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No Bones

3.51  ·  Rating details ·  395 ratings  ·  72 reviews
The shattering and darkly funny debut novel from the author of Milkman, winner of the Man Booker Prize.

This is a book about feelings, family, sex, and Ireland—but don't tell Amelia that. She's the one growing up in the mad family, in the mad society, who doesn't want to know what's going on. But things are going on: eight-year-olds collecting very peculiar treasure; babies
Paperback, 359 pages
Published May 17th 2002 by W. W. Norton Company (first published 2001)
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Average rating 3.51  · 
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I knew nothing of Anna Burns before Milkman was longlisted (and more recently shortlisted) for this year's Man Booker Prize. It is my favourite book on that list, so when I heard that her debut novel was also about growing up during the Troubles, I was very keen to track down a copy.

This book has many of the same elements - it is full of horrific situations but told with such outrageous humour and exaggeration that it is also very entertaining. Unlike Milkman, the story spans almost the whole of
Paul Bryant
Aug 14, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: novels
If I’d have stopped reading this half way through I’d have said wow, what a blast, a fantastic new voice, brilliant black comedy about the Irish Troubles, fragments of the life of this wee sprot, this tiny girl trying to grow up amidst the kneecappings and the rubber bullets, and the chapter called Miscellany and Drift 1978 is one of the greatest things I read this year, blah blah, rave rave.

But if I started reading half way through (& since all these chapters are discrete & there’s no continual
Gumble's Yard
Nov 07, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2018
Thursday 1969

The Troubles started on a Thursday. At six o’clock at night. And seven whole days later, for Amelia was counting, she could hardly believe it, for here they were, still going on.

In the week of Anna Burns much deserved win in the 2018 Booker prize – I attended an event at London’s most famous bookshop – Foyles, where the Man Booker winner gave a reading and was interviewed by the literary editor of the New Statesman.

In the New Statesman, simplified write up what was a key intervi
Jonathan Pool
The debut novel from the recently anointed Booker prize winner, Anna Burns (for Milkman ).
Milkman has garnered praise from multiple quarters. I think this success reflects an innovative writing style that champions defiance in the face of brutal times; and clear injustice. Anna Burns’s own life back story is interesting in its own right, and a retrospective look back at Northern Ireland in the late c.20th is compelling.
What of No Bones? As a precursor to Milkman, No Bones also delivers a richly
Tom Byrne
Jun 13, 2013 rated it it was amazing

Burns uses her experience growing up in Belfast to present an unsentimental, realistic, and troubled perspective that is bound to make readers squirm.

Northern Ireland is an enigma for many readers, with a past, present, and future understood only through sound bites and partisan scholarship. WIthout apology, Burns allows readers to come to their own conclusions.

Mar 23, 2009 rated it it was ok
This book covers the "Troubles" in Northern Ireland from the 1960s to the 1990s. It is told primarily from the perspective of one young girl who grew up in the midst of Belfast in those years.

I don't usually mind reading about difficult things. The perspective of this book is really interesting, and eventually turns into an analysis of mental health as much as a tale of Ireland. It's all of the despicable characters who eventually made me not love the book. I'm glad I read it, but wouldn't reco
Oct 25, 2014 rated it it was amazing
I loved this. I see from other reviews that this is a book which people either love or hate. I certainly fall into the first category. The writing style is hard - there is no doubt Anna Burns makes you work as a reader but that is no bad thing. Parts of the book are funny, sad, dark, and most of all painfully truthful. Having grown up at the same time as Anna' main character in the west of Scotland during the Troubles this just brought to life the terrible price paid by people just a short dista ...more
Marguerite Kaye
May 21, 2011 rated it liked it
I didn't know what to think of this book. I've given it three stars because it was compelling and at times hilarious and really well written, but it also made me very, very uncomfortable and occassionally confused and I was left completly - I just don't know. I really admired the writing and the author for writing it, and to treat such sensitive subject matter in such a way was bold, really bold. Overall, this book was an experience, I just can't say what kind.
Akanksha Chattopadhyay
Feb 13, 2019 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2019-ebook
DNF-ed at 60%.
The lurid oversimplification of history, packed in with material that adds only to the book's shock value, had become too much to handle by this point.
Mar 04, 2011 rated it did not like it
I hate this book.

