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Milkman

Narrated by: Bríd Brennan
Length: 14 hrs and 11 mins
4.5 out of 5 stars (1,028 ratings)
Regular price: £19.99
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Summary

Winner of the Man Booker Prize 2018 

In this unnamed city, to be interesting is dangerous. Middle sister, our protagonist, is busy attempting to keep her mother from discovering her maybe-boyfriend and to keep everyone in the dark about her encounter with Milkman. 

But when first brother-in-law sniffs out her struggle, and rumours start to swell, middle sister becomes 'interesting'. The last thing she ever wanted to be. To be interesting is to be noticed and to be noticed is dangerous.

Milkman is a tale of gossip and hearsay, silence and deliberate deafness. It is the story of inaction with enormous consequences.

©2018 Anna Burns (P)2018 Faber Audio

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Very, Very Good

This is about Middle Sister, 18 years old, perhaps slightly geeky and a social misfit trying to cope with the troubles by avoiding them. She doesn't like the 20th Century so absorbs herself in 19th Century literature which she reads while walking in the park. That in itself upsets the community.

Anna Burns' writing gives us insight into what it was like to live amidst the Northern Ireland troubles of the 70s and 80s. The no-go areas, over the road, over the water, our religion, the other religion, punishment, behaviour beyond the pale.

Mostly the characters are only given nick-names; Ma, Pa, Elder Sister, Second Sister, First Brother-in-Law, Tablet Girl, Nuclear Boy etc. This makes it really easy to keep track of who everybody is. I wish more books would do that.

There are some wonderful snippets such as...'the only time anybody would call the police would be to shoot them. They know that and don't come.' While the reader is absorbing such snippets the narrator continues relentlessly,so you have to keep stopping and winding back 30 seconds.

Mostly the story is told by a sometimes complex series of diversions before getting back to where the author left off. The reader is tempted to lose concentration during such diversions, but shouldn't. The diversions are really what the book is all about and contain the finest writing. I love the way the author seems to delve into a thesaurus to find the best word to use and finds she can't choose the best word so we get them all... it really amazes me how the author kept up the fine writing for all 14 hours 11 minutes. There really is no padding.

I particularly liked the narration by Brid Brennan, unlike Ian Paisley, she really makes the N. Ireland accent sound quite beautiful. She seemed to have an appreciation of the work and relished every word that she was reading.

22 of 22 people found this review helpful

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Excellent narration and a good book

Third booker read/listen this year and certainly the best so far (Donal Ryan and Michael Ondaatje were a little disappointing). It is about an 18-year old girl and how she tries not to care about what the people in her paranoid and gossip-sick neighbourhood in Northern-Ireland during the troubles think about her. And then how her trying not to care makes things only get worse.

There is a section around half-way where things move a little slow and at some point I was even tempted to give it up, but I am very glad I continued as the end is the best. The beautiful voice of the narrator certainly helped in persevering!

29 of 31 people found this review helpful

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Brilliant but terrifying!

The Troubles in N. Ireland back then seemed largely a world away from the Midlands of England growing up. This an account of a teenager’s life on the Catholic side of town is beautifully written yet terrifying how what happened almost felt normal.

Shortlisted for the Man Booker this year and has to be a worthy contender to win.

18 of 19 people found this review helpful

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Remarkable and important

This astonishing book, with a unique voice, is a profound reconstruction of what it was like for an under confident 18 year old girl to live through and be formed by the Northern Irish troubles in the 1970s. Essentially this is a story about stalking and psychological terror. It is sad, gripping, funny and compelling. The reading by Bríd Brennan is flawless, with particular good rendition of child voices (the wee sisters).

15 of 16 people found this review helpful

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Hugely Enjoyable

Firstly, Brid Brennan delivers an outstanding narration of Anna Burns work. You can hear her own love for the work she's narrating in every sentence spoken.

The work itself is stunning. Yes, it's set in the time of The Troubles and it's depiction of that place is detailed. But it's the way Anna Burns writes about people, their 'psychologicals', their complex, contradictory simple behaviour that makes this so compelling. Special mention to the 4 hour passage that takes us from a classroom to outside the family home in a stream of divergencies. You wonder at Burns skill holding the narrative together but she does. This is one of those rare books that you keep within you. I loved it. "Yes but"...

35 of 39 people found this review helpful

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Just wonderful...

