Literature | Milkman

‘As for the environment, that too, would object, backing up the pessimism of its people, which was what happened where I lived where the whole place always seemed to be in the dark. It was as if the electric lights were turned off, always turned off, even though dusk was over so they should have been turned on yet nobody was turning them on and nobody noticed either, they weren’t on.’

Milkman by Anna Burns

Set during the Troubles, this is a tale of patriarchy, conformity and perpetual fear, and the devastating impact on the young protagonist’s life. The slow, steady and relentless encroachment on her mental space and basic freedoms, which have no impact on the lives of the wider community, such as her interest in learning French and reading 19th century literature.

The violence of this book comes not from the historical period it is set in, but the manner in which women’s voices, needs and rights are silenced. Women belong to men. Women have no rights: we are housewives and mothers who, in this period of time, live in a state of continued grief for husbands and sons lost to conflict. And then we are at the mercy of our homogeneous societies. We must conform or die. Ultimately, this is what I read happening to this energetic, curious 18 year old: physically, she lived. But her spirit was crushed and the woman we were introduced to no longer exists.

The latter section of the book is unnecessarily wordy and drags on a wee bit. I don’t know if I enjoyed it, as I felt unsettled a lot of time, but I’m glad I read it.

Leave a Reply

Your e-mail address will not be published. Required fields are marked *