“Milkman” is an excellent piece of Literature (capital L). Set in Northern Ireland in the 1970’s Anna Burns deftly writes a novel that is both of its time and utterly timeless. Written from the point of view of Middle Sister, “Milkman” portrays the life of a community at siege, and yet alive, growing, changing. Middle Sister wants to stay under the radar in a place where being noticed often times means getting yourself killed, but she lives in a world where that’s not really an option for her. Walking, reading, running, just being a young woman, mean that she’s subject to scrutiny, criticism, and attack.
Most characters in “Milkman” are nameless, the exact place and time it takes place in isn’t specified, but is entirely believable in its realism, in the way the plot inevitably moves towards its conclusion — and yet at the last moment twists, turns and surprises you in a way only real life can. “Ah,” you say, “I should have seen it coming,” and yet how delightful it is that you don’t. It’s almost unbelievale that Burns managed to write a novel that is so, so clever, and so full of heart.
“Milkman” won the Booker in 2018 and boy does it deserve it. I have a feeling that it will end pretty high up in the competition