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Milkman
Cover of Milkman
Milkman
A Novel
Borrow Borrow Borrow

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.

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.

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Awards-
About the Author-
  • Anna Burns was born in Belfast, Northern Ireland. She is the author of two novels, No Bones and Little Constructions, and of the novella, Mostly Hero. No Bones won the Winifred Holtby Memorial Prize and was shortlisted for the Orange Prize for Fiction. She lives in East Sussex, England.
Reviews-
  • Publisher's Weekly

    Starred review from November 5, 2018
    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.

  • Kirkus

    December 1, 2018
    In her third novel, which won the 2018 Man Booker Prize, Burns (Little Constructions, 2007, etc.) writes again about the Troubles in Northern Ireland, delivering a blistering feminist perspective on a community at war.With an immense rush of dazzling language, Burns submerges readers beneath the tensions of life in a police state. It's "the great Seventies hatred," ostensibly in Belfast (where Burns was born), where "two warring religions" have endured "eight hundred years of the political problems." Daringly, the novel's 18-year-old narrator, known only as "middle sister," claims that "every weekday, rain or shine, gunplay or bombs, stand-off or riots, [she] preferred to walk home reading[her] latest book." Her father's dead. She's one of 10 children. She has a job and a boyfriend she might move in with, studies French, and helps her mother with her three precocious little sisters. But in recent months, "one of our highranking, prestigious dissidents," known in the district as the "sinister, omniscient milkman," has decided to stalk her, a nasty business that has ended thanks to his being "shot by one of the state hit squads." His death ignites the tale, told in short jumps forward and backward in time, as the teenage narrator navigates the near-lethal rumor that she's actually dating milkman and has joined "the groupies of these paramilitaries." Less a coming-of-age story than a complex psychological portrait of Dostoyevskian proportion, each page bursts (at times repetitively) with inventive, richly detailed depictions of how "gossip, secrecy and communal policing" warp life doubly for those fighting injustice under an occupying foreign power. Burns was living on government assistance when she won the Man Booker, and her portrait of the way women, queer people, and the mentally ill in poverty eke out moments of joy despite intense surveillance, curfews, snipers, car bombs, and throat-cuttings is gripping and full of survivors' humor.A deeply stirring, unforgettable novel that feels like a once-in-a-generation event.

    COPYRIGHT(2018) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

  • Booklist

    Starred review from November 15, 2018
    Burns (No Bones, 2002) became the first writer from Northern Ireland to win the Man Booker Prize with this raw, traumatic tale addressing timeless themes of brutality, resiliency, and resistance. It is set in an unnamed city at an indeterminate time, but Burns' world is clearly the Belfast of the Troubles, even though it can double as any totalitarian society where people live in violent conditions and everyone seems to be suffering from some kind of post-traumatic stress disorder. The narrator, with her distinctive, conversational voice, is also unnamed, an 18-year-old girl who is pursued, on many levels, by the milkman of the title. He is a shadowy, older figure, creepy to boot, who, we learn early on, is not even a milkman. Instead of driving a milk lorry, he drives flashy cars, and sometimes, significantly, a small, white, nondescript, shape-shifting van. We are introduced to him while the young woman is caught walking-while-reading (Sir Walter Scott's Ivanhoe). The milkman pulls up in his van and offers her a lift; when she refuses, he drives away, pretending not to be offended, but this sets in motion all that follows. Milkman is a uniquely meandering and mesmerizing, wonderful and enigmatic work about borders and barriers, both physical and spiritual, and the cost of survival.(Reprinted with permission of Booklist, copyright 2018, American Library Association.)

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