Tournament of Books discussion

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message 1: by [deleted user] (new)

Is a rooster the next prize for this award-winning novel?


message 2: by Jason (new)

Jason Perdue | 630 comments The audiobook of Milkman is blowing my mind. This reminds of Augustown last year where I can't even imagine that reading it would be the same experience or nearly as good as listening to it.


message 3: by Bretnie (new)

Bretnie | 504 comments I feel like it won't win it all since the style is so different and challenging. One where an individual judge's preference could knock it out. But then again, Fever Dream, right?

I loved it also. It was a bit of work to read, but it kind of hit me hard.


message 4: by Sophia (new)

Sophia Blue | 24 comments Yes, I'm worried about Milkman's chances too. It seems like "difficult" is the main thing a lot of people are taking from it.

It's strange to me. On the one hand, I get it, with the long paragraphs and tangents. But on the other hand, I can't remember the last time I read a book that was so bluntly about what it's about, that so starkly and oppressively set out the rules its world functions under.


message 5: by Julie (new)

Julie (julnol) | 113 comments I didn't so much as find it "difficult" as mired in its telling.

I started our charmed and fascinated by its storytelling. I dislike "stream of consciousness" writing and this was but it wasn't! And I so liked all the ways that it wasn't!!

But then I felt caught in quicksand, being told and retold the same thing in the same way. My love turned to like. My fascination turned to an eagerness to finish. And this is a book that is impossible to skim so I felt a little trapped ... I wasn't going to give up, but I was keen to move on!


message 6: by Jason (new)

Jason Perdue | 630 comments It doesn't feel like that at all on audio. It feels like a 16 year old girl telling you stories (the most insightful, socially/politically/human interaction aware 16 yr old ever, of course)


message 7: by Elizabeth (new)

Elizabeth Arnold | 889 comments I was just coming on to comment about this! And say that yes, audio (free on Hoopla) really is the way to go. The voice is so lyrical, and yes, she makes the language sound like a slightly sardonic but innocent teenaged girl, it's just a pleasure to listen to. (I have the e-book and tried reading first, and my eyes blurred.)

I probably haven't gotten to the parts Julie's referring to, I only started listening yesterday, but so far I'm just swept away and totally in the moment with her.


message 8: by Julie (new)

Julie (julnol) | 113 comments Which brings me to the difference between reading and listening ... but, no, I won't go there.


message 9: by Elizabeth (new)

Elizabeth Arnold | 889 comments Also, the mix of dark/painful and humorous is my absolute favorite kind of writing. It's the hardest to do, I think, without coming off sounding flippant. I do hope this does well.


message 10: by Jen (new)

Jen | 133 comments I think I'm going to try this out on hoopla - I didn't realize until today my library copy was on 7 day loan... now it's due back and I'm only 1/3rd in.

I'm quite excited to compare how this reads in the two formats. I was very much enjoying the written version, I just started too late. But you guys are selling this in audio!


message 11: by Sophia (new)

Sophia Blue | 24 comments I loved the written version, but I'm certainly going to give the audio a try since everyone is raving about it.


message 12: by Navi (new)

Navi (nvsahota) | 8 comments This was one of the best fiction books I've read this year! I loved the inventive language, dark humour and portrayal of societal pressures. All of your comments have convinced me to re-read this on audio!

I didn't find it as challenging as most people did but I did take my time with it which allowed me to really soak into the narrative and not rush. There were passages that I had to read over and over again because I found them so beautiful.


message 13: by Daniel (new)

Daniel Sevitt | 91 comments I went into this very worried about its growing reputation as a "difficult" book. I take no particular pleasure in a book's difficulty and sometimes it can be a real barrier to my appreciation. For example, I didn't get A Girl Is a Half-formed Thing at all. I found it fairly opaque and it left me cold.

Milkman is a whole different kind of beast. First of all, it's funny. Properly funny. Funnier than Lincoln in the Bardo, which I loved and much funnier than The Sellout, which I struggled with.

To me "difficult" suggest a book of the mind or something non-linear. Milkman is absolutely clear in how it moves from A to Z and it rides there on some of the most beautifully constructed prose I read in the past year.

I still have one more left to go of this year's Booker shortlist, but so far Milkman stands head and shoulders above the pack. I think it's a real contender for the Rooster as people discover its humour and gentle grace.


message 14: by Elizabeth (new)

Elizabeth Arnold | 889 comments Daniel wrote: "I went into this very worried about its growing reputation as a "difficult" book. I take no particular pleasure in a book's difficulty and sometimes it can be a real barrier to my appreciation. For..."

