29 comments on “Milkman by Anna Burns | Book Review

  1. I remember when I read Woolf’s Mrs Dalloway, although there were some parts I thought beautiful, I struggled with the stream of consciousness style. So that makes me hesitate a little bit. But your review is helpful because it outlines what we can expect should we read it and that last part when you said – ” it offers an intelligent, shrewdly observant, and original reading experience that captures the atmosphere of a society simmering with tension, and tearing itself apart from the inside out” makes me feel like I should bookmark this for one to try and take my time with? Any recommendations for reading this one? Someone said the audio was helped them with the dialect?

    • I’ve found I struggle in general with a stream of consciousness style too, and felt the same as you about Mrs Dalloway.

      I read this in paperback, so haven’t tried the audio version myself, but I have heard a few people say the delivery and authentic accent helps get into the flow of the unique narrative voice. 😊

      • Really? I wouldn’t have gotten the impression the stream of consciousness was a struggle for you. If my library has this on audio I might give it a try!

        • Maybe struggle isn’t the right word… I definitely find it jarring stylistically; the repeated tangents acting as a distraction, and holding the reader at an emotional distance.

          I’d be intrigued to see how you get on with this one if you decide to give it a go! I hope you like it 😊

    • I also struggled with Mrs. Dalloway and the use of stream-of-consciousness writing. I just don’t get the purpose of this writing tool and find it distracts from pretty much everything else an authors attempts to accomplish. However, I also know excellent writers and readers who love the use of stream-of-consciousness. So, meh? *shrug*

      • The only thing I can think is that it’s an attempt to capture an authentic, personal voice, as though someone is narrating their life story to us – given that few people actually think in a linear way in real life.

        That said, I struggle with it too. I suppose you have to really ‘get’ the narrative voice to be happily swept along by its tangents. Personally, I tend to find it jarring. So, I totally understand your feeling of ‘meh’. 😋

      • I’m sure there must be something, but since I don’t have as much experience I don’t want to give up yet. Considering that I have some Proust on my shelf for a future read. Someone told me with Proust it’s best in small quiet sips.

  2. What a great review! When I finished this my instinct was that there were going to be a LOT of reviews along the lines of ‘admired it, didn’t enjoy it,’ so the fact that it’s proven to be so polarizing has kind of surprised me. This was the kind of review I’d been expecting to crop up much more often! So even though I adored it I completely understand where you’re coming from, and I’m glad you didn’t find it a wasted effort (I’d have felt a bit guilty for talking it up so much!) I loved your insights about the nameless element too, after I read that nonfiction book about the Troubles it made me think about Burns’ decision to do this and it made so much sense for me given the context.

    • Thank you! Not wasted effort at all; I always knew to expect a mixed experience given the stream of consciousness style. Burns is undoubtedly a talented and intriguing author, and the book captured a really unique and insightful take on the Troubles.

      It’ll be very interesting to see if this one makes the Women’s Prize longlist given how polarising it’s been!

  3. Insightful review! I read this in January and then again in February, and I also have mixed feelings. I really appreciated the novel’s “singular narrative voice,” but the tangents and digressions made it a difficult read.

  4. Fantastic review, Callum. Very insightful. I’ve had this on my reading list, but I’ve struggled with whether I actually want to pick it up. Irish history and the Troubles in particular are fascinating to me, but I’m not sure if I have the focus for this kind of character study right now.

  5. Wonderful review! I have only just started this book (i opted for the audiobook and I am so glad, because the stream-of-consciousness element works really well in the format) but I can see myself having exactly the same reaction.

      • I am really glad the narrator reads it fairly slowly because Northern Irish accents to throw me for a loop whenever I haven’t heard them but the circular narrative and the repetition really lends itself to audio.

  6. Pingback: Reading Ireland Month Week Two round-up!

  7. Pingback: March Wrap Up | Callum McLaughlin

  8. Pingback: Reading the Women’s Prize Longlist | Wrap Up, Wish List & Shortlist Predictions | Callum McLaughlin

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