Saturday 24 August 2019

Book Review: Milkman by Anna Burns (Contemporary Fiction)

Title: Milkman
Author: Anna Burns
Faber and Faber

Publication Date: 2018
Borrowed Copy


In this unnamed city, to be interesting is dangerous. Middle sister, our protagonist, is busy attempting to keep her mother from discovering her maybe-boyfriend and to keep everyone in the dark about her encounter with Milkman. But when first brother-in-law sniffs out her struggle, and rumours start to swell, middle sister becomes 'interesting'. The last thing she ever wanted to be. To be interesting is to be noticed and to be noticed is dangerous.

Milkman is a tale of gossip and hearsay, silence and deliberate deafness. It is the story of inaction with enormous consequences.

I was interested to read this book, considering all the hype around it, but I found it a dreadful slog. On the plus side, yes, the prose style is intriguing and edgy and, from a literary point of view, I can see what Burns wanted to accomplish with it. However, that literariness completely overtook everything else. The characters were held at a distance by the lack of names and identifiers. Meanwhile the story was meandering, with a ton of repetition and very little action. I couldn't bring myself to care about anyone or any of the events taking place. I am all for reading 'difficult' texts (I am a fan of Joyce's Ulysses for example), but in this case, I didn't feel there was any real reward for the reader willing to plod through this dense, winding text. I notice this does seem to be a love it or hate it kind of book, and I can see why. I appreciated Burns' craft, but the book simple didn't work for me. 2.5 stars

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