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Milkman
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Booker Prize for Fiction > 2018 Booker Winner: Milkman

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message 1: by Trevor (new)

Trevor (mookse) | 1842 comments Mod
Milkman, by Anna Burns


MisterHobgoblin This is one that I am especially excited by. I had wanted to read it but couldn't slot it in before the Bookerthon - so pleased I can now read it as part of the Booker books. Anna Burns's debut, No Bones, was one of the strangest books to come out of the Northern Ireland troubles and still haunts me.


message 3: by Ang (new) - rated it 5 stars

Ang | 1685 comments You've sold me, MisterHobgoblin. Ordered.


Roland Freisitzer (rolandf) | 68 comments I've just ordered it too. MisterHobgoblin's post and the free sample I managed to download convinced me... will look into "No Bones" at a later date...


Gumble's Yard - Golden Reviewer | 6116 comments About twenty percent into this and loving it so far. A really fresh and original voice and take on the Troubles. And a narrator considered as weird by her community for reading while walking. Surely we all do that on this forum?


message 6: by Doug (new) - rated it 1 star

Doug Gumble's Yard wrote: "About twenty percent into this and loving it so far. A really fresh and original voice and take on the Troubles. And a narrator considered as weird by her community for reading while walking. Surel..."

I can relate...if I didn't read while walking, I would never get ANY exercise... and lots of people think that is very weird!! Ordered my copy yesterday and am looking forward to that one! (gorgeous cover too, BTW!)


Hugh (bodachliath) | 3368 comments Mod
Glad to hear you are enjoying it Gumble. I have started it too and so far I agree. And yes, I have been known to read while walking.


Billy  | 15 comments Where are you guys ordering? Book Depository has a paperback but pricey.


Gumble's Yard - Golden Reviewer | 6116 comments Amazon kindle as on a business trip to Singapore when the longlist was announced.


MisterHobgoblin Also reading this - am a slow reader so you guys will finish before me but loving it to bits. Plus having fun spotting locations. If anyone is interested, the ten minute area is Carlisle Circus and the reservoirs and parks is Cavehill Road.


message 11: by Hugh (new) - rated it 5 stars

Hugh (bodachliath) | 3368 comments Mod
My copy was from Waterstones (priced at £12.99).


Robert | 2106 comments Gumble's Yard wrote: "About twenty percent into this and loving it so far. A really fresh and original voice and take on the Troubles. And a narrator considered as weird by her community for reading while walking. Surel..."

I read and walk as well


message 13: by Sam (new) - rated it 3 stars

Sam | 1713 comments Billy wrote: "Where are you guys ordering? Book Depository has a paperback but pricey."

Amazon US kindle copy was only $9.99.


message 14: by Hugh (new) - rated it 5 stars

Hugh (bodachliath) | 3368 comments Mod
It is quite densely written - long paragraphs and not many chapter breaks.


message 15: by Sam (new) - rated it 3 stars

Sam | 1713 comments I was finding it tedious. It finally perked my attention at chapter 3 but I keep dodging the reading to check comments at The Mooks and Gripes group.


Gumble's Yard - Golden Reviewer | 6116 comments I am still really enjoying it


message 17: by Hugh (new) - rated it 5 stars

Hugh (bodachliath) | 3368 comments Mod
I may be able to finish tomorrow. I am very impressed so far - it is quite chilling but there are some very funny moments.


message 18: by Doug (last edited Jul 25, 2018 02:56PM) (new) - rated it 1 star

Doug Billy wrote: "Where are you guys ordering? Book Depository has a paperback but pricey."

I ordered my hardcopy from Books Depo for a reasonable $16 ... but see they have now jacked up the price! ...and claim it isn't available for a few months :-(


Maddie (ashelfofonesown) | 113 comments I'm so excited to read this one! It was one of the few books that was already in my TBR before the Booker was announced. I have a feeling this one might be the winner for me (hopefully I'm not wrong).


Gumble's Yard - Golden Reviewer | 6116 comments 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.

If Doug reads it I am sure he will assign it his infamous two stars. And I rarely hope he does read it, as this book is absolutely ripe for one of his infamous takedowns.

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.


Robert | 2106 comments Ohhh I can't wait!!!!!


