Milkman by Anna Burns
Graywolf Press: 12/04/18
eBook review copy; 360 pages
Milkman by Anna Burns is the recommended winner of the 2018 Man Booker Prize.
The Milkman is set in an unnamed city in Northern Ireland in a city
under siege during the "troubles." The story is told over several months
through and narrated by an 18 year-old unnamed character. She is trying
to avoid the unwanted sexual attention and intimidation of a paramilitary figure known as the Milkman. She is trying to avoid him, but she is already standing out due to her reading while walking and taking
a French night class. All she wants is to keep on with her quiet life, reading while walking, running, and seeing her maybe-boyfriend.
Now the Milkman's unwanted attention has made her the target of rumor
and gossip and has, perhaps, also made her a target of surveillance.
Burns does an excellent job setting the novel in a specific place and
during a specific time. She also excels at capturing the attitudes of
the people living during the time of the troubles and the oppression and
rules they follow in order to go on and try to lead ordinary lives.
There are poetic moments buried in the rather dense prose which consists
of some of the narrator's ordinary activities but mostly covers her
inner, introspective thoughts and musings. There is a lot of repetition
and examination of a situation from different angles.
This was a challenging read for me, and not entirely enjoyable. Part
of the challenge is the lack of names, any names. Instead of names you
have middle sister, older sister, third sister, maybe-boyfriend, third
brother-in-law, nuclear-boy, Somebody
McSomebody, the wee ones, longest friend from primary school, etc., etc..
As with other reviewers, the many many times these
characterization-names were repeated began to grate after so many times.
I'm glad I read it, but it was a chore to finish the novel.
My review copy was courtesy of the publisher/author.