• Milkman

  • By: Anna Burns
  • Narrated by: Bríd Brennan
  • Length: 14 hrs and 11 mins
  • 4.2 out of 5 stars (1,895 ratings)

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Milkman  By  cover art

Milkman

By: Anna Burns
Narrated by: Bríd Brennan
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Publisher's Summary

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. Milkman is a tale of gossip and hearsay, silence and deliberate deafness. It is a story of inaction with enormous consequences.

©2018 Dreamscape Media, LLC (P)2018 Dreamscape Media, LLC

Editor's Pick

Winner of the 2018 Man Booker Prize
"Every once in a while I like a challenge and Milkman is that in spades. But one well-worth taking on because it's oh-so-smart, and well written, and it got in my head and made me think differently. It didn't change my mind about the political and social implications of the Troubles in Northern Ireland in the '70s—but it altered how I saw the world for a while after I finished listening. The 18-year-old female protagonist may be unnamed, but boy is she a unique and brilliantly drawn character. It's through her eyes, and the unflinching performance of narrator Bríd Brennan, that I came to see what happens in a world where illogical, even absurd, lines are made between us and them—and almost no one thinks to question it."
Tricia F., Audible Editor

What listeners say about Milkman

Average Customer Ratings
Overall
  • 4 out of 5 stars
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    1,168
  • 4 Stars
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  • 3 Stars
    191
  • 2 Stars
    108
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Performance
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  • 2 Stars
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Story
  • 4 out of 5 stars
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    1,018
  • 4 Stars
    298
  • 3 Stars
    174
  • 2 Stars
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  • 1 Stars
    110

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  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars

Like the writing, not the audio issues

I almost gave up on this book early on for two reasons. First, the author’s too-cute quirk of leaving everyone nameless (“Third Brother-in-law,” “Maybe Boyfriend,” etc.) soon palls. Second, the pace feels achingly slow. I feared the story was going nowhere for the first two chapters. Once you get into the rhythm of the nameless narrator (excellent reading performance by Brid Brennan), though, and catch on to her sardonic sense of humor, you see the point of the thing. And you see just how crisp and clean the writing is. This is a fascinating peek into the live of those who lived through The Troubles in Ireland. Stick with it until it sweeps you up.

One major caveat to be aware of is that there are several very short passages where I believe the audiobook has been edited — digitally corrected or perhaps even re-recorded. Maybe the performer read a word incorrectly, or missed a bit of text? Whatever the reason, both the quality of the sound and the volume change briefly, and then the recording reverts back to normal. It happens enough times that I got really annoyed. The technology exists to fix it. Audible should do better than that.

236 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    3 out of 5 stars

No real plot. You will either love it or hate it.

If you are expecting a plot driven story, this will disappoint and infuriate you. It felt like a stream of consciousness and I almost gave up after Chapter 3 but the narration was so good I felt strangely compelled to listen further. Lots to get used to: the Northern Ireland Irish accent, and, the author's style, verbose to say the least. The fact that her characters don't have names is neither here nor there. I never got confused and it wasn't an issue. On the plus side some wonderful descriptive paragraphs that will stay with you, and a brilliant insight into life in Northern Ireland during 'the troubles' especially the mentality and fallout of those communities forced to pick a side and what that entails. An uneasy current flows throughout the narrative. In some ways reminded me of Ryan's Daughter. But, did I enjoy It? If I'm honest, not really, and was glad to reach the end.

138 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Superb

Milkman is the story told by a young woman living in a city in Northern Ireland in the 1970’s. She has a peculiar habit which sets her apart from the others: she reads while she walks. Her preference is for historical fiction as she’d rather be in some other century than her own. She reads as she walks to work. She reads as she walks to her French language night class. She reads as she walks everywhere.
And somehow, when a terrorist named “The Milkman” begins stalking her, her family and friends blame her situation on her habit of reading while walking.
The story is told like a fairy tale with feathery poetic language. The people and places in the unnamed protagonist’s life are identified by their function: Almost Maybe Boyfriend, Milkman, The Real Milkman, Tablets Girl, Shining Girl, the Holy Women, the Problem Women, the people across the road, the place across the border, the place across the water. My favorite are The Three Wee Sisters, the storyteller’s younger sisters who are impossibly precocious, a bit bossy, speak in one voice, and don’t seem adversely effected by their environment.
Like a fairy tale, this story tells of many dark things and horrific things: stalking, common-place violence, suicide, mental illness, layers and layers of laws and rules (those from across the water, those from the resisters, those from the state, those from the church) and the strange ways the community copes.
I listened to the audio performed by Bríd Brennan, easily one of the best audiobooks I’ve ever heard. Her accent is understandable to my American ear. Her voice has a bedside-story charm that enhances the novel. Her characterizations are subtle but distinct.