For me it was the density of the paragraphs, my eyes need breaks, and that it took me awhile to get into the flow of her way of speaking. The audio really helped with both of those issues, and I think now that I have that narrator's voice and cadence in my head I'd be able to read it just fine, and actually want to re-experience it more slowly before March. (The voice also really made the humor shine, there were a few places I laughed out loud.)


message 15: by Sarah (new)

Sarah Tittle | 49 comments I'm so glad to read this string as I've just started and was on the fence about wether to keep going. Some of the major American book reviews really stressed how tough it was, calling it a slog with no real payoff. But I'm fascinated by Ireland in the 60s and 70s so I think I'll keep going...at least until it's due back at the library!


Jenny (Reading Envy) (readingenvy) | 642 comments I had a really tedious reading experience with this one in the print.

I read the first 20% and felt like I knew it was supposed to be set during the troubles but I didn't know enough about them to pick up on those clues. That it could have been any dystopia really.

It gets named to the Man Booker Shortlist and I decide I need to finish. I push agonizingly through to 50% before giving myself permission to bail, and even then read the last 10 % to try to understand how it ended up (and it doesn't get very far, does it.)

So then I listened to a bunch of podcasts about the book, hoping for motivation or at least understanding and it seemed like everyone was talking about the humor. I hadn't found any! I missed it! Maybe the audio helps convey it but I felt like a fuddy duddy. Ah well.


message 17: by Julie (new)

Julie (julnol) | 113 comments Bless you Jenny! I don't feel so alone


message 18: by Doug (new)

Doug Bar none not only the worst (most boring, repetitious) book I'd read all year... probably the worst book of the past decade. Unfathomable to me that anyone likes it.


message 19: by Sarah (new)

Sarah Tittle | 49 comments I am about halfway through, and I have to admit some of the early euphoria is wearing off. But I do have a theory--I'm just at the point where she is saying how the constant rumor mongering and her neutral response, "I don't know" to all the accusations has left her feeling numb. And I think there's a clue here to this novel's shape. It wears the reader down, just like she is being worn down. We are so inside her head, and it's incessant--just like the accusations of the people are incessant, as well as all the other aspects of life in this terrible situation.

This is an exhausting read, but at times it's also exhilarating. I wish I didn't have to return it to the library, because I can totally see taking a long time to finish it and maybe dipping in about 20 pages a day, which is all I seem to be managing.


message 20: by Bretnie (new)

Bretnie | 504 comments Sarah wrote: "It wears the reader down, just like she is being worn down."

I got this feeling also! The power of a good book is to have the reader feel like they are in the character's shoes, even if that includes discomfort, confusion, pain.


message 21: by lark (new)

lark benobi (larkbenobi) | 132 comments this one certainly seems to get the widest range of responses.

As for me, I read the first three paragraphs and put it down. It felt as if I will want to have space to devote to this novel, and that I don't want to be reading a lot of books in a hurry at the same time and trying to fit Milkman in too.

I feel the same way about Flights.


message 22: by Gwendolyn (new)

Gwendolyn | 186 comments Jenny, I completely agree with your comment about the first 20% being like any dystopia. I didn’t read anything about this book before picking it up,so I had no idea it was about the Troubles in Ireland. I was very lost for over 100 pages. This is one of those books where it helps to have some context before reading it.

That said, I eventually picked up on enough clues to ground the story in a specific place/time, and I ended up quite liking it overall. It was a bit difficult at times to stay inside the protagonist’s relentless voice, it the humor helped. All in all, a solid 4-star read for me.


message 23: by Mike (new)

Mike | 16 comments What started out as an intriguing and refreshing read because it was so unique, slowly morphed into a tedious, torpid affair that required some concentration and willpower to finish. Clever and memorable character titles and geographic locales did not result in enjoyable and interesting reading for me.


message 24: by Sarah (last edited Dec 31, 2018 04:13PM) (new)

Sarah Tittle | 49 comments Is reading this similar to reading Ulysses (I've never read it). I get the feeling that for many people there is something important going on here and it's worth the effort, and that for others there's not enough going on here to make it worth the effort. I am slightly in the first group.

Here are some other things, about 2/3 the way through, that I'm picking up:
1. Instead of being identified by a name, characters are identified in terms of their relationship to the main character or by some quality or action that defines them. So who is the main character to the others? And who are the other characters to each other?

2. People identified by groups: the renouncers; the defenders; the informers; the purgers; the issues women; the traditional women. And each group has strict rules, and none of the groups trust each other.

3. Main character is in a constant state of "Jamais vu," which wiki tells me refers to the phenomenon of experiencing a situation that one recognizes in some fashion, but nonetheless seems very unfamiliar. Does this tie into themes of identity, or lack thereof?

