By Anna Burns
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In this unnamed city, to be interesting is dangerous.
Middle sister, our protagonist, is busy attempting to keep her mother from discovering her maybe-boyfriend and to keep everyone in the dark about her encounter with Milkman.
But when first brother-in-law sniffs out her struggle, and rumours start to swell, middle sister becomes ‘interesting’.
The last thing she ever wanted to be. To be interesting is to be noticed and to be noticed is dangerous. Milkman is a tale of gossip and hearsay, silence and deliberate deafness.
It is the story of inaction with enormous consequences.Tweet
A fantastically original book that I absolutely loved. Her writing style feels quite chatty and she often goes off at a garrulous tangent the way a talkative friend might do. The story is set in Ireland during The Troubles but we're given a totally different and much more intimate view to the one usually presented of what it was like for people living through it. Milkman is a sinister character who creates the story's tension while the narrative is sometimes quite funny. What a great read!
Two more reviews from the Parents' Book Club:
The gossip. The Nameless. The anyone. The everyone. The not knowing how to leave. The #MeToo. The #WhyIDidntReport. Milkman left me breathless and triggered. With so much unsaid, without being touched, how can this be?
This is its power 4/5
This touches everyone in its timelessness regarding gossip, hearsay, rumours 'know-you-to-see-but-not-to-speak-to nameless accusations spread by those in power and 'witch hunts' based on half truths that skew and change lives - change so many lives. When reading-while-walking makes you more strange than if you carried bombs - how do you remain true to yourself in such an unstable landscape?
Stunning book - brilliantly written 5/5
This one review contains 6 reviews that ranged from 2/5 to 5/5 stars - (Average book group score 4):
"The books raised some interesting points around #MeToo and gender. 2/5"
"Anna Burns use of language to convey stream of consciousness and paranoia is undeniably brilliant, although exhausting and taxing to read. She is very funny, slips in timely yet powerful observations and also beautiful descriptions of sunsets. I like how this book so accurately depicts how we can skirt around things, imply so much by saying so little and in turn cause confusion. In a post #MeToo era she conveys how a woman can be sexually abused by a man through words and powertrip alone. I got a sense of life amidst the Troubles at their height. To get the most out of this book you need to time, commitment and devotion. 3.5/5"
"The story is about rumour but we can read cultural, religious and nationalistic prejudice between the lines. She makes this strong and powerful by not giving names to the city, country or people. She is very good at irony, is creative and clever. 5/5"
" I loved her insight into the unspoken rules of social interactions, particularly within that cultural/political context, although the writing style is challenging. 4/5"
" I enjoyed being pulled into someone else's thought process, being immersed into Middle Sister's world which was at times gripping and relatable. The narrative however was often confusing and hard to read, particularly during the first section of the book. 3/5"
"The dialogue is so very different to a usual book, with a stream of consciousness that puts you into 18yr old Middle Sister's head, allowing you to become her experiencing the 1970's living within the Troubles and how, claustrophobic day life life could be, how hearsay & gossip & mishearing could destroy lives and how suffocating it could be to be yourself living - not even books or walking could allow you to escape! The glimpse of Middle Sister's life along with that of her family and how 'pride and prejudice' skew their lives is both fascinating and tragic. I have read nothing like this. Anna Burns is a genius. 5/5"
Thank you to @ReadingAgency and @FaberBooks for providing Macclesfield Library Reading Group with copies of Milkman by Anna Burns here are our reviews;
“One of the best books I have read in a long time. The style- a dense, almost mythic prose and the structure- a spiral form that circles to reveal the events slowly make this a freaky, horrifying and inspiring read.”
“Too dense, too intense, too complicated. Maybe if I had persisted I would eventually have related to the characters and appreciated the apparent humour.”
“Very difficult to read because of the density of constant thought process from the protagonist’s head. It proved to be hard going but the discussion afterwards was increasingly illuminating.”
“I did not enjoy this book and actually gave up after a few pages as I just could not engage with the read.”
“A difficult book to engage with- fully anonymous characters with no names make it difficult to feel sympathy even when I felt I should.”
“Whilst certainly not an easy or comfortable read, Milkman does allow us to share the “middle sister’s” stream of consciousness over two months of her life. Revealing the bizarre, restricted, claustrophobic and controlling world that is painted for us of Northern Irish life. The characters we come across are fascinating reflections of the world in which they live, sometimes sad and often funny yet never referred to by name.”