It could be my lactose intolerance, but I was just not feeling this one.
A synopsis, in brief:
Milkman is set in Northern Ireland in the ’70s, that’s never specifically said, but I used context clues like car bombings, political unrest, and the early stages of feminism to figure it out. Our unnamed lead likes to read while walking, she has a maybe boyfriend, she is being stalked by the Milkman, but not the real milkman because we meet him later and he’s alright, and she likes running with third brother-in-law. Other things happen that should be interesting, like poisonings and parents running off to be professional dancers, but I just didn’t care about any of it.
Okay, so NO ONE in this book has a name, which bugs me to no end. Perhaps I would like “wee sister” or maybe “middle wee sister” if they were called something. I’m a character driven reader. I need names.
When I was still naive enough to think I’d like this book, I came across a line that stuck with me. Our lead was out walking alone, reading a book. She was approached by Milkman, who she had no interest in talking to. She said – not out loud because there is also no dialogue in this book – “He wasn’t rude, so I couldn’t be rude.” I felt that. Sometimes, when you’re out doing your thing, whether it be reading and taking notes while walking, or something normal like watering your flower beds, you just want to be left alone, especially if someone is just radiating a creep vibe like Milkman does. But society expects us, especially women, to be polite.
Something else I didn’t hate was the lead’s thoughts on running. She liked running, but when Milkman continued showing up at the park, she skipped her runs. She found a new location. She ran with third brother-in-law, which is just a stupid thing to call someone. Give these people names. Anyway, I used to run. I had a running partner even though I actually prefer running alone. I ran in neighborhoods where I knew people. That way, if I was being followed, I had a safe place I could run to for help. I ran with pepper spray. I ran without headphones. All the things men don’t have to worry about much when they want to go for a run.
I’m sure there are some lovely points made in this book, I just don’t care about them because of the writing style.
No names, no dialogue, and minimal paragraph breaks or punctuation. I made the mistake of reading the New York Times review of this book to see if it was just me who hated it (it isn’t) and the reviewer pointed out that Anna Burns has a pattern of describing things in threes. Once it was pointed out to me, I couldn’t stop seeing it. I found her style tedious, plodding, and wearisome. <See what I mean?
I got through it and I’m looking forward to reading something I don’t despise. Like My Name is Trouble or literally anything.