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2018 Longlist [MBP] > Milkman by Anna Burns

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message 1: by Maxwell (new)

Maxwell (welldonebooks) | 375 comments Mod
This thread is for discussion of Milkman by Anna Burns

Please be considerate of spoilers when posting your thoughts. Either use the spoiler tag or make it clear at the top of your comment that you will be posting specific details of the story.

Happy reading & discussing!


message 2: by Britta (last edited Aug 06, 2018 09:39AM) (new)

Britta Böhler | 314 comments Mod
I finished the book yesterday. The setting is intriguing (Northern Ireland during 'The Troubles', in the late 1970ies) but I was not blown away by it. Maybe because I'm just not such a big fan of stream-of-consciousness-novels (with hardly any paragraph-breaks). The writing was really good, I very much enjoyed the humor and Burns captures the claustrophic feel of a closed community very well. But after about half, I felt it got repetitive and for a plot-driven reader like me, there was too little story.
3.5*


message 3: by Hugh (new)

Hugh (bodachliath) | 151 comments I am only 90 pages in but I am very impressed so far - the way she gets inside the head of her character and her predicament is brilliant, and the writing style seems very fresh.


Gumble's Yard - Golden Reviewer Overall I really loved this book and I think it has to be marked up in the credit column for the judges that they longlisted it.

It is a book I would put very much at the Goldsmith (date I say Republic of Consciousness) end of the Booker spectrum.

However it will not be to everyone’s tastes.

As Britta remarks this is not a novel to read if you like a plot driven book or if you value temporal linearity in whatever plot does exist.

It is more for those who love dark humour, inventiveness in language and form.

It is also for those who think walking along while reading a book is perfectly normal.

But it is also a book which covers a very dark period in British history.

To give you an idea of the novel I picked a few passages from the closing pages.

When it came to it though, they didn’t get all they were after because to save face the renouncers’ final judgement was that this milkman of the area had proven another district resistant with anti-social behavioural tendencies not consistent within a standard perimeter of conformability, meaning he qualified as another member of our community’s woebegone beyond-the-pales.

...... So I prepared [wee sisters] tea, which meant basically getting it out of the cupboards. All the time though, it was, ‘Middle sister! Please hurry. Will not you hurry? Modest amounts please. But cannot you be more instanter than that? .....

we’re plastered,’ they said, and then they, including sister, fell over the ornamental hedge. Sister exploded into advanced asterisks, into percentage marks, crossword symbol signs, ampersands, circumflexes, hash keys, dollar signs, all that ‘If You See Kay’ blue french language. Her friends, picking themselves up off the grass, plus their bottles and shopping, rejoined with, ‘Well, we told you, friend. We warned you. It’s rambunctious, out of control. That hedge is sinister. Get rid of it.’ ‘Can’t,’ said sister. ‘I’m curious to see how it’ll transpire and individualise.’ ‘You can see how it’s transpired and individualised. It’s transpired into day of the triffids. It’s individualising into trying to kill us.’ Then they left off hedge-disparagement and turned their attention to us.


message 6: by Hugh (new)

Hugh (bodachliath) | 151 comments I agree with Gumble - this was a terrific start to the longlist - full credit to the judges for spotting it, not an easy read, but an enjoyable, stimulating, thought-provoking and original book. My review


message 7: by Barbara (new)

Barbara (bdegar) | 30 comments This is one I really want to read. I read a lot of books from Northern Ireland - poetry (the best!), history, and of course, novels, especially classics. I have been fortunate to participate in 2 summer schools there - in 2009 at the Heaney Poetry Centre at Queens U in Belfast, and in 2016 in the John Hewitt International Summer School in Armagh. Also in 2014, I attended and presented at the Seamus Heaney Commemorative Conference. I have a deep and abiding interest in the area.
I do understand that "Troubles" literature is not for everyone, but when it is well-written, it transcends that category. Case in point is The Good Son by Paul McVeigh (and I am not a fan of novels about adolescent boys).


Gumble's Yard - Golden Reviewer Your views on this book will be fascinating to hear.


message 9: by Barbara (new)

Barbara (bdegar) | 30 comments Gumble's Yard wrote: "Your views on this book will be fascinating to hear."

