Den scores *
* As a wild card scores varied from 5-9. Scores were divided.
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BY ANNA BURNS
Winner of this 2018's Man Booker Prize and already available in paperback, Milkman by Anna Burns is an extraordinary new novel that has the potential to divide opinion in your book club - so definitely a wild card choice but one that we urge you to experience.
Set “somewhere” in Northern Ireland during the 1970’s Troubles, it tells the story of a young girl dealing with the gossip, rumours and “what ifs” over what she may or may not have done, been part of or witnessed. Everyone is anonymous - no person or places are named - and this becomes a marmite moment for readers as stylistically it is ground-breaking, potentially challenging but truly innovative.
The novel tells the story of 'Milkman', an older man, presumed to be a leader of a paramilitary group, who starts to encroach on the life of the young narrator 'Middle Sister'. Through a stream of consciousness the reader experiences the sinister impact of Milkman's presence which escalates and suffocates Middle Sister's otherwise quiet but tough life. To escape the troubles Middle Sister indulges in long distance running with 'third brother in law', reading classics whilst walking, French night-time classes and meet ups with 'maybe boyfriend'. But the arrival of Milkman interrupts this and her relationship with him quickly escalates “beyond the pale.”
The novel touches on allegiance, trust, the danger of stepping out of line, but the young girl herself tells the story with dark humour and an originality that gives her and the reader hope. Burns herself has said that whilst her book focuses on the repressive society of Northern Ireland, there are many relevant parallels with other repressive regimes.
There has been much debate about whether you have to work at reading this book. Some of the Den found it hard to get into the mind-set whilst others found it spellbinding and unputdownable. It is a unique and inspirational novel, one we think you will be very pleased to have read.
- for people who love books -