Anna Burns Pages: 348 Published: 2018
The book: In an unnamed town in an unnamed country (that feels a lot like Northern Ireland during the Troubles), middle sister (we don’t know her name) is trying to keep to herself and wants nothing to do with Milkman, who seems to be pursuing her. He is persistent. In a town where everyone knows everyone, it does not take much to spark a rumor and become the target of gossip. Middle sister wants none of this; attention during these times is dangerous. What will happen to middle sister? Who is Milkman?
You might like it because: Burns has created a vivid picture of everyday life and the complications that entail for a young woman in Northern Ireland during the Troubles. Her masterful writing has produced a visceral sense of menace that permeates the story, at times leaving the reader on a knife edge wondering what will happen next.
What did other people say?
“A deft and triumphant work of considerable intelligence and importance. It is a deeply feminist work, a compelling and significant look at how the regular life of a young woman is intimately used for personal and political gain. And it is told originally.”
– Los Angeles Times
“One of the most challenging books of the year – is also one of the most rewarding.”
– The Washington Post
“The cultural convention known as the novel can take a lot of pulling and contorting. So can readers. But ‘Milkman’ requires so much effort for so modest a result.”
– The New York Times
Awards & Recognition:
Winner of the 2018 Booker Prize
Winner of the 2018 National Book Critics Circle Award for Fiction
How quickly will you get into the book?
The opening line grabbed me right away and Burns’ stream of consciousness writing style pulled me on from there. I was determined to know what would happen in the end.
You might not like it because: Burns uses a unique writing style which initially I found very engaging but as I progressed through the book it became harder to take. At times it felt like the written equivalent of being talked at non-stop, for hours on end.
What might you read next?
In an interview in the Times Literary Supplement (UK) Burns was asked “What do you read on holiday?” She mentioned a number of books she read on her last vacation. Two of those were The Plot Against America by Philip Roth and Light in August by William Faulkner. You could read either or both of those.
Alternatively, pick up Wendy Erskine’s Sweet Home, a collection of short stories set in Northern Ireland.
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