Well, who saw that coming? Anna Burn’s Milkman came through an incredibly strong field and was the judges’ unanimous pick for the Man Booker Prize 2018. Becoming the first ever Northern Irish winner, Burns picked up the £50,000 prize for her confrontational and experimental novel, described by judge Kwame Anthony Appiah as “challenging, but in the way a walk up Snowdon is challenging. It is definitely worth it because the view is terrific when you get to the top”.
So what was all the fuss about and why was this left field pick chosen ahead of other strong entries, such as youngest ever shortlist nominee Daisy Johnson’s Everything Under or Rachel Kushner’s The Mars Room?
Firstly, Milkman feels incredibly “of the moment”, strongly eliciting the atmosphere around and issues raised by the #MeToo movement, as well as exploring Brexit-induced fears over a return to Irish hard borders. Burns’s third novel is set during The Troubles and is narrated from the perspective of an unnamed 18-year-old girl, known as “middle sister”, who is being chased by an older paramilitary figure, the eponymous milkman.
Potently delivered without conventional paragraphing, a large part of the novel’s power comes both from its specificity and its universal quality, a duality that Burns’ novel straddles expertly. Discussing a woman living within a divided society and being harassed by a man taking advantage of the social schisms to exploit her personally is something that feels relevant to many different cultures. Sectarianism within Ireland plays a significant role in the novel but Northern Ireland is far from the only place which experiences such divides (and the social, sexual and class ramifications that arise with them).
This unusual and compelling book deserves attention and can be purchased here!
In addition, Golden Hare will have all the books from the shortlist available online or in our Stockbridge store. Click on the links below to buy them today!
Esi Edugyan (Canada) Washington Black (Serpent’s Tail)
Daisy Johnson (UK) Everything Under (Jonathan Cape)
Rachel Kushner (USA) The Mars Room (Jonathan Cape)
Richard Powers (USA) The Overstory (William Heinemann)
Robin Robertson (UK) The Long Take (Picador)