Milkman by Anna Burns has been announced as the winner of the 2018 Man Booker Prize for Fiction. The 56 year old author is the sixteenth woman, and remarkably the first Northern Irish writer to win the prestigious award. Burns drew upon the experiences of her home country to write her third full length novel.
Set in an unnamed city, Milkman follows the story of ‘middle sister’, our protagonist, who is busy attempting to keep her mother from discovering her maybe-boyfriend and to keep everyone in the dark about her encounter with Milkman. The novel explores what is means to be ‘interesting’, at a time and place where “to be interesting is to be noticed, and to be noticed is dangerous.” It is a tale of gossip and hearsay, silence and deliberate deafness.
According to the 2018 Chair of judges, Kwame Anthony Appiah: “None of us has ever read anything like this before. Anna Burns’ utterly distinctive voice challenges conventional thinking and form in surprising and immersive prose. It is a story of brutality, sexual encroachment and resistance threaded with mordant humour. Set in a society divided against itself, Milkman explores the insidious forms oppression can take in everyday life.”
In their comments judges also remarked that, “the language of Anna Burns’ Milkman is simply marvellous; beginning with the distinctive and consistently realised voice of the funny, resilient, astute, plain-spoken, first-person protagonist.” They also noted the novel’s ability to brilliantly delineate “the power of gossip and social pressure in a tight-knit community, and shows how both rumour and political loyalties can be put in the service of a relentless campaign of individual sexual harassment.”
Milkman was chosen as the winner from an initial 171 submissions, which were whittled down to a Longlist of thirteen, and then eventually a six book shortlist. Alongside Burns, the other shortlisted authors were: Esi Edugyan, Daisy Johnson, Rachel Kushner, Richard Powers and Robin Robertson. In winning the prize, Burns takes home a cheque for £50,000, along with a further £2,500 for being shortlisted. Although this is Burns’ third novel, it is her first major literary prize.
Milkman is available now from Faber & Faber / Allen & Unwin. For more information about the Man Booker Prize click HERE