4. Milkman, the idea of being so crazy that she's "beyond the pale," the part where she's been poisoned and her sisters say that she is the color of "white milk that's been painted extra white." Wordplay or something about whiteness, absence of color, that, again, ties into identity theme?

I haven't taken a literature class in years, but this book has me scratching my head in an appealing way, even as it feels sort of like a chore to finish it.


message 25: by Amanda (new)

Amanda | 129 comments Sarah wrote: "Is reading this similar to reading Ulysses (I've never read it). I get the feeling that for many people there is something important going on here and it's worth the effort, and that ..."

For your first point, my interpretation is that Middle Sister is living in a war zone. Everyday she wakes up and does't know if that is going to be her last day on earth. It can be difficult to really bond with your family, friends or a significant other in this situation. She lives in an area where every family she knows has buried at least one family member. She has to create a distance between herself and anyone she loves. Then you have Maybe Boyfriend's parents leaving their sons to pursue their dream of competitive ballroom dancing.
The bonds between parent and child have been completely broken over years of living in a war zone. There is also a great passage towards the end of the book where Middle Sister and her mother admit that they are living with survivor's guilt. They are afraid to seize their own happiness because so many of their friends and neighbors have suffered.


message 26: by Martha (new)

Martha Kate | 36 comments I'm still in the midst (and trying not to read your comments!), but I wanted to thank those of you who lobbied for the audio version of this book. I tried (valiantly) to read the print version, but I got so mired in rereading those unwieldy stream-of-consciousness sentences that I almost gave up, despite loving the first two chapters that took me a week to read. Audible to the rescue! Thanks again.


message 27: by Samantha (new)

Samantha (stansino) | 2 comments I haaaaaated this one. Stuck with it until the end, and now sorry I took the time. Surprised by the good reviews!


Nadine in California (nadinekc) | 600 comments I'm an hour into the audio, and loving it - don't want to tear myself away. It is hard to find clear stopping places though, once I got past chapter 1. I'm blaming this partly on the Libby app, which I find both awkward and touchy on my ipod.


message 29: by Karin (new)

Karin (8littlepaws) | 97 comments I'm listening on audio and about a third through. The narrator is fantastic, I would have bailed on this in print already. That said, I'm still not over the moon about it. There are scenes that really struck me--the scenes about our narrator's father in particular--and the section about the color of the sky in chapter 3 (and for once! A cover with a gorgeous landscape that is germane to the book and not just a pretty picture!)

I've been listening to it while I knit/crochet, and the narrator makes for a pleasant crafting companion, so I'm not about to bail, but unless something major changes I don't think I'll be giving this more than a 3. I just don't see it sticking with me in the long term.


message 30: by Carmel (new)

Carmel Hanes | 131 comments I'm about 20% into this one, and I can totally see why this one elicits such varied responses. My first thought was "What in the world made this author write like this?"...but as I've plodded along (in print) it has grown on me a bit, and my curiosity is aroused. There are some great lines and passages, and the lack of names, using relationships instead as character markers, is a fascinating change. I'm hanging in there to see where it goes.


message 31: by Lauren (new)

Lauren Oertel | 959 comments I can connect with pretty much all of the comments in this thread, and I think Sarah is onto something with, "It wears the reader down, just like she is being worn down."

It felt like work to get through, but I did recognize the strong points mentioned here. So far it's at the bottom of the list for the short-list titles I've finished (three stars), but I think some of it will stay with me for a while.


message 32: by Kristina (new)

Kristina (kristina3880) | 35 comments I am reading this on audio and agree with everyone. This book would have been a do not finish if it was not for this amazing narrator.


message 33: by Julie (new)

Julie (julnol) | 113 comments It really puzzles me. There is a common thread here (and with others) that a book would be a DNF if it hadn't been an audio version.

Truly, I am not trying to be divisive, but maybe there is a place for "Goodlistens" as well as "Goodreads".

Do the judges get to listen (or watch the movie) or do they read?

OK, that movie bit was a little inflammatory ... but with an audio version it is possible for the listener to tune out, or to have the nuances of meaning interpreted by the narrator, or to have something boring brought to life and animated by a professional. I don't see it as just a "decoding" difference but an interpretive difference.


message 34: by Ace (new)

Ace (aceonroam) | 0 comments Not everyone can read print or read print exclusively and for a multitude of different reasons audiobooks are a godsend.


message 35: by Nadine in California (last edited Jan 12, 2019 06:08PM) (new)

Nadine in California (nadinekc) | 600 comments Julie wrote: "It really puzzles me. There is a common thread here (and with others) that a book would be a DNF if it hadn't been an audio version.