Gumble's Yard - Golden Reviewer | 6116 comments My review is up - its a little lengthy (as a warning)

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


Roland Freisitzer (rolandf) | 68 comments Gumble's Yard wrote: "My review is up - its a little lengthy (as a warning)

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


Great review Gumble's Yard. This is my next up, can't wait.


message 24: by Tommi (last edited Jul 25, 2018 11:43PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Tommi | 514 comments Sounds fantastic and right up my alley.

I find that I’m increasingly trusting in the literary fiction that Faber publishes. At least recently there have been several if not perfect then at least noteworthy books that are innovative. It’s nice to notice that happen even with such a big publisher.


message 25: by Neil (new) - rated it 4 stars

Neil | 1978 comments It sounds great! GY, I am not going to read your review until I have read the book. I have a copy ready to go, so will get to it soon.


Gumble's Yard - Golden Reviewer | 6116 comments Makes sense Neil and thanks to others for their comments.


Robert | 2106 comments Tommi wrote: "Sounds fantastic and right up my alley.

I find that I’m increasingly trusting in the literary fiction that Faber publishes. At least recently there have been several if not perfect then at least ..."


True!! I've been noticing that! I also am going through a Granta phase (Portobello is also under them) and they can also do no wrong imo.


message 28: by Doug (new) - rated it 1 star

Doug Gumble's Yard wrote: "If Doug reads it I am sure he will assign it his infamous two stars. And I rarely hope he does read it, as this book is absolutely ripe for one of his infamous takedowns.

Silly guy! Of course I'll read it, I read the entire longlist!! Got my copy on it's way from Books Depo ... but been having delivery probs with them recently, so hope it gets here... I'm not going to be able to start my Booker Marathon for a week though, as I have several books from the library I need to get to first :-(

And I dare say I MIGHT like it, since I AM a read/walker too! But it's been awhile since a takedown review, and I'm sure at least ONE nominee will inspire me... :-)


Gumble's Yard - Golden Reviewer | 6116 comments I think this could be the one, unless you are going to a graphic take down of Sabrina.


message 30: by Jen (new) - rated it 5 stars

Jen | 114 comments Oh this sounds great, my library doesn't have it (or many of the other longlisted titles) so I might purchase a copy. (Just checked and release date here is December 2018!)


message 31: by Hugh (new) - rated it 5 stars

Hugh (bodachliath) | 3368 comments Mod
I have written a draft review here - I still have a few pages to read but it is unlikely to change much and I can't do the link easily from the phone, so it's easier to share from the office. Almost certainly five stars: My review


MisterHobgoblin Milkman is a stream of consciousness story narrated by an unnamed young woman living in an unnamed part of Belfast (probably the Ardoyne), some time in the late 1970s.

By way of context, the intensity of the killings in the early 1970s – especially the civilian deaths – had subsided; there had been population movement and people had retreated into small, “safe” pockets exclusively populated by people of the same political tradition (which was also generally correlated to people’s national identity and religion). Both unionists and nationalists still thought they could win the war through armed conflict, and the political voice of Sinn Féin had not yet come to the fore. The Hunger Strikes were still a couple of years into the future and most people could remember a time before the British Army was deployed to assist the civil power…

So the novel is almost a love story set in this quite specific time period. Our narrator lives in a Catholic enclave of North Belfast. She reads 19th century novels while walking, which marks her out as a bit odd. Her maybe-boyfriend is a car mechanic from another unspecified Catholic district of Belfast. She is from a large family, four-ish brothers and three sisters and Ma. Da is dead.

Our narrator talks to herself extensively in a colloquial Belfast voice that hinges on repetition and over-explanation. It is a sarcastic voice, cynical about the sectarian conflict and the motives of those who engaged in it. She narrates in euphemisms: the Sorrows, Renouncers of the State, Defenders of the State, the country across the water, the country across the border. People are second sister, the real milkman, chef, the tablets girl, Somebody McSomebody. Similarly places are not names and although most are recognisable – the reservoirs and the parks is Cavehill Road; the ten minute area is Carlisle Circus; the usual place is Milltown cemetery – the euphemisms allow liberties to be taken with the geography.

The resulting text is very dense, often circular (at the very least non-linear) and pretty intense. It is like Eimear McBride crossed with James Kelman.

