Anna Burns won the prestigious Man Booker Prize for fiction Tuesday with Milkman, a vibrant, violent story about men, women, conflict, and power set during Northern Ireland's years of Catholic-Protestant violence, the AP reports. Burns is the first writer from Northern Ireland to win the $66,000 prize, which is open to English-language authors from around the world. She received her trophy from Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, during a black-tie ceremony at London's medieval Guildhall. Milkman is narrated by a young woman dealing with an older man who uses family ties, social pressure and political loyalties as weapons of sexual coercion and harassment. It is set in the 1970s, but was published amid the global eruption of sexual misconduct allegations that sparked the "Me Too" movement.
"I think this novel will help people to think about 'Me Too,' and I like novels that help people think about current movements and challenges," said philosopher Kwame Anthony Appiah, who chaired the judging panel. "But we think it'll last—it's not just about something that's going on in this moment. I think it's a very powerful novel about the damage and danger of rumor," he added. Burns beat five other novelists, including the bookies' favorites: American writer Richard Powers' tree-centric eco-epic The Overstory and Canadian novelist Esi Edugyan's Washington Black, the story of a slave who escapes from a sugar plantation in a hot-air balloon. The other finalists were US novelist Rachel Kushner's The Mars Room, set in a women's prison; Robin Robertson's The Long Take, a verse novel about a traumatized D-Day veteran; and 27-year-old British author Daisy Johnson's Greek tragedy-inspired family saga Everything Under. (Who's the greatest Man Booker winner of them all?)