Milkman, a novel by Anna Burns
Sometimes the best books are the ones that catch your eye on a table at a small independent bookstore. We have a couple of great ones where I live in Olympia, WA, though they’re closed these days, like just about everything else. The last time I was at Browsers Bookshop, I picked up Milkman, by Anna Burns. Milkman won the Man Booker Prize. You don’t have to be swayed by that, only by the fact that this book is brilliant.
“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.”
What moves me about this book is the way it’s told. Ireland in the 1970s, during “The Troubles” is a terrifying place where even the most ordinary activities become tinged with madness. Our young narrator is trying to live an ordinary life an can’t. There’s too much swirling around her that she can’t control, and she overexplains everything in an attempt to make sense of nonsense, to apply logic to fantasy, and to forge independence in a place where everyone wants you to be the same as everyone else. I highly recommend this book. I guarantee you’ve never read anything like it before.