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Milkman by Anna Burns

Milkman (original 2018; edition 2018)

by Anna Burns (Author)

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1,1956811,316 (3.73)177
In Northern Ireland during the Troubles of the 1970s, an unnamed narrator finds herself targeted by a high-ranking dissident known as Milkman.
Authors:Anna Burns (Author)
Info:Faber & Faber (2018), Edition: Main, 368 pages
Collections:Your library

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Milkman by Anna Burns (2018)


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» See also 177 mentions

English (63)  German (2)  Piratical (1)  Welsh (1)  All languages (67)
Showing 1-5 of 63 (next | show all)
Stunning book, and so evocative of the Belfast I got to know, just a little. Burns has a unique voice and is immediately riveting. But (honesty spoiler) I found that I just didn't want to be in this world -- so claustrophobic and damaging to the humans in it. I eventually skipped to the ending to almost an entire paragraph consisting of the work "Ach." Again, gorgeous, spot on, even hilarious, but like being locked in a very dark, musty closet on the Springfield Road. I'm very glad this book received such recognition (and was moved when the author said that the prize money would finally allow her to pay some overdue bills). In a way this reminded me of my brief fascination with John Hawkes - another completely unique, stunning writer who proved (for me) very hard to read. ( )
  MaximusStripus | Jul 7, 2020 |
Did not finish it - not captivating enough for my interest. ( )
  SashiG | Jul 2, 2020 |
Its impossible to praise this book too highly. Its one of the most compelling books I have read in years. Yes, it does require some commitment from the reader; its not the sort of novel you can grab a few pages of at bedtime. You need to read this in decent size chunks or you won't get into the rhythm of the narrator, which is almost not quite, stream of consciousness.

A lot of reviews say that this is about Northern Ireland in the late 20th century, during the "Troubles". It could be - but it very much doesn't matter. By refusing to give any character a name - the narrator is "Middle Sister", she goes running with "Third Brother-in-Law", she is harassed by hopeful suitor Someone McSomebody - the author refuses to place her characters in any particular community, with any particular politics or religion, which you the reader might or might not sympathize with. Because that's not the point

The point is that the narrator, her family, her friends and their lives are severely constrained. They live in a community which is to all intents, under totalitarian control. Movement is constrained, the people you associate with heavily monitored, every action you take is studied for non-conformism, every act symbolic. Even the naming of children is subject to critical inspection

But Middle Sister has found ways of existing. She reads 19th century literature (nothing modern!) whilst walking. She takes French classes at nightschool in a neutral part of town. She goes for long runs. She pursues a maybe-relationship with maybe-boyfriend. Above all, she seeks to avoid attention. Sadly, she hasn't. Reading whilst walking is exactly the sort of non-conformist behaviour that will get you marked for attention. She finds she has attracted the attention of Milkman, rumoured locally to be powerful and dangerous, who she starts to encounter with increasing frequency. It is not clear exactly what Milkman wants, but local gossips assume they are having an affair. The other local "paramilitary groupies" certainly think she has become one of their number. Middle Sister finds that what little independence she has is gradually being whittled away and she is being pulled into Milkman's orbit

Despite this repressive, closed in atmosphere, there is a lot of humour here. Hopeful suitor Someone McSomebody gets a well deserved come-uppance in the ladies bathroom of the local club. Maybe-boyfriend's best friend Chef (he's not a chef) gets through the day by constantly dreaming of recipes and cooking techniques. Young girls become obsessed with ballroom dancing and the streets at night are full of young girls tripping over in their older sisters' high heels.

But there is sadness too; people die, people flee, people suffer the loss of large parts of their families. And an overwhelming sense of hopelessness.

Anna Burns has created a unique voice here, and a unique point-of-view. Its a stunning work ( )
  Opinionated | Jun 30, 2020 |
I don't know what to say. A very interesting story and interesting albeit wordy narration, but at the same time heavy and complicated. Bizarre chracters and milieu. Definitely something i did not expect. That's all I can say for now. ( )
  Iira | Jun 26, 2020 |
2.5 stars
This... was not easy to read. Objectively speaking I understand the praise: the writing is unconventional (e.g. instead of names, descriptions are used to refer to characters), there is a lot of philosophising and the political setting provides plenty of food for thought for the main character. These reasons, however, are also exactly what made it difficult for me to enjoy this book - it dragged on for way too long for me personally. Situations are used to stimulate thoughts, which lead to other memories and situations, instead of providing a storyline. On top of that, every main character is unlikeable. Reading Milkman requires a lot of concentration and I'm still unsure if it was worth it (hence the 2.5 stars). ( )
  frtyfour | Jun 16, 2020 |
Showing 1-5 of 63 (next | show all)
Als Anna Burns 2018 für ihren Roman Milkman mit dem Man-Booker-Preis ausgezeichnet wurde, tobte das verbissene politische Ringen um eine harte oder grüne EU-Außengrenze zwischen Irland und Nordirland. Burns konnte, als sie mit dem Roman über Belfast in den 1970ern zur Zeit des Nordirlandkonflikts begann, nicht absehen, dass er ein Buch der Stunde würde. Die Angst, dass der EU-Austritt Großbritanniens alte Wunden aufbrechen lassen könnte, ist heute aber noch immer nicht ausgestanden.
The day Somebody McSomebody put a gun to my breast and called me a cat and threatened to shoot me was the same day the milkman died,” begins this strange and intriguing novel that tackles the Northern Ireland conflict from the perspective of an 18-year-old girl with no interest in the Troubles...Anna Burns, who was shortlisted for the Orange prize in 2002 with No Bones, which also depicted the Troubles, is excellent at evoking the strange ecosystem that emerges during protracted conflict – “this psycho-political atmosphere, with its rules of allegiance, of tribal identification...What starts out as a study of how things go wrong becomes a study in how things go right, and the green shoots are not the work of the paramilitaries. The narrator of Milkman disrupts the status quo not through being political, heroic or violently opposed, but because she is original, funny, disarmingly oblique and unique: different. The same can be said of this book.

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For Katy Nicholson, Clare Dimond and James Smith
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The day Somebody McSomebody put a gun to my breast and called me a cat and threatened to shoot me was the same day the milkman died.
In our district the renouncers-of-the-state were assumed the good guys, the heroes, the men of honour, the dauntless, legendary warriors, outnumbered, risking their lives, standing up for our rights, guerrilla-fashion, against all the odds.
Thing was, my growing suspicions of almost everyone and everything was proof of how the milkman had got in.
I thought he might be watching us, spying on us, perhaps taking secret pictures of us, and especially I'd be worried because he'd made his position clear on my dating maybe-boyfriend. Yet here I was, still dating maybe-boyfriend, which didn't mean, however, I'd dismissed that bomb threat.
I wasn't sure anymore what was plausible, what was exaggeration, what might be reality or delusion or paranoia.
So 'I don't know' was my three-syllable defence in response to the questions.
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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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Average: (3.73)
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