Truly, I am not trying to be divisive, but maybe there is a pl..."


I was resistant to audio books at first, and 95% or more of my reading is in print, but I've had some great experiences with audio (like Milkman) and I never lose the sense that I am being read to, not performed for. I feel like the author is very much present, along with the narrator. My only regret with Milkman is that I can't make a note or underline (well, maybe it's possible, but the Libby app can be finicky for me and I don't want to push my luck). I wish there was a way to see page numbers in an audiobook though.


message 36: by Ruthiella (last edited Jan 12, 2019 08:41PM) (new)

Ruthiella | 366 comments I was also very resistant to audio books at first and I still prefer print when possible. With a few exceptions, I only use audio for re-experiencing a book or if it is part of a series of which I am already familiar. I think I would have been totally lost if I had listened to Milkman on audio. Personally I needed to read it in print to best appreciate it.

The only book I can think of where I used the audio as a tool to find my way in because the print version was too difficult was with A Brief History of Seven Killings.


message 37: by Amanda (new)

Amanda | 129 comments Julie wrote: "It really puzzles me. There is a common thread here (and with others) that a book would be a DNF if it hadn't been an audio version.

Truly, I am not trying to be divisive, but maybe there is a pl..."


Listening to an audiobook is the same thing as reading a print book when all is said and done. It is just another way to consume books and one that allows blind people and people with other disabilities to read. I can't really think of one book where listening to the audiobook would cloud the readers interpretation of the printed materials. The narrators are carefully chosen and directed during the recording to make sure that the narrator is not going off script.

I do choose what books to listen to instead of reading the print book because not all audiobooks work for me. Really this is a personal choice.


message 38: by Karin (last edited Jan 14, 2019 06:32AM) (new)

Karin (8littlepaws) | 97 comments Julie wrote: "or to have the nuances of meaning interpreted by the narrator,"

I'm curious to know your thoughts about this regarding books in translation because presumably the same issue would arise.

Some audio books to me feel "acted out" and some don't. Personally I think Milkman does. But I don't find that problematic. Sometimes you read a book and then you go to book club and hear other people's thoughts on that book and it changes how you feel about it. Sometimes you listen to an audiobook and the way the narrator emphasizes certain words or phrases adds to your reading experience.

Looking back at my original post here, it's funny how shortly after, this book just "clicked" for me and now I am greatly enjoying my experience with it. Many interesting points about the male gaze and how the other women around our narrator react to it.

And regarding the judges of TOB, I wouldn't care if they listened to the audiobook version, or read the print version. It wouldn't impact me either way. Perhaps some readers need to rely on audio versions.


message 39: by Elizabeth (new)

Elizabeth Arnold | 889 comments Amanda wrote: "Julie wrote: "It really puzzles me. There is a common thread here (and with others) that a book would be a DNF if it hadn't been an audio version.

Truly, I am not trying to be divisive, but maybe..."


I agree completely. I have eye issues, where it strains me to read print for long periods of time. So I do a decent amount of my reading by listening, sometimes even get the e-book with WhisperSync so that I can give my eyes a break. It did take me awhile to adjust, it's easier to let your mind wander and miss portions of the text. But that doesn't happen often now, and I'll often stop and rewind to re-listen to phrases/sentences/paragraphs that I want to absorb more fully (just as you'd reread interesting passages in books.) I've never felt like I've gotten less out of a story, and often I'll feel like I've gotten more.

With Milkman, I think the lyricism of the narrator's voice really added to the experience, made the whole thing come to life in a way it didn't when I read the text. It also really brought out the humor, which I don't think would have tickled me as much in print.


message 40: by Carmel (new)

Carmel Hanes | 131 comments I'm still plodding along with the printed version. It's not a quick read, given the nature of the voice used, but I've found that as I've read, that voice has developed a certain rhythm in my head that makes me work less hard at processing the words. I have wondered if it's like spending time with someone speaking with a foreign accent, where it's initially hard to understand their pronunciation, but then you develop an ear for it. At any rate, as it flows more easily, I'm finding the content more interesting and thought provoking.


message 41: by Karin (new)

Karin (8littlepaws) | 97 comments Carmel wrote: "I'm still plodding along with the printed version. It's not a quick read, given the nature of the voice used, but I've found that as I've read, that voice has developed a certain rhythm in my head ..."

Here's a really interesting article about the use of language in Milkman: http://blog.pshares.org/index.php/har...