Beautifully written, constructive and narrated (possibly the best I’ve ever heard) Caught magnificently the atmosphere, the tension, the language, the humour, family life, the underwritten dos and the don’ts of the community, resourcefulness of character needed to survive, live and despite the background of hopeless enjoy life in that unnamed city that I also grew up in in the seventies. What a heroine and why aren’t there more third brother in law’s!
Just brilliant, best novel I’ve read in 2018

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

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Brilliant!

I feel like I've been waiting for this book to come along for years. Beautifully written prose that reflects the fractured and disjointed culture of a society that has been deeply divided by political and religious factions as seen through the eyes of a teenage girl who is trying to make sense of it all as she is innocently and helplessly drawn into the web of local political 'players', gossips and rumor-mongers.
Anna Burns' beautiful language echo's the rhythm and repetition of the Northern Irish colloquialisms and is brought to life by the wonderful narration of Brid Breenan which gives the novel a living dimension.
Beautifully paced, touching, quietly threatening and laugh out loud in places the incidents and accidents of the main characters made this novel an instant classic for me and is firmly placed in my all time top 10. I just didn't want this to end as I know the next novel I listen to has such a lot to live up to.....I may just listen to it again. Did I say this is a beautiful book? It is, just that.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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  • Anthony
  • Sydney, Australia
  • 18-11-18

Growing up with the Troubles

Beautifully written this story offers insights into the relationships within families and the community during Northern Ireland's political struggles. The insights, the humour and the melancholy are all observed close-up, in the day-to-day lives of people trying to live their lives while being drawn into the politics, the suspicion, and the violence of everyday life.

The author barely presents a single name throughout the story - always talking about the milkman, the first sister, third sister, brother-in-law, nearly boyfriend, and a range of others. This conveys the sense that these events and relationships could have occurred, or indeed did occur, in every family, and how disruptive and destructive this was.

It's also a coming of age novel in which the narrator established what her own life and loves are about while trying to fend off the powerful influences and imposed stereotypes of others. The twists and turns reveal some unexpected casualties and events, sensitively shared and narrated.

One of the most distressing scenes I've ever read about describes the vicious throat-slitting of all the dogs in a small town by UK government-supported paramilitaries (or perhaps they are UK forces themselves). It brings home, like few passages I've read, the dreadful nature of internal conflict and of the attempts by different sides to silence the others and to gain political advantage. The dogs' crime? To let the community know that strangers were present and that some foul activity was underway. One can feel the pain, the sorrow, the mournfulness of community members searching through a pile of canine cadavers, covered in blood, retrieving their own 'best friend' to cuddle and carry the bloody corpse home for burial.

Lots of other by-the-by insights into the undermining of communities resulting from surveillance, false accusations, suspicion, and surreptitious acts of terror. It's easy to see how longstanding the corrosive impact of political violence can be within communities, and invariably is...

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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best journey into the young female psyche ever

memorable Joycean brutal beauty with
blow your mind honesty and exploratory prose- engaging from first sentence



3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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what a great book

I loved it from start to finish , stimulating and unusual, great narration too. I will be listening to it again soon.

7 of 8 people found this review helpful

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  • Nicole Del Sesto
  • 27-07-18

Beyond the Pale

What a great start to Booker season!  I loved this book.  I thought the writing clever and the story engrossing.  It's an unnamed time and an unnamed place (actually Northern Ireland during the "troubles") with unnamed characters.  

Through the voice of our narrator ("middle sister" and "maybe girlfriend" and "friend") we explore issues of the time including: politics; feminism; family; individuality, conformity and love.   What it's like to group up in a place where everybody knows you and if you stick out even a little bit, to assume the worst about you.

There's a psychological  element as well, which added a layer of suspense to the whole story which I thought was done extremely well. 

I listened to the audio which only added to my enjoyment.  The narrator was perfect and the parts of the writing which would have been outstanding in the reading of them were really enhanced. 

A top 2018 read for me.   

9 of 9 people found this review helpful

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  • Jennifer S. Leblanc
  • 20-08-18

Exquisitely narrated!

The narration is so good on this wild story that it makes it worth reading.
I struggled thru the first half of this book, confused by the circumstances and what seemed like to much character development without enough context development. By the last hour, it all came together beautifully and I loved the story. But I admit that I might not have gotten that far without the brilliant work of the narrator.