The story is one of personal love and personal tragedy set within a dysfunctional society. Our narrator wants to be with maybe-boyfriend, but is admired by Milkman (a senior ranking paramilitary) and Somebody McSomebody (a wannabe paramilitary – was this a time before spides?). In a world where normal law and order does not operate, where law is made by the paramilitaries and is mutable, where whispers and innuendoes constitute evidence, this is a dangerous space. Our narrator knows the perils and even the most mundane activities – jogging by the reservoirs, buying chips, learning French, winning a scrap Blower Bentley supercharger – can be fraught with danger. Her quirky narration and eccentric world view manage to create deliciously black comedy from these dangers.

Milkman is a timely novel. This period of the late 1970s has been largely airbrushed out of both world and Northern Irish history. Nowadays the Republican movement has been rehabilitated. They are seen to champion human rights and to lead the equality agenda. Its history is seen to be the ballot box in one hand and the armalite in the other. Their community justice is seen to have been a viable – almost legitimate – alternative to the RUC and the state agencies. It is often almost assumed that those who lost their lives (apart from in the early 1970s) had been “involved”. But what we see is a violent society with kangaroo courts based on self-interest and hypocrisy, arbitrary expulsions, witch hunts, suspicion. Paramilitaries tyrannise their own communities but the communities seem to lap it up. Each fresh atrocity is just casually dropped into conversation.

More than anything, our narrator, her family and friends needed stability and predictability. What they got was the law of the jungle. And we know from history that they had 15 more years of this ahead of them before the first signs of the re-emergence of normality.

Of course all this is viewed from a nationalist vantage point but we can safely assume that the situation was mirrored in the loyalist community across the road.

And Milkman is also relevant to current developments as we start to see the emergence of an anti-political movement based on extreme and ill-planned actions. Brexit as a response to immigration and crime. Walls and travel bans and flip-flopping between nations and leaders being best friends and beyond the pale.

If Milkman has a failing, it is that the meandering narration can frustrate the reader. There are few natural pauses, there can be a feeling that we have already covered this ground, ideas and phrases repeat. But they do add up to a work that is strong enough to carry the frustration. Milkman is a mature work that does say something new (or at least say it in a new way) in a field that has been ploughed often before.


Gumble's Yard - Golden Reviewer | 6116 comments Mister Hobgoblin. Wonderful review. Especially coming from someone who can vouch for the authenticity of the sense of time and place in the novel.

Interestingly that is what Neil has asked for on the thread for In our Mad and Furious City.

Where I have the knowledge to do so I agree with everything you say.


Gumble's Yard - Golden Reviewer | 6116 comments My other question would be how it compares to her debut novel (of which I know you were a fan).


MisterHobgoblin It is many years since I read No Bones, so cannot vouch for the accuracy of anything I say. But...

No Bones was an easier read - the point of view of a child growing into a teen. So we had the joys of collecting plastic bullets after a riot and not fully understanding the significance of older brothers with balaclava helmets. It ends with a really surreal trip to Rathlin Island as a teenager.

Milkman is more grownup, more intense, and deals with adult themes - rape, drugs, vilification, hypocrisy.

I did not live in Northern Ireland in the late 1970s - but I know people who did and I did live in Northern Ireland pre-ceasefires so my vouching for the authenticity is not foolproof.

Mostly what I love about the book is the voice. Yes, and the place :)


message 36: by Sam (new) - rated it 3 stars

Sam | 1713 comments I have finished and am mixed on this and will give my thoughts after i have let them steep for a bit. I would most likely shortlist it but it would not take my top spot. I only have Bauer and Ryan left available and will have to await delivery and release on the others on the list. That is fine with me. I have plenty that did not list yet to read.


Roland Freisitzer (rolandf) | 68 comments I have just finished this and there ist very much here that I really loved. Yes, I also out myself as a walking reader. I believe that this constantly circling/repetitive kind of writing is exactly what makes this book so special. Saying that, I also have to confess though that it took me much longer than 440 usually take me and had me quite frustrated at times. Nevertheless, this is the kind of book I love the Booker for, as I would have probably never found it without it being longlisted. Definetely shortlist for me...


