Anna Burns' Man Booker-winning Milkman has divided readers. It's a dense read and requires constant attention and interest, but I think the dedicated reader will be rewarded with a unique experience. In her account of the struggles in Northern Ireland, Burns' emphasis on identifiers sends a powerful message about the lines we draw in the sand between us and them. The close first person novel follows the evolution of a young woman coming of age in a peaceless nation. She comes to learn how, sometimes, what is intangible can still be so very real.
THERE WERE 'OUR SHOPS' AND 'THEIR SHOPS'. PLACENAMES. WHAT SCHOOL YOU WENT TO. WHAT PRAYERS YOU SAID...YOU CREATED A POLITICAL STATEMENT EVERYWHERE YOU WENT, AND WITH EVERYTHING YOU DID, EVEN IF YOU DIDN'T WANT TO... In Northern Ireland, 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. Set against the backdrop of the Troubles, MILKMAN is a tale of gossip and hearsay, silence and deliberate deafness...and of inaction with enormous consequences.