Milkman by Anna Burns

This book is the real deal. Set in Belfast at the height of the Troubles, Milkman follows an 18-year-old narrator who finds herself being stalked by a high-ranking renouncer of the state. Despite complaints that the language in this novel is dense and difficult, the writing here incorporates the colloquial and the not-quite-grammatically-correct, giving the story a beautiful sense of locality and specificity. Anna Burns's prose flows like water and pulls you into its singular rhythm, which is less stream-of-consciousness in the modernist sense and more drifting and circular, suggesting the vortex of interconnected relationships and inevitable, grim happenings that is life in 1970s Northern Ireland. Here is a community hemmed in and strung tight by paranoia, accusations, rumor-mongering, and willful misperception—a stifling, swallowing space in which self-denial is self-protection and where the sky, even when pink, can only ever be blue. And to what end? Burns's depiction of the normality of death, violence, monitoring, and encroachment in such a society is terrifying and relentless but also underpinned by her argument that no, even when normal, this is not normal. Just masterfully done and a pleasure to read—sad, funny, heartbreaking, and somehow maybe-hopeful.

© 2019 by Claire Reads Books

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