A "challenging, experimental" novel that might just be easier to read aloud brought Northern Ireland its first ever Man Booker prize success last night.
The novel, Burns' third, is narrated through an 18-year-old girl, known as "middle sister", who is being pursued by a much older person, the "milkman", The Guardian reported.
The Man Booker Prize, one of the most prestigious in global literature and open to authors writing in English language, was awarded to Burns, aged 56, at a ceremony in the Guildhall, the ceremonial building at the heart of the City of London.
"But there are also in each of them moments of hope".
Set in an unnamed city, "Milkman" is a coming of age story of a young woman's affair with a married man set in the political troubles of Northern Ireland.
All the finalists, Appiah said, "take you so far from your comfort zone that you never entirely return".
Set in the 1970s, the novel was published amid the global eruption of sexual misconduct allegations sparked by the #Metoo movement.
"None of us has ever read anything like this before", said Kwame Anthony Appiah, chair of the 2018 judges, in announcing the victor. I think it's going to last. Burns, who lives in East Sussex in England, saw off competition from two British writers, two American writers and one Canadian writer.
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The other finalists were U.S. novelist Rachel Kushner's "The Mars Room", set in a women's prison; Robin Robertson's "The Long Take", a verse novel about a traumatised D-Day veteran; and 27-year-old British author Daisy Johnson's Greek tragedy-inspired family saga "Everything Under".
This year's shortlist was made up of writers from the United Kingdom, Canada and the United States.
Burns said: "I struggled a lot financially".
The Man Booker Prize was previously limited to authors from Britain, Ireland, Zimbabwe and the Commonwealth.
The recipient of the Man Booker Prize gets £52,500 (US$69,400), although the bigger reward is seen as the spike in sales which invariably follows.
Val McDermid, the best-selling crime writer and one member of the Man Booker judging panel, said, "The kind of people who read literary fiction do not ask authors for passports". Past winners include such literary titans as Kazuo Ishiguro, Ben Okri, Hilary Mantel and Michael Ondaatje, who was longlisted this year. Americans have been eligible since 2014, and there have been two American winners - Paul Beatty's The Sellout in 2016 and George Saunders' Lincoln in the Bardo in 2017.
"If you're having difficulty, try reading it out loud", he said.
"It's challenging in the way a walk up (mount) Snowdon is challenging".