book’s anonymous city.
In her Booker-winning novel, Burns (No Bones) gives an acute, chilling, and often wry portrait of a young woman and a district under siege. The narrator she and most of the characters are unnamed ("maybe-boyfriend," "third brother-in-law," "Somebody McSomebody") lives in an unspecified town in Northern Ireland during the Troubles of the 1970s. Her town is effectively governed by paramilitary renouncers of the state "over the water," as they call it. The community is wedged between the renouncers, meting out rough justice for any suspected disloyalty, and the state's security forces. One day, "milkman," a "highranking, prestigious dissident" who has nothing to do with the milk trade, offers the narrator a ride. From this initial approach, casual but menacing, the community, already suspicious of her for her "beyond-the-pale" habit of walking and reading 19th-century literature, assumes that she is involved with the rebel. Milkman, however, is in essence stalking her, and over the course of several months she strives, under increasing pressure, to evade his surveilling gaze and sustained "unstoppable predations." There is a touch of James Joyce's Stephen Dedalus in the narrator's cerebral reticence, employing as she does silence, exile, and cunning in her attempt to fly the nets of her "intricately coiled, overly secretive, hyper-gossippy, puritanical yet indecent, totalitarian district." Enduring the exhausting "minutiae of invasion" to which she is subjected by milkman, and the incursion of the Troubles on every aspect of life, the narrator of this claustrophobic yet strangely buoyant tale undergoes an unsentimental education in sexual politics. This is an unforgettable novel. \n
Once you get the hang of the dialect, it reads like Joyce-ian Shakespeare
Captures in amazing texture and detail; a young woman struggling to navigate the generations-spanning dysfunctional turmoil of “the Troubles”. For me, the most compelling aspect was the spoken dialect - poetic in construction and deployments. The fact that joy and happiness could only be expressed through a double negative powerfully illustrates a constrained world where paramilitaries ensure that all of society at large watches and passes judgement, often fatally, on every action taken. Paranoia and second guessing go beyond just being useful coping skills and become the defining feature of a tangled and dark social fabric.
I couldn’t get into this story at all. Very slow, and the style was painful.
I wanted to read Milkman because it received so many great reviews and won the Man Booker prize.
The entire book is one long stream consciousness
I forced myself to finish it but it was a real slog to get through.
Really boring and repetitive.