6 of 6 people found this review helpful

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  • kurdis teed
  • 30-09-18

Shortlisted for the Booker...and for good reason

Finally, something a bit different. Anna Burns' manages to do something different in an age when everything has already been done. It's nothing drastic, but Milkman really is a good book. I had my doubts at first, but I hung in there due to one of the best performances I've ever heard. Brid Brennan is a goddess when it comes to narration.

As I make my way through the Booker longlist, Milkman is my pick as of now. Sadly, I predict many people will give up on it too soon, as not a lot happens immediately. I also enjoyed The Mars Room and Snap. Warlight is my least favorite of the four contenders I've listened to. While I'm not sure if Milkman is the best written story of this bunch, it's the best audiobook. If there's a better one on the list, I'll be glad to hear it. Overall rating:

4.46 stars

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

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  • Theodore
  • 11-02-19

Incredible Literary Experience!

This is my first Audible review even though I am one of the very early users of Audible and have listened to about 100 titles so far. I am making this exception because the combination of an incredible book with an incredible narrator makes the experience of listening to Milkman truly unique and wonderful. For a person not familiar with the Northern Irish accent, listening to Brid Brennan was like listening to a foreign language, only I was delighted to find that I could understand everything (with some imagination). And what a wonderful sense of humor has Anna Burns!! I keep telling people that Ms. Burns is a shining example of the fact that no matter how depressing the story you are telling, humor goes such a very very long way!! Thank you Ms. Burns, thank you Ms. Brennan, and thank you Audible!! Shalom, Teddy Weinberger

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  • Andre
  • 23-12-18

Supremely entertaining!

This book allowed me to understand the trials and tribulations of being a woman in a conflicted corner of the world in a difficult period. But I am sure that a lot of it holds true for any place and any time. And, we get a peek of the toll of the conflict to daily existence, without sermonizing or without the sheen of ideology. I am happy to have gotten the chance to listen to the book. The reader is amazing.

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  • Justin Z.
  • 11-12-18

Best #Metoo themed yet

This is a convincing and compelling exploration of the many ways in which women (and men) can be subtly trapped in invisible tyrannies. Unlike other more pretentious works (esp recent dystopian #metoo works) Milkman does this in a grounded way without resorting to gimmicks. Anna Burns’ voice is unique and the reading in the vernacular is fantastic.

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  • E.M. Biggs
  • 09-12-18

Brilliant narration

This excellent novel, set in the 1970s in a divided and violent North Ireland, hinged on the psychological effects of a stalker on an eighteen year old girl. It was brilliantly and evocatively read by the narrator.

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  • J. Houlding
  • 08-12-18

Incredible! Must listen!

This is an amazing novel with a perfect narrator and a compelling story in a unique voice. Listen now.

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  • Robin
  • 05-12-18

Brilliantly read

I approached this book warily, having found most previous Booker winners unreadable, and I’m pretty sure I would find this unreadable too in text form. It’s written from deep inside the narrator’s head, with many lengthy stream-of-consciousness passages of a type that I usually find impenetrable.

What saves it is the absolutely brilliant reading by Brid Brennan. She brings an enormous intelligence to the reading, and has obviously done an enormous amount of work to understand the rhythms and complexity of the prose, and as a result the attentive listener will have little difficulty following the narrative and the flow of events.

Others have written about the subject matter more or less informatively. For me what stands out is the powerlessness of the 18-year-old narrator to resist the restrictions that surround her and the constraints that are put upon her by the overwhelmingly oppressive society and circumstances into which she was born and in which she lives. The sense of foreboding is so intense that at times I was reluctant to read further for fear of what might happen next.

This is a highly rewarding book, and I cannot speak highly enough of Brid Brennan’s reading.

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  • xx
  • 04-11-18

Marvelous

Book itself astounding and clever. I am very familiar with Irish history so viewed the story through the intended lens, however, it is easily perceived as a universal story even if you don’t know the name of the “country across the water” or “over the border.” The non use of proper names is not at all confusing and I rather don’t understand why this book has a difficult reputation. Narration was perfect. Accent authentic with the correct blend of Irish and near Scottish indicative of Northern Irish. (As opposed to English narrator to Sebastian Barry book - just so WRONG!) embark upon this journey today! Book underestimated even. And Booker prize wildly biased typically against Irish authors so know this novel met an even higher standard than other winners. Enjoy. I envy you experiencing it for the first time.