110 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    2 out of 5 stars

There is a story in here but it’s an effort to get to it

I just finished this book and let out a cheer in the car. An award winning book shouldn’t go unfinished, I told myself. I also wanted to see what eventually happened to middle sister, maybe boyfriend, wee sisters, ma, and milkman to name a few. The narrator, Brid Brennan is the real hero though. She did a masterful job of bringing this book to life. She took the jumble of thoughts and words and turned them into a story with her tone and inflection of words. She must have spent some time with the author getting to know her intentions, it was a remarkable feat. I could not have read a hard copy of this. I needed this kind of narration. There are moments of loveliness in the telling of this story, clarity, compelling insights into not only its characters but of Northern Ireland and the troubles of this particular era and the effect it had on people. Would I read it again? No I wouldn’t but somewhere inside I am probably better for having read it, right?

58 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Outstanding audio and content

I was hooked right away on the audio of this award-winning story. Captivating, creative, entrancing, illuminating. “Maybe boyfriend” and “3rd brother in law” and “the political problems” will be with me as long as the title. I’ve read almost all the Booker nominees and this one (literally) takes the prize.

50 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Narration made it even better

This is a great novel. As NYT reviewer noted, the description (as opposed to naming) of characters makes it a complex read. I felt the reader (with accent) really brought the book to life, especially her performance of the “wee sisters”!

47 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    1 out of 5 stars
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    1 out of 5 stars
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    1 out of 5 stars

Returned With Prejudice

So, let me tell you how I really feel…. I have been with Audible for over 17 years and can count the number of books I have returned with less than the fingers of one hand. Two chapters into the Milkman I couldn’t wait to return this horrid, painful, unpleasant, rotten, awful, irritating, nails-on-a-chalkboard piece of dreadful listening (there’s a purpose to all the adjectives).

There are three major reasons for my distaste:
1) Sound Engineering. It was awful. The dynamic range created a recording that was almost impossible to listen to while driving. Even at high volume, one word would be too loud and the next too soft. Sometimes whole sentences were drowned out by ambient road noise – a problem I’ve rarely encountered in my almost 400 other books.
2) Narration. Making the dynamic range issue even more of a problem was that the narrator, at times, sounded like she was mumbling. I had no issue with the accent. It was good. But mumbling?! Come on!
3) Endless Lists. The writing reminded me of grade-school English assignments that came with a required word count. I and my fellow class mates would pack these with all the adjectives and nouns we could think of: “cat didn’t have gray fur, or black fur, or white fur, or brown fur. It had tan fur.” Within a space of just a few “pages” Burns packs paragraphs in a similar fashion (see first paragraph above). In describing a car, she lists every possible adjective then switches to a mind-numbing list of invented alpha-numeric names “XG1” etc. Then in just a few paragraphs on, she proceeds through a baby-book’s anthology of boy names banned by the subculture in question.
Finally, speaking of names, there are no names of specific people or places in book. Instead, the nomenclature is as follows: First Sister, Middle Sister, Maybe Boyfriend, First brother-in-law, Second Brother-in-law, add infinitum! While I didn’t find this particularly irritating, neither did I find it added anything. Maybe critics might see it as “Avant guard.” My thought was, “not impressed.”
Please Audible, get this book out of my library!

35 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Maybe Magnificent !

Authentic and atmospheric bit of historical fiction recounting the everyday intricacies of life in Northern Ireland during the Troubles. Having recently spent time in Belfast and Derry, my sense at the time that something very bad had happened not so very long ago, was borne out and made clear by Milkman. It is a deserved prize winner made all the more poignant by Brid Brennan’s masterful narration.

18 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

Unlike anything I've ever experienced

I had some serious reservations about even attempting this Booker Prize winner, especially after reading reviews about its complexity. I approached Say Nothing first. It is another highly praised (but nonfiction) book on the same subject. I highly recommend reading both. I also liked using the audio and print sources together. Brid Brennan's narration is particularly wonderful in fully appreciating Milkman..

For the first time I found that I tend to naturally keep track of characters in a generic way, (e.g. the nurse rather than Miss Jones). Anna Burns uses descriptions of characters in place of names it in both a hilarious and sobering way. Despite the humor, this is a tragic story of the suffering of people in divided Ireland. It's one of the most original works I've read in many years. It's courageous as well.

16 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    2 out of 5 stars

Too hard to get through, but I did it.

A critic said that it was going to tough to read the entire book, but thought it was worth it. I disagree. I am not sure that there was a true plot other than the protagonist being pursued by "Milkman" and then his death and some other comings of truth.

What really drove me crazy was her not using names but references like "Somebody McBody" or First Sister, etc. And then there was the excessive use of the phrase "beyond the pale." She must have used it 30 times in one chapter.

OK, I endured and it was not worth it, other than discussing as an oddity to other book lovers.

The reader did an excellent job navigating the diatribe.

14 people found this helpful