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Image / Editorial

Irish author Anna Burns wins 2018 Man Booker Prize for ‘immersive’ novel Milkman

by Jennifer McShane
16th Oct 2018

Have you read Anna Burns’ highly praised third novel Milkman? If you haven’t, now is the time. The Irish author has just been awarded the prestigious 2018 Man Booker Prize for her book. It’s an incredible achievement; she is the first Northern Irish author to win the prestigious literary award.

We featured her immersive narrative and critically acclaimed story as a recommendation in the June issue of IMAGE Magazine where writer Jennifer McShane recommended the thrilling tome as a must-read. The story of our protagonist; an unnamed 18-year-old girl, who we know only as ‘Middle Sister,’ being pursued by a much older and, as it so happens, menacing, paramilitary figure, the milkman. Timely and relevant, the Troubles-set novel about a young woman being sexually harassed by a powerful man has never felt more potent.

Everyone thinks that our protagonist middle sister is having an affair with Milkman. She isn’t, but everyone says she is anyhow. The truth is, she is busy attempting to keep her mother from discovering her maybe-boyfriend and trying to keep everyone in the dark about her encounter with Milkman, which disturbs her greatly. Soon the dangerous rumours start to swell. A disturbing yet thrilling tome – IMAGE Magazine’s review

She wasn’t the only one who was taken with the highly original story; readers along with the judges of the literary fiction prize commended the experimental novel for its incredible originality.

It is “incredibly original”, according to the Booker’s chair of judges, the philosopher Kwame Anthony Appiah.

“None of us has ever read anything like this before,” said Appiah, announcing the win this evening at London’s Guildhall. “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.” The judge admitted it was definitely a “challenging” read but one worth persevering with. “It’s challenging, but in the way a walk up Snowdon is challenging. It is definitely worth it because the view is terrific when you get to the top,” he said.

The Belfast-born Burns is the first woman to take home the £50,000 prize since 2012, when Hilary Mantel picked up the award for Bring Up the Bodies.

Receiving the prize tonight, Burns said she was extremely surprised and that she’d “like to acknowledge all the great writers who were on the short list and long list with me. I’d love to say, to all my dear friends, thank you for all your support.”

Milkman by Anna Burns (Faber & Faber, approx €12.99, is out now