Sunday, 16 December 2018

Book review: Milkman, Anna Burns (2018)

This earnest feminist screed represents another failure of the Booker Prize judges to make a sensible choice. I read a bit of it but it’s so stubbornly serious and airless, like an iron box in which all your feelings as a reader are trapped, unable to fly, that I soon gave up. Women might have more luck with it. For me, it virtually screamed the word “victim”.

The basic story is troubling and determinedly so. It’s set in Northern Ireland in the 1970s (?) and is about a young woman, aged 18, who starts getting unwanted attention from a sectarian fighter who hates the authorities to the point of violence. Her sister and her boyfriend are introduced but the unremitting insistence on the Milkman with his suggestive banter and sudden appearances suck all the life out of her life, and the reader is subject to the same lack of freedom. You can see trouble coming from the start, and it’s always there, like a monkey on the back of some fictional character out of a fairy tale. Needs relief in some part of the narrative; there is a dizzying lack of room for the reader’s imagination to move in this precious piece of politicking.

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