Thanks. I was a bit worried about "boasting" which is a mortal sin in Irish culture. Although I am a Yank, I realized now working in academia that self-promotion was something I learned not to do growing up. It could be a mixture of a Catholic upbringing, an Irish American mother who grew up in poverty, and my "common sense" German American father.


message 10: by Hugh (new)

Hugh (bodachliath) | 151 comments I look forward to your thoughts on this one Barbara


message 11: by Barbara (new)

Barbara (bdegar) | 30 comments Hugh wrote: "I look forward to your thoughts on this one Barbara"

Pushing through the books I am currently reading so I can get tt first.o this one. Of course I have to buy i


message 12: by Neil (new)

Neil | 511 comments I got off to a bad start with this one. At one stage, I thought I might not finish it. But something clicked at about one-third through and I loved it from there onwards.

The language is fascinating to read. The theme sits well with the predominant themes of the overall list (tribalism and border). It is both funny and terrifying.


message 13: by Meike (last edited Aug 08, 2018 09:04AM) (new)

Meike (meikereads) I felt like Neil, at least to a degree: It became easier to get into it after a while, still the whole experience of reading it remained rather unpleasant. But it's not that the book doesn't have some strong points: I liked how Burns managed to show how the charged situation disrupts communities, not only between the two opposing sides, but also within the protagonist's party: Who might be a traitor? Who is not properly supporting the cause? Who doesn't conform to the group's standards? Who might be a spy? Fear and fanatism drive the people into a kind of communal neurosis, fueled by the constant state of emergency they live in. These effects of the Troubles can be transferred to many conflicts and politically charged situations.

Large parts - in fact, very large parts - of the book are comprised of the protagonist's ruminations, and while many of her thoughts are interesting per se, she goes on and on and on and accesses certain aspects from all angles possible, again and again. From a poetic standpoint, this makes sense: There is not much real action, but much talk that goes around in circles and thus becomes the reality of the book and of the protagonist's life - but I found it tedious to read. The same goes for the constant repitition of labels like "maybe-boyfriend", repeated again and again and again...

I liked the growing absurdity of the storyline though - that was the right degree of nuts! :-)

Here's my review.


message 14: by Hugh (new)

Hugh (bodachliath) | 151 comments I got used to her idiosyncratic naming system very quickly and barely noticed it towards the end. So far this is the only book on the longlist that has made me laugh out loud. I accept that it is hard work, particularly the first 100 pages, and it won't be a book everyone can enjoy.


message 15: by Meike (new)

Meike (meikereads) It is funny, Hugh, I give it that! :-)


message 16: by Barbara (new)

Barbara (bdegar) | 30 comments My copy is on the way. I am eager to read this book. For a Yank, I have an unusually strong attachment to Northern Ireland. I am not one of those American supporters of the Provos and all that, but first became interested in the Republican Movement when I took an Irish history course my final year at university. I wrote my paper on a history of the IRA. This was the early 1970's. I moved to Boston a couple of years later for graduate school where my contact with Irish American and Irish immigrant supporters of the Provos proved them to be very very conservative. In addition to the usual Catholic positions (anti divorce, anti choice), they were anti-busing - the racial integration of public schools in the city. So I moved away from them quickly. There were others working in the city towards peace efforts, most notably Padraig O'Malley who went on to a shining career in peace and reconciliation. He is currently the John Joseph Moakley Professor of Peace and Reconciliation, at John W. McCormack Graduate School of Policy and Global Studies at University of MASS in Boston. I made 5 or 6 trips to Northern Ireland in the late 70's and early 80's. I was young, and perhaps a bit wreckless. But I always had contacts there, and places to stay. In 1998, I made my first post-Good Friday agreement visit to Northern Ireland. This turned out to be my closest brush with violence as I was in Omagh just a few minutes before the bombing. Rather than keep me away, I saw it as meaning I had to go back. Since 1998, I have been 4 more times - mostly for activities related to poetry and literature.