Laura (lauramulcahy) | 59 comments I think a lot of us are on the same page about how incredible this book is— While I’ve only completed three books, I’m calling it now that this’ll be a shortlister!

Out of curiosity, has anybody else here tried the audiobook edition? I alternated between that and my physical copy, and I have to say, the audiobook really tackled the problem of the overly long paragraphs. (I’m still lost as to why Burns implemented this form. The audiobook helped to show that there were plenty of opportunities to break up the novel into shorter paragraphs.)


message 39: by Neil (new) - rated it 4 stars

Neil | 1978 comments Sorry to be a dissenter, but I am struggling with this one. I'm about one-third through and I'll keep reading, but I find the writing style really frustrating.


message 40: by Sam (new) - rated it 3 stars

Sam | 1713 comments Don't feel bad. I'm no fan. I've been letting it steep, hoping good memories would arise. Instead, all i'm left with is questions of why the author chose to do this or that. For example, tautology IMO is not a good thing, especially in excess. If she chose to use it a little bit for emphasis or as a quality of the character, it would be fine, but to the extent it is used here, it feels like padding. I felt i read at least a third more book than necessary between that and the drawn out names she give characters.


message 41: by Hugh (new) - rated it 5 stars

Hugh (bodachliath) | 3368 comments Mod
For me it got more compelling in the second half, perhaps because the style became more familiar.


message 42: by Sam (new) - rated it 3 stars

Sam | 1713 comments For me it bloomed and quickly died in the 3rd chapter with French class. It was there, where I thought the author would justify her convoluted style, but I didn't think it was enough. Loved the setting and the comical stock characters that filled the book, but I had a problem with the style. The absurdity in the book that may have missed me. I may have read it too seriously. I could see the humor but often needed for it to be hammered home before I enjoyed it. I wanted more wee sisters, third brother-in-law, and mother.


message 43: by Neil (new) - rated it 4 stars

Neil | 1978 comments Is the writing style that give sentences like "...impossible it was not be be closed-up..." reflecting the way of speaking that is natural in the region. This is a genuine question because it happens so often that I assume it must be but I haven't noticed it before when I have heard Irish people speaking or read Irish books. Maybe it's just that it is so prevalent here I am more aware of it.


message 44: by MisterHobgoblin (last edited Aug 04, 2018 02:43PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

MisterHobgoblin There's a particular way of speaking in working class parts of Belfast, so there is - especially the west and north. It has a really idiosyncratic sentence structure and is usually spoken with a really broad accent that is quite different to the oft-heard middle class Ulster brogue. In The Milkman, it is used to comic (and perhaps slightly exaggerated) effect as our narrator uses it to try to sound erudite.


message 45: by Neil (new) - rated it 4 stars

Neil | 1978 comments Just at halfway now. Good news is that I am starting to enjoy it more.

But what's a "cinqasept"? French for 5-7, but what is a "pad for established cinqasepts"?


Gumble's Yard - Golden Reviewer | 6116 comments It’s the time of the day when French people traditionally convicted extra marital affairs, which of course completely fits the context in which this phrase is used.

It’s more than one book on the Booker list where it pays to have urban Dictionary to hand (although in this case Wikipedia would I think reveal the answer also).


Gumble's Yard - Golden Reviewer | 6116 comments And in the context “of our intricately coiled, overly secretive, hyper-gossipy, puritanical yet indecent, totalitarian district.”


message 48: by Neil (new) - rated it 4 stars

Neil | 1978 comments Thanks. I made a note that I assumed it was something along those lines, but Google didn’t help me so thought I would check here.


message 49: by Neil (new) - rated it 4 stars

Neil | 1978 comments As mentioned above, I wasn't sure about this one at the start. Something clicked about one-third through and it got better and better!

I loved the language. I've said many times before that plot matters little to me compared with atmosphere and I thought it captured the fear and paranoia of the community really well.

It is definitely going on my short list.


Gumble's Yard - Golden Reviewer | 6116 comments Welcome to Team Milkman Neil. Or should I say Our Side.

You had me seriously worried for a time there.

Surely this book is best thing to come out of a very difficult time for the UK.

You never know,’ they said, ‘what might be considered the most sought-after paraphernalia of these sadnesses in years to come.’


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