I'm almost done and can't even finish it.
In fact. Not only can I not finish it, but I can't even bring myself to start another book. That's how much I hate it.

It started out fine. I liked it in the beginning. But then it just fell apart. It turned into utter chaos. I'm sure I'm supposed to like it. I'm supposed to think that the deteriorating clarity in the novel reflects the deteriorating mental and physical situation of the characters, but to me it just seems like a mess. It f
Rebecca McNutt
This book tries way too hard to be messed up just for shock value, but it has no substance behind it. Aside from being pervy and twisted, it's just another book about a sullen girl with a dysfunctional family. Running with Scissors, I think we've found you a girlfriend! :) ...more
Lee Foust
Dec 06, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
No Bones is a terrific read, in my opinion, despite some formal issues that may or may not give away the patchwork nature of its composition. That is to say, the novel is made up of some 23 chapters, each of which could really be read as a short story in and of itself. The one thing that holds them together as a novel is the presence in each of Amelia, ostensibly our protagonist, even if often the individual chapters/stories focus on other characters. There's also a shift from third to first per ...more
tortoise dreams
Sep 03, 2019 rated it really liked it
A Catholic girl in Northern Ireland growing up during the Troubles, from age 7 to 32.

Book Review: No Bones is Booker Prize winner (for Milkman) Anna Burns' first novel, and similarly addresses the war zone that was Northern Ireland. Echoes of Milkman are abundant (yes, there's a milkman here, too, but everyone has names). If this novel is an only slightly distorted, many-year photograph of that brutal religious warfare, then Milkman is the unretouched negative: less clear, more stark. The novel
Mar 02, 2014 rated it did not like it
I don't really know where to begin or what to say about this book. It was hot mess from the start.

The story begins with a young girl, and her life growing up in troubled times in Ireland. If the story kept with that theme it really could have been a good story. But every chapter was a completely different story (none of which had anything to do with the next or previous), at times different people, and all of it was so over the top, raunchy or just stupid. Most of the chapters did nothing for t
Jul 25, 2007 rated it it was ok
This started out well.."Amelia remembered when the Troubles began." The way troubles is capitalized, I felt excited to learn what they were. At first, there were typical Troubles like her brother stealing her chest of "treasures" when she was six or the new puppies having to be drowned because no one wanted them or could care for them, then the Troubles escalated to things like one girl hitting another girl in the face with a typewriter, a Dad hanging himself for losing someone else's money and ...more
Mar 20, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Meet Amelia Boyd Lovett. Every single night and every single day Amelia goes upstairs to look at her treasure in a big battered suitcase: a miniature plastic sheep, a Black Queen chess piece...and thirty-seven black rubber bullets she's collected ever since the British Army started firing them...
One Goodreads review said that No Bones tries too hard to be messed up by being pervy and twisted. I thought it was an ironic and dysfunctional way to show how violence in Ireland affects children.
May 08, 2018 rated it did not like it
Couldn't finish
I loved the way this book started catapulting us into how two troubles started in Northern Ireland through the eyes of a confused child. The chaos, the brutality that then emerges is captured with a visceral and critical eye. The book then begins to drift into fantasy and each time frame gets further away from reality as it progresses and loses some of its power as a result. A good first book and glimpses of her talent that she showed in Milkman.
Dec 21, 2019 rated it liked it
I learned of this book because of Milkman and wanted to read this before that one.
I enjoy reading about this period of time, and found the humour in this book a stark contrast to the brutality of the happenings. Sometimes though, the jumping between characters lost me a little.
Looking forward to exploring more from this author.
Amalie Widerberg
Feb 03, 2020 rated it really liked it
Written in an unusual way, but very moving. Deffinetely the kind that sticks with you
Dec 07, 2011 rated it really liked it
Fragmented, disjointed but with a heartbreaking resounding truth. Through a mess of stories and thoughts Anna Burns takes us into the Amelia's world without trying attempting sentiment...watching the effect of the troubles on the children who grew up "unable to write about peace" we watch Amelia innocently digress from boys, to starvation to alcoholism...we watch those around her fall apart and yet refreshingly there is no point when we are meant to pity any of these characters. We understand mo ...more
Helen O
Dec 02, 2018 rated it really liked it
Having read and loved Anna Burn’s Milkman, winner of the 2018 Man Booker prize, I was curious to read her first novel, No Bones, shortlisted for the Orange prize for Fiction, 2002. As with Milkman, No Bones is set in Belfast during The Troubles and recounts the life of Amelia Lovett from 1969 when she is 11 years old up to 1994. It’s challenging to read at times and not recommended for readers seeking escapism from the messiness of life.