This is a rather long backgrounding of why I want to read this novel. I am also the major "pusher" of novels from Northern Ireland in my book club which only reads contemporary Irish fiction (no earlier than 2000, but focused on recent book) . http://www.solasnua.org/book-club-1/
The organization that the book club is part of, gets some financial support from the Northern Ireland Bureau and it helps that we read novels from the North.


message 17: by Michael (new)

Michael | 11 comments I enjoyed the rather unique narrative style. Ruminations and explanations are not usually my thing, but I felt the conceits of the style helped to transform telling into showing (sometimes). I enjoyed the themes explored, big and small, and I liked where the story landed overall. Strong contender.


message 18: by Dianne (new)

Dianne (derbyrock) | 5 comments This is a book to be admired rather than enjoyed. I would love to have a few of my friends at the opposite ends of the spectrum in American politics read this. If felt all too familiar. I wished it were shorter. It was laborious and claustrophobic at such a length and the points were made earlier. I see why it was included. I would expect to see it on the shortlist.


message 19: by Robert (new)

Robert | 363 comments Here's my review:

https://deucekindred.wordpress.com/20...

I agree with Dianne


message 20: by Hugh (new)

Hugh (bodachliath) | 151 comments Sorry you didn't enjoy it more. Still easily my favourite on the longlist.


message 21: by Robert (new)

Robert | 363 comments Hugh wrote: "Sorry you didn't enjoy it more. Still easily my favourite on the longlist."

So am I - usually I like books in the vein of Milkman (I mean Absence of Absalom has a similar structure) but I guess it was a case of wrong time. Probably in a few years time I will revisit it and I'll get more out of it.


message 22: by Hugh (new)

Hugh (bodachliath) | 151 comments I can't see any discussion here about why Burns chose to write about late 70s Belfast now. She was born there and is old enough to remember what it was like, and to me much of this book's message seems extremely relevant to today's society - particularly the difficulty of fighting hate-driven prejudice and petty tribalism.


message 23: by Bartleby (new)

Bartleby (bartlebyscrivener) I forgot to come here after finishing this book. I liked it immensely and I'm very grateful for the man booker judges for having put it on the longlist, otherwise I wouldn't have heard of it, much less read it. And I'm not sure what else I can say about it that you guys haven't already, so I'll just say that I could read a whole book about the wee sisters, such amusing and engaging characters! :)


message 24: by Barbara (new)

Barbara (bdegar) | 30 comments Gabriel wrote: "I forgot to come here after finishing this book. I liked it immensely and I'm very grateful for the man booker judges for having put it on the longlist, otherwise I wouldn't have heard of it, much ..."

I hope this novel brings more attention to writers of Northern Ireland. They are probably among the most overlooked writers in the English language. I just finished One by One in the Darkness by Deirdre Madden which I have to write a review of. Last year, the poet and novelist Nick Laird wrote an interesting novel Modern Gods.


Gumble's Yard - Golden Reviewer Bernard MacLaverty's Midwinter Break was a wonderful book somehow omitted from last year's Booker longlist.


message 26: by Barbara (new)

Barbara (bdegar) | 30 comments Gumble's Yard wrote: "Bernard MacLaverty's Midwinter Break was a wonderful book somehow omitted from last year's Booker longlist."

You are the first person I have seen suggest this and I agree. You also are probably aware that until a change in rules about 2 years ago, many new Irish novels were out of the running because of a rule that they had to be simultaneously published in Britain. Small presses like Tramp Press that first published Solar Bones found their books excluded. Big publishers come along and reissue these Irish novels and reap the profits. Glad the rule was changed.


Gumble's Yard - Golden Reviewer Yes I was, due to Tramp Press's media campaign on the topic.

The long overdue rule change was this year.


message 28: by Paul (new)

Paul Fulcher (fulcherkim) Was then a shame that the beneficiary of the rule change this year wasnt Tramp Press or one of their peers. Instead it was the biggest publisher of all, which already had 6 other books on the longlist under their other brands: Penguin Random House under their Doubleday Ireland imprint.


message 29: by Barbara (new)

Barbara (bdegar) | 30 comments Paul wrote: "Was then a shame that the beneficiary of the rule change this year wasnt Tramp Press or one of their peers. Instead it was the biggest publisher of all, which already had 6 other books on the longl..."
The swallowing up of other publishers by Random House and the few big publishing houses that remain, have put a damper on creative publishing. I would say readers who want to support new writing should go out of their way to buy from small publishers. A few that I try to buy from in addition to Tramp Press are Charco Press https://charcopress.com/, The Stinging Fly Press https://stingingfly.org/books/ and New Island http://newisland.ie/ among others. Most of those I listed are Irish, and I need to do some research on small presses in the UK.


message 30: by Paul (last edited Sep 02, 2018 10:16AM) (new)

Paul Fulcher (fulcherkim) The longlist of the Republic of Consciousness Prize each year is a good place to start for UK & Irish small independent presses (I was one of the judges last year as were Neil and Gumble's Yard who also post here). Galley Beggar and Fitzcarraldo Press are two excellent ones.

