Book Review: Milkman by Anna Burns

Format: Paperback

Pages: 360 pages

Published: December 11, 2018

Publisher: Graywolf Press

Genre:  Fiction & Literature, Literary Fiction
Synopsis:

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 named 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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How do you review a book that gives no proper names to its characters, particularly to the protagonist, an ambiguous setting and no clear plot? Pretty easily actually…especially if you highly enjoyed the book. I am not completely shocked that I enjoyed this latest read since I have a huge interest in European literature. However, I was completely thrown at how interesting and innovative Milkman by Anna Burns truly was.

milkreceived a lot of press last year. It wasn’t just because it was the winner of the 2018 Man Booker Prize. People have claimed that this book is “too challenging” and “a hard read”. My claim is that those people have forgotten to read deeper. If you are willing to put the time and effort into it, this book is not challenging. It might be a difficult transition for avid readers. For those who are used to reading traditional stories, you may have some difficulty getting used to. But I here to tell you that you need to give this one a chance. This book challenges our lateral way of thinking. The story goes outside the box and it asks its readers to do the same.

You may not know what the main character’s name is but that doesn’t stop you from forming a connection with her. The trial and the struggles she goes through are clearly identifiable. When tension arose, I felt every moment of it. Leaving her unnamed was most likely done on purpose. She isn’t just one person. Her personality and her life represent every woman in that community. A personal name is not needed to provide a connection to the readers. In fact, because of this innovative technique, it made me dive deeper into the story.

This story takes place during the Troubles, a political conflict that knew very little about. After reading this, I want to know more about this violent era. I could feel every paranoia, the fear at every turn. I remember this particular scene in a graveyard with the protagonist and the milkman as one of the most intense scenes of the novel, although very little was going on. But that was the whole point. This and many scenes in the book embodies the fear and the panic that went on during that time. I can’t say that this was an accurate portrayal because I never experienced it, however, the feelings that I felt while reading is hard to fabricate. If you know little about the Troubles, like me, this book is a good starter point.

People are always looking for a quick read and I can’t say that I blame them. With the hustle and bustle of our lives, we sometimes need a quick read to get us through the day. But I also think we sometimes disregard the books that require us to think just a little more and I feel that Milkman meets that category. This book reminds me of 18th-19th-century literature and probably that is why it appealed so much to me.

Don’t let the reviews discourage you. Please give this one a chance. If your reading resolution is to not only read harder but to read outside your comfort zone, then this book is a must for your TBR list of 2019.

Overall rating: 5 out of 5 stars


Get It At: Amazon |Barnes & Noble|Book Depository| Your local library

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