Milkman by Anna BurnsBy Eric Antoine Scuccimarra
I don't usually read much fiction but I am very glad I read this book. Milkman is a story of an 18 year old girl living in Northern Ireland in the 1970s, during the Troubles. The main plot is about how a local paramilitary leader, referred to as "Milkman", sets his sights on her and how the community assumes they are having an affair despite the fact that they are not. The plot, however, is not really all that important to the book, which mostly describes the community she lives in in all of its absurdity and violence.
For the first 50 or so pages I had a difficult time getting into the book, but once I had gotten used to its style I couldn't pull myself out. Ms Burns writes in a style somewhat reminiscent of Joseph Heller, William Gaddis, and Thomas Pynchon and at times I was even reminded of David Foster Wallace. The town and the people who live in it are so bizarre and absurd with all their petty rules about what names are allowed and which are not and what tea you can drink and which you can't that you want to take the book as a comedy. But the ever-present backdrop of violence, which has people killed for violating these rules, provides a counterweight reminding us that this is all deadly serious.
This is a difficult book to write about as it is not easily dissembled into pieces, but really needs to be taken in as a whole. Describing any of the characters or situations outside of their context is to do the book a huge disservice, so I will end here by saying that this is by far the best fiction I have read in several years, and I would encourage everyone that they should read it. Brava, Ms Burns.