I can’t wait to see what Anna Burns writes next.
Jan 27, 2020 rated it really liked it
Nowhere near as coherent or well-plotted and organized as Burns’s second novel, Milkman, but still well-written and meaningful.
Aprille O'Neill
Dec 21, 2009 rated it did not like it
Ugh, I struggled to finish this one. It just wasn't that interesting, and I found it a bit hard to follow as well.
Oct 11, 2012 rated it it was amazing
How do the individuals that make up this community survive the daily thump of violence. The answer is they don't. We know this from the beginning, but still it breaks our heart.
Joann Carol
Feb 08, 2017 rated it really liked it
Fiction but reads like memoir. Makes one wonder how autobiographical it is. The chaos of living inside a war-zone as a child/teen/young adult is well-portrayed. Very engrossing writing.
Dave Parry
Feb 06, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I was reading Anna Burns’ 3rd novel, ‘Milkman’, as it won the Booker Prize in 2018 & then I heard her speak at the Hay Festival in 2019 about how her 3 books were best read one after the other in sequence; she signed all 3 for me as I decided to do just that; this is her first novel...

Set in Northern Ireland the book has a series of chapters dated from 1969 to 1994... “The Troubles started on a Thursday. At six o’clock at night.” (p.1) There’s a family united, then divided across the water... By
Mar 12, 2019 rated it really liked it
The 2001 debut novel of 2018 Booker Prize winner, Anna Burns, is similarly focused on the tragic impact of the Irish Troubles on the youth growing up during this unstable period. Spanning the years of 1969 (when "The Troubles started on a Thursday") until the "Peace Process, 1994"), the collection of short scenarios traces Amelia and her friends and family as they struggle to survive in an atmosphere of violence, betrayal, distrust, a time and life where "Safety doesn't exist." I wondered, as I ...more
Sep 15, 2019 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: reviewed
I started reading No Bones after falling absolutely in love with Anna Burns' Milkman which I found a surreal disorientating book about the Troubles. In her debut novel, you can see flashes of the same surrealism, the same flashes of black comedy, and the same unwillingness to shy away from the ugly brutality of its war and how it seeps into a person defining everything, a hyperreality which exists at all times, past/present/future, the nature of toxic masculinity and violence all tied together i ...more
David Saltiel
Dec 24, 2019 rated it really liked it
I found this book utterly stunning. I read it because I enjoyed Milkman. Well, mostly enjoyed I have to say. While Milkman is deliberately opaque about people and locations No Bones is almost forensically precise - in a place where which exact street you walk down might be the difference between life and death: read the chapter Sinners and Souls for example. Its less a novel more a collection of interlinked stories and while some are better than others there is an almost hallucinatory intensity ...more
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Anna Burns (born 1962) is an Irish author. She was born in Belfast and moved to London in 1987. Her first novel, No Bones, is an account of a girl's life growing up in Belfast during the Troubles.

Winner of the 2001 Winifred Holtby Memorial Prize
Shortlisted for the 2002 Orange Prize (No Bones)
Winner of the 2018 Man Booker Prize (Milkman)
National Book Critics Circle Award 2019 Nominee (Milkma

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