I barely knew how to approach this review. So here's how Anna Burns might write about me reading her book. If you haven't read Milkman, this may be a window into how you might take it.
(To be sure: I will never be half as talented as Burns with words. Also: I AM SORRY.)
Bookish woman picked up the prize-winning novel not understanding how it had taken her an hour to read ten pages, how the pages and the words on those pages were self-deemed enjoyable, and yet had left her quite confused simultaneously, though she decided to persevere because there seemed to be an inkling of genius here or was it just madness—who is to say, except the other people she tried to talk to about it. Ah yes, delicious future dystopia, that's the ticket, this kind of bomb-ridden, terror-filled, malarkey-suffused place doesn't exist, has indeed never existed, so... oh, our protagonist's 18-year-old stream-of-consciousness just informed readers that it's the seventies, and bookish woman realizes author person is from that country across the water but also the northern area, and the lightbulb shone greatly from bookish woman's mind at that moment and then she felt dim in the realization that this took place, it happened, it was history, and maybe it was still happening these forty years later, so she forged on. Troubles, they were. That sunset scene though, the reason for that cover, the metaphor laid out by author person was brilliant, beautiful, and bookish woman still considers it days, weeks after finishing the novel. She sees the colors of the sky differently even though she always knew they were more than blue. The scenes that enraptured her about middle sister, said book's protagonist, were about her enlightenment to how the world worked and didn't work, how she navigated her life in such a world, and what men and women are supposed to do or not do in that town with many parts. Middle sister is stalked by milkman, helped by the real milkman, has fraught thoughts about her maybe boyfriend and the maybe-ness of their relationship, maybe-boyfriend's lukewarm and abandoning parents who are ballroom dancers traveling the world, wee sisters wanting chips, being of the wrong religion or the right, Jason, and don't forget tablets girl. And bombs and cat heads due to bombs and tablet girl's sister and third brother and Somebody McSomebody, the loutish poser who wishes he was milkman, but really is just another embodiment of patriarchal mentality and proprietorship (in bookish woman words, she would call him "reasons #banallmen is a thing"), but at least women can band together occasionally, eh? Vacillating between confusion and love and outright praise of her words and structure, bookish woman hesitates to recommend such a novel novel to just anyone, but if you could, or did, perhaps, get something out of this, then maybe, you could try. It's loads better than this, anyway.
By Anna Burns
352 pages. 2018.