Nadine in California (nadinekc) | 600 comments I just remembered that I did once try to read A Brief History of Seven Killings by switching between print and audio, thinking that it would get me through this long book faster. I quickly switched to print only because the audio is so much slower, but I did enjoy the audio and print equally.

I often play audio fiction at 1.25 speed, but that doesn't work for me with non-US accents.


message 43: by Julie (new)

Julie (julnol) | 113 comments I disagree Listening to an audiobook is the same thing as reading a print book when all is said and done. I will take the good old market saying of "same, same but different", but it is not the same, just as watching the movie is not the same. Same, same but different.

While I agree that "not everyone can read a print book" (Ace), and audio "allows blind people and others with disabilities" (Amanda) and appreciate "eye issues, where it strains me to read print" (Elizabeth), I would rather that you didn't try to paint me as someone aiming to disadvantage those with disabilities! Audio is an outstanding resource for them, as can be a Kindle, if appropriate, using larger font. I love reading on my Kindle as arthritis makes it near impossible to hold a book of any size. I never park in the disabled car space if I don't have my disabled husband in the car with his parking permit, so please don't push the any argument that I am trying to take away something from those who need it; I find it offensive.

You raise a very interesting point, Karin, re books in translation. So much depends on the translation skills. And I am sure there are times when we feel our enjoyment of the narrative is impacted upon by the narrator rather than the author.

The mention of A Brief History of Seven Killings is an interesting one. My Goodreads review (it was a DNF for me) brought out some aggression in the comments. Maybe I'll give it a go with the audio!


Nadine in California (nadinekc) | 600 comments Julie wrote: "The mention of A Brief History of Seven Killings is an interesting one. My Goodreads review (it was a DNF for me) brought out some aggression in the comments. Maybe I'll give it a go with the audio! "

Sorry for that negative experience! The first time I picked up Brief History I DNF'ed vey early on, not for the dialect so much but for the grimmness. I'm glad I gave it a second chance. Once you get used to the dialect it lands easily on the ear, and you'll get to know the slang. Also, the whole book isn't in dialect.


message 45: by Carmel (new)

Carmel Hanes | 131 comments Karin wrote: "Carmel wrote: "I'm still plodding along with the printed version. It's not a quick read, given the nature of the voice used, but I've found that as I've read, that voice has developed a certain rhy..."

Thanks for sharing that article, Karin. Very interesting.


message 46: by Rachelnyc (last edited Jan 15, 2019 12:58PM) (new)

Rachelnyc | 61 comments I have to say that the strong mixed reviews I've seen here and elsewhere have me very intrigued. I don't usually do audiobooks aside from the occasional memoir read by the author but between the rave reviews of it and the fact that my ebook hold won't come available until the beginning of March, I think I'm going to go that route.


message 47: by Saya (new)

Saya (motheroftherevolution) | 42 comments Okay, I'm here because my bookish heart is bursting with love for Milkman. It's one of the best books I've read in quite a long time.

The prose is unique, I can't recall ever reading a book without names, places, etc. I also thought it was pretty masterful how the author controlled the tone of the book. There were pretty dark things happening (e.g., the dogs being killed), but it never became too much of a slog as there were some pretty light funny moments (e.g., the telephone call between Ma and third brother-in-law which made me laugh out loud).

I just finished the book a few days ago and it's stuck in my heart. I almost want to go back and start it over again, but I'd like to be a ToB completionist again and I'm staring at the pile of ToB books I still have to read (five left).


Nadine in California (nadinekc) | 600 comments Saya wrote: "Okay, I'm here because my bookish heart is bursting with love for Milkman.. there were some pretty light funny moments (e.g., the telephone call between Ma and third brother-in-law which made me laugh out loud). ."

Me too! I just finished listening to the telephone call scene - just as funny on audio ;) I love the way the narrator, Brid Brennan, changes her voice so subtly but distinctly to voice different characters. There are a lot of different speakers in this novel!


message 49: by Karin (new)

Karin (8littlepaws) | 97 comments Rachelnyc wrote: "I have to say that the strong mixed reviews I've seen here and elsewhere has me very intrigued. I don't usually do audiobooks aside from the occasional memoir read by the author but between the rav..."

This feels like listening to a memoir on audio.


message 50: by Rachelnyc (new)

Rachelnyc | 61 comments Karin wrote: "Rachelnyc wrote: "I have to say that the strong mixed reviews I've seen here and elsewhere has me very intrigued. I don't usually do audiobooks aside from the occasional memoir read by the author b..."

Good to hear, thanks. I actually just checked the status of my library hold and it looks like the ebook will be available since. I shouldn't be surprised since it seems like a love it or hate it so many people must be returning it early.

I will probably give reading and listening a chance and see which I respond to.


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