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Man Booker Prize 2018: Milkman

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Oh God, how do I even begin to formulate my thoughts on this…

Milkman is the story of an unnamed eighteen-year-old girl living in an unnamed city. She has attracted the unwanted and unavoidable attention of a powerful and frightening older man, Milkman. In this community, where suggestions quickly become fact, where gossip and hearsay can lead to terrible consequences, what can she do to stop a rumour once it has started? Milkman is persistent, the word is spreading, and she is no longer in control…

This was a very difficult read. It’s very modern in that sense. Anna Burns wants you to work for the deeper meaning of the story. She does not hand it to you on a plate, like your average nineteenth-century writer does (which, as you’ll know, is my fave type of read). The language is overly flowery and there’s some odd metaphors stuck in there. I was lost a lot of the time, but I’m thankful that the audiobook managed to keep me on track. I don’t think I would have finished it without the help of my free trial on Scribd.

But this difficulty added to the complexity of the novel. The jarring narration and the weird images made the core of the story all the more riveting. A teenage girl who’s livelihood is affected by gossip (about her sexuality) and is essentially being controlled by a man. She lives in fear of this man, wondering when he will next pop up. Milkman knows her routine; she evens quits running just to avoid him. The simple fact that women, especially young women, are forced to give up her hobby because a man has intruded in her space is a familiar one.

The feminist undertones were strong and powerful in this one.

The lack of names allows us, as readers, to place ourselves within this situation. To mark the similarities between our society and this unnamed one.

But is it unnamed? 

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