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Anna Burns wins the 50th Man Booker Prize with Milkman

Milkman by Anna Burns has been named winner of the 2018 Man Booker Prize for Fiction – becoming the first author from Northern Ireland to take the award. 

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…

None of us has ever read anything like this before. 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. Set in a society divided against itself, Milkman explores the insidious forms oppression can take in everyday life. Kwame Anthony Appiah, 2018 Chair of judges

In the book, the characters have designations rather than names. When interviewed for the Man Booker Prize website, Anna Burns said:

The book didn’t work with names. It lost power and atmosphere and turned into a lesser — or perhaps just a different — book. In the early days I tried out names a few times, but the book wouldn’t stand for it. The narrative would become heavy and lifeless and refuse to move on until I took them out again. Sometimes the book threw them out itself.

Louisa Joyner, editorial director at Faber says:

The sheer force of the Man Booker, its reach and its heft could not be more powerfully deployed than on behalf of this landmark novel. A working-class writer, a female protagonist with a quality of perception that sits in stark contrast to her ability to control any of the things it perceives, Milkman embodies the times we live in. It gives voice to people we almost never hear from, in print and in the flesh, and thanks to Man Booker, the world will get to hear its cry at a time when those in power really, really need to listen.

Milkman by Anna Burns is available now in paperback.

Anna Burns Milkman


Anna Burns was born in Belfast, Northern Ireland. She is the author of two novels, No Bones and Little Constructions, and of the novella Mostly HeroNo Bones won the Winifred Holtby Memorial Prize and was shortlisted for the Orange Prize for Fiction. She lives in East Sussex, England.