Book for September 2019
Set during The Troubles in Northern Ireland, the story follows an 18-year-old girl who is harassed by an older married man known as the "milkman". The novel received positive reviews from The Guardian, The Daily Telegraph and The Irish Times.
‘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. From the opening page her words pull us into the daily violence of her world — threats of murder, people killed by state hit squads — while responding to the everyday realities of her life as a young woman, negotiating a way between the demands of family, friends and lovers in an unsettled time. The novel delineates brilliantly 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. Burns draws on the experience of Northern Ireland during the Troubles to portray a world that allows individuals to abuse the power granted by a community to those who resist the state on their behalf. Yet this is never a novel about just one place or time. The local is in service to an exploration of the universal experience of societies in crisis.’
Her first novel, No Bones, is an account of a girl's life growing up in Belfast during the Troubles. Among the novels that depict the Troubles within the Literature of Northern Ireland, No Bones is considered an important work, and has been compared to Dubliners by James Joyce for its capture of the everyday language of the people of Belfast. Dysfunctional family in the novel symbolizes the Northern Ireland political situation. No Bones won the 2001 Winifred Holtby Memorial Prize presented by the Royal Society of Literature for the best regional novel of the year in the United Kingdom and Ireland.
Her second novel, Little Constructions, was published in 2007 by Fourth Estate (an imprint of HarperCollins). It is a darkly comic and ironic tale centered on a woman from a tightly-knit family of criminals on a mission of retribution.
In 2018, Burns won the Man Booker Prize for her novel Milkman making her the first Northern Irish writer to win the award. After the ceremony, Graywolf Press announced that it will publish "Milkman" in the U.S. on December 11, 2018. Milkman is an experimental novel in which the narrator is an unnamed 18 year old girl known as “middle sister”, who is being stalked by a much older paramilitary figure, the Milkman.