Summary and book reviews of Milkman by Anna Burns

Milkman

by Anna Burns

Milkman by Anna Burns X
Milkman by Anna Burns
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

  • Published:
    Dec 2018, 360 pages

  • Rate this book


Book Reviewed by:
Michael Kaler
Buy This Book

About this Book

Book Summary

Winner of the 2018 Man Booker Prize, Milkman is a tale of gossip and hearsay, silence and deliberate deafness. It is the story of inaction with enormous consequences.

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.

Excerpt
Milkman

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. He had been shot by one of the state hit squads and I did not care about the shooting of this man. Others did care though, and some were those who, in the parlance, 'knew me to see but not to speak to' and I was being talked about because there was a rumour started by them, or more likely by first brother-in- law, that I had been having an affair with this milkman and that I was eighteen and he was forty-one. I knew his age, not because he got shot and it was given by the media, but because there had been talk before this, for months before the shooting, by these people of the rumour, that forty-one and eighteen was disgusting, that twenty-three years' difference was disgusting, that he was married and not to be fooled by me for there were plenty of quiet, unnoticeable people who took a bit of watching. It had been my fault too, it seemed,...

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!
  • award image

    Man Booker Prize
    2018

  • award image

    National Book Critics Circle Award
    2018

Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

Thoughtful and deliberate, Milkman offers incisive commentary on gender socialization and the pressure to conform during an era of political instability. While the novel's experimental form and excessive introspection won't appeal to everyone, Burns has crafted an unforgettable tale about what it means to fall below "the benchmark of social regularity" at a time when difference is demonized.   (Reviewed by Michael Kaler).

Full Review Members Only (756 words).

Media Reviews

The Daily Telegraph (UK)
A darkly funny novel about Seventies Belfast that leaves words ominously unspoken

The Guardian (UK)
[This is] the sort of boldly experimental – and frankly brain-kneading – novel that is usually let in at longlist stage [of the Man Booker Prize] and gently dropped as the competition narrows...It will no doubt baffle many readers and depress a good few booksellers as an opener for the festive sales season, but at least it's not a vote for the status quo at a time when many have been saying the Booker has lost its mojo since it opened up to the Americans.

Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. Acute, chilling, and often wry...The narrator of this claustrophobic yet strangely buoyant tale undergoes an unsentimental education in sexual politics. This is an unforgettable novel.

Booklist
Starred Review. Milkman is a uniquely meandering and mesmerizing, wonderful and enigmatic work about borders and barriers, both physical and spiritual, and the cost of survival.

Kirkus Reviews
Starred Review. With an immense rush of dazzling language, Burns submerges readers beneath the tensions of life in a police state...A deeply stirring, unforgettable novel that feels like a once-in-a-generation event.

Irish Independent
Milkman is a potent and urgent book, with more than a hint of barely contained fury.

Irish Times
Milkman is both a story of Belfast and its particular sins but it is also a story of anywhere. It reminded me of China Mieville's The City and the City where identity, names and seeing the Other are contentious acts. Milkman shares this level of ambition; it is an impressive, wordy, often funny book and confirms Anna Burns as one of our rising literary stars.

Author Blurb Kwame Anthony Appiah, Chairman of the judges for the Man Booker Prize
None of us has ever read anything like this before. Anna Burns' utterly distinctive voice challenges conventional thinking and form in surprising and immersive prose. It is a story of brutality, sexual encroachment and resistance threaded with mordant humor. Set in a society divided against itself, Milkman explores the insidious forms oppression can take in everyday life.

Reader Reviews

Karen

Milkman Anna Burns
I expected much more from this book given the prize. It was difficult to read. I found no conclusion to the patter of conversations and endless ramblings that were seemingly in the head of the main character. It didn’t seem to draw any conclusions, ...   Read More

Patricia

Pretentious prose on steroids
Style should not be torturous for the reader. Paragraphs that troll on for pages, sentences that have no foreseeable end, do not capture my attention. Rather take an aspirin and go to bed. Sorry.

Write your own review!

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Beyond the Book

The Man Booker Prize Controversy

Man Booker prize trophyWhile frequently framed as a challenging novel, Milkman has resonated with critics and readers alike since the work won the Man Booker Prize in October 2018. Expressing the thoughts of many book reviewers, Ron Charles of the Washington Post branded Anna Burns' third book "the best last novel of [last] year" and "something strange and complex," a throwback to the complicated fiction of modernist titans such as James Joyce and Virginia Woolf. In spite of early fears that the novel would demand too much from casual readers, its sales also have soared, with over 300,000 copies sold in the UK and Ireland. The unexpected winner of the Booker has provoked very little controversy at a time when the prize itself has been facing a high level of ...

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Readalikes

Readalikes Full readalike results are for members only

If you liked Milkman, try these:

  • Trust Exercise jacket

    Trust Exercise

    by Susan Choi

    Published 2019

    About this book

    More books by this author

    Pulitzer finalist Susan Choi's multi-part, narrative-upending novel.

  • Boy Swallows Universe jacket

    Boy Swallows Universe

    by Trent Dalton

    Published 2019

    About this book

    An utterly wonderful debut novel of love, crime, magic, fate and a boy's coming of age, set in 1980s Australia and infused with the originality, charm, pathos, and heart of Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close and The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time.

Non-members are limited to two results. Become a member
Search Readalikes again
How we choose readalikes
Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket
    Transcription
    by Kate Atkinson
    Over her two-decade-plus career, Kate Atkinson has reinvented herself as a writer several times by ...
  • Book Jacket: Exhalation
    Exhalation
    by Ted Chiang
    Exhalation is an assemblage of nine short stories and novellas written by Ted Chiang, a computer ...
  • Book Jacket: Disappearing Earth
    Disappearing Earth
    by Julia Phillips
    On the remote peninsula of Kamchatka—tucked away on the far eastern corner of Russia and ...
  • Book Jacket: The Island of Sea Women
    The Island of Sea Women
    by Lisa See
    Lisa See's latest novel, The Island of Sea Women, follows the lives of Mi-ja and Young-sook, two ...

Readers Recommend

  • Book Jacket

    The Guest Book
    by Sarah Blake

    "An American epic in the truest sense…"
    Entertainment Weekly
    Reader Reviews

Book Club
Book Jacket
An American Marriage
by Tayari Jones

A masterpiece of storytelling, and a 2018 Oprah's Book Club Selection.

About the book
Join the discussion!
Win this book!
Win Miracle Creek

My husband asked me to lie. Not a big lie...

A thrilling debut novel for fans of Liane Moriarty and Celeste Ng.

Enter

Word Play

Solve this clue:

I I T S Form O F

and be entered to win..

Books that     
entertain,
     engage

 & enlighten

Visitors can view some of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only.

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends the best in contemporary fiction and nonfiction—books that not only engage and entertain but also deepen our understanding of ourselves and the world around us.