See also the folder here for some favourite presses: https://www.goodreads.com/topic/group...


message 31: by Barbara (last edited Sep 02, 2018 04:33PM) (new)

Barbara (bdegar) | 30 comments Paul wrote: "The longlist of the Republic of Consciousness Prize each year is a good place to start for UK & Irish small independent presses (I was one of the judges last year as were Neil and Gumble's Yard who..."

Thanks Paul for the lead. I've heard of the prize but have been remiss at getting the list, and reading books nominated there. And the Presses group is a great resource too!


message 32: by Sean (new)

Sean | 17 comments Simply dreadful. I was so bored by the lack of plot, character development or paragraph breaks that finishing this novel became a chore.
And yes I think walking and reading is perfectly normal activity, but only with books I am enjoying


message 33: by Keriann (new)

Keriann (kad123) I had to DNF this one....wasn't for me at all


message 34: by Keriann (new)

Keriann (kad123) Sean wrote: "Simply dreadful. I was so bored by the lack of plot, character development or paragraph breaks that finishing this novel became a chore.
And yes I think walking and reading is perfectly normal acti..."
I agree. the long chapters made this even more tedious for me


message 35: by Charlott (new)

Charlott (halfjill) | 39 comments I just finished Milkman yesterday and I think it is a phenomenal novel. I won't have time to write an in-depth review before the announcement of the prize but I think it is a very worthy contender.


message 36: by Paul (new)

Paul Fulcher (fulcherkim) Charlott wrote: "I just finished Milkman yesterday and I think it is a phenomenal novel. I won't have time to write an in-depth review before the announcement of the prize but I think it is a very worthy contender."

Agreed the stand-out novel of this year's list.


message 37: by Noël (new)

Noël (the_book_rook) | 6 comments The weakest on the shortlist, imo.


message 38: by Robert (new)

Robert | 363 comments Noël wrote: "The weakest on the shortlist, imo."

I agree


Gumble's Yard - Golden Reviewer Far and away the strongest in my view and interestingly top in the collective votes of the Mookes and Gripes forum. My favourite winner for many years.


message 40: by Paul (new)

Paul Fulcher (fulcherkim) I think I would put only Midnight's Children, Remains of the Day and Possession above it actually from the 25 or so past winners I have read.


message 41: by Doug (new)

Doug | 77 comments Insert vomit emoji here - the worst book I've read in the past ten years.... it sapped my will to live!


message 42: by Barbara (new)

Barbara (bdegar) | 30 comments I am over the moon that it won!


message 43: by Paul (new)

Paul Fulcher (fulcherkim) For those near to London, Anna Burns will be at the winner's event at Foyles on Thursday (ie tomorrow) night

https://www.foyles.co.uk/Public/Event...


Gumble's Yard - Golden Reviewer I will be there.


message 45: by Sean (new)

Sean | 17 comments Gobsmacked this tedious book won. Thin characters, little plot, endless paragraphs, what was their to like? I’m jealous of those who didn’t waste a few summer days reading it.


message 46: by Barbara (new)

Barbara (bdegar) | 30 comments Sunita wrote: "I wouldn't let myself hope that it would win, and I'm beyond thrilled that it did."

Me too! The first Northern Irish writer to win - and a woman to boot! of course Seamus Heaney won the Nobel.


message 47: by Stephen (new)

Stephen | 4 comments The First Minister for Scotland, Nicola Sturgeon, tweeted this at the weekend -

'My current read is the @ManBookerPrize winner and it’s one of the most engrossing, timely & thought provoking novels I’ve read in a while. And not at all the ‘difficult’ read some have claimed - takes a few pages to get the narrator’s voice and then it flows. Highly recommended.'


message 48: by Charlott (new)

Charlott (halfjill) | 39 comments In the meantime, I wrote my (albeit brief) review:

https://www.goodreads.com/review/show...

I still think about this book and the feelings I had reading it. So pleased, it won.


message 49: by Sylvie (new)

Sylvie | 5 comments Once you get into the rhythm of her unique voice, you find all kinds of nuances and themes. Worth persevering. my review is on Good Reads


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