Milkman A novel

Anna Burns, 1962-

Book - 2018

In Northern Ireland during the Troubles of the 1970s, an unnamed narrator finds herself targeted by a high-ranking dissident known as Milkman.

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FICTION/Burns, Anna
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Psychological fiction
Minneapolis, Minnesota : Graywolf Press [2018]
Physical Description
352 pages ; 21 cm
Main Author
Anna Burns, 1962- (author)
Review by Booklist Reviews

*Starred Review* 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. Copyright 2018 Booklist Reviews.

Review by PW Annex Reviews

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. (Dec.) Copyright 2018 Publishers Weekly Annex.

Review by Publisher Summary 1

In Northern Ireland during the Troubles of the 1970s, an unnamed narrator finds herself targeted by a high-ranking dissident known as Milkman.

Review by Publisher Summary 2

Winner of the Man Booker Prize“Everything about this novel rings true. . . . Original, funny, disarmingly oblique and unique.”—The GuardianIn 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.