Anna Burns: from rank outsider to No 1 bestseller

A sneak preview of tomorrow’s books pages

Anna Burns, winner of the Man Booker Prize for Fiction for her novel Milkman. Photograph: EPA/Facundo Arrizabalaga

Anna Burns, winner of the Man Booker Prize for Fiction for her novel Milkman. Photograph: EPA/Facundo Arrizabalaga

 

There is only one news story this week: Belfast author Anna Burns winning the Man Booker Prize on Tuesday for her third novel, Milkman. Maybe you’ll believe me when I say that I recognised its brilliance after reading a few pages if I also admit that I set it aside after a couple of days as it was making my commute longer, saving it for a rainy day at home a good bit later. It’s an immersive read that is best appreciated as an all-day deep dive rather than a daily quick dip.

Having championed it since May, without exactly moving markets, I am in awe of the power of the Man Booker to make the weather: Milkman is the No 1 bestseller on Amazon in Britain and Faber has now printed more than 150,000 copies. It had sold only just over 6,000 copies prior to its win, but the signs were there if you knew where to look, unlike the bookies who had it as a rank outsider. Nielsen BookScan statistics showed it was the most popular shortlisted title and had benefited most since being shortlisted.

Read all about it below.

In tomorrow’s Irish Times, Motherfoclóir author Darach Ó Séaghdha writes about his new book Craic Baby, Brexit and the birth of his daughter Lasairíona, who has Down syndrome, and argues that in protecting the heritage of minority languages and championing the potential of people with disabilities, there is a resistance to an imposed, careless concept of normality. Linda Anderson’s intensely political Cuckoo is as topical today as it was when first published in 1986, says James Doyle. Eimar Ultan O’Duffy wrote a variety of books and plays, but the ‘Cuanduine’ trilogy, with its mix of Irish mythology, social critique and science fiction, is his great achievement, claims Kevin Gildea.

Our reviews include Seán Hewitt on Unsheltered by Barbara Kingsolver; Paraic O’Donnell The Vogue by Eoin McNamee; Eleanor O’Reilly on Killing Commendatore by Haruki Murakami; Jane Casey on The House on Vesper Sands by Paraic O’Donnell; Houman Barekat on Ben Marcus’s Notes from the Fog; Tony Clayton-Lea on the best new music books; Rosita Sweetman on The Guilty Feminist by Deborah Frances-White; Frank McDonald on Ambition and Achievement: the Civic Visions of Frank Gibney by Fergal MacCabe; Ewen Cameron on The Scottish Clearances by Tom Devine; Caitriona O’Reilly on new collections by Medbh McGuckian, John Kelly and Kate Tempest; Sarah Gilmartin on Owen Booth’s What We’re Teaching Our Sons; Julie Parsons on Housekeeping by Marilynne Robinson; and a new poem by John Kelly in memory of Basil Blackshaw.

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