2020 Winner



2020 Winner!

Watch Anna Burn’s acceptance speech.

Dramatised reading of Milkman by Anna Burns, performed by Séana Kerslake. Produced by Bazar Productions.

In this special podcast series, produced in partnership with ILFDublin, Caelainn Hogan and Jessica Traynor explore the novel Milkman, and speak to author Anna Burns.

Comments from the Judging Panel

‘Reading this book is an immersive experience. Once experienced, Anna Burns’ Milkman will never be forgotten. The reader becomes the world of the book. There was simply no other novel like it on the longlist. Many novels come and go but this tour-de-force is a remarkable achievement. We read it with huge admiration and gratitude. When we finished it, we felt enriched, informed, wiser.’

‘A description of what this original book is about fails to do it justice. Its brilliance lies in its compelling, questioning voice, its strong individual, resilient narrator, its evocation of place, its threatening and sinister atmosphere, its description of what Burns calls lives of ‘nervous caution.’

‘Milkman soon emerged as a frontrunner and naming it our eventual winner was a unanimous decision.’

‘The sinister, edgy and uncertain world of Anna Burns’s Milkman, as captured through a mature eighteen-year-old Middle Sister’s consciousness is both a challenging and hugely rewarding original work. Though set in an unnamed Belfast during the Troubles, it is a convincing and disturbing description of anywhere threatening and violent, of a place where religion, politics and geography determine how people must live their lives. In Burns’s narrator’s distinctive, sane and humorous voice, the novel explores a young woman’s attempt to assert her individuality, resist the imposed, claustrophobic pressure of a rumour-filled and menacing male-dominated world, value the truth, negotiate love and believe in a future.’

About the Novel

In an unnamed city, where to be interesting is dangerous, an eighteen-year-old woman has attracted the unwanted and unavoidable attention of a powerful and frightening older man, ‘Milkman‘. In this community, where suggestions quickly become fact, where gossip and hearsay can lead to terrible consequences, what can she do to stop a rumour once it has started? Milkman is persistent, the word is spreading, and she is no longer in control . . .

Milkman was published to critical acclaim in 2018 and went on to win the Man Booker Prize in that year.

About the Author

Anna Burns was born in Belfast, Northern Ireland. She is the author of three novels, No Bones, Little Constructions and Milkman, and of the novella, Mostly Hero. No Bones won the Winifred Holtby Memorial Prize and was short-listed for the Orange Prize for Fiction. She lives in East Sussex, England.

Librarian’s Comments

A report from the seventies amidst Northern Ireland troubles, authentic, thrilling, in parts deeply funny: we follow a young woman for whom violence both from politics and society seems natural. “Middle sister” the unnamed main character, manages to stand up to sexual harassment and neighbourhood watch. “Reading while walking”, she is an outsider with a sharp sight for humanity thus gaining resilience. Stadtbücherei Frankfurt am Main, Germany

This novel was an immersion into the Author’s created world that drew the reader in immediately. The style used created a narrative flow that reflected the subject and made it memorable without being dense. It’s an engaging and compelling story. Limerick City and Council Libraries, Ireland

A complex exploration of totalitarian politics and adolescence colliding, cast in a stream of consciousness form that manages to be both shocking and wry.  Redbridge Libraries, England 

Set in Ireland during The Troubles, this energetic, subversive story is both an account of the mayhem suffered by the citizens of an unnamed city during those days and a tender, introspective examination of a young girl’s adolescence. Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh, USA



Faber and Faber, Graywolf Press


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