Anna Burns says Booker Prize-winning novel was not intentionally political

British author Anna Burns holds her book Milkman

British author Anna Burns holds her book Milkman Credit Daniel Leal-Olivias AFP

Anna Burns has become the first Northern Irish victor of the Man Booker Prize for her experimental tale of sexual coercion, Milkman.

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 story of an 18-year-old girl's encounters with sex, sectarianism and social coercion in an unnamed province has seen the north Belfast author become the first UK-born victor since Hilary Mantel in 2012.

"But there are also in each of them moments of hope". The antagonist uses family, social pressure and even political affiliations to harass her.

Acknowledging that Milkman is "not a light read, Appiah said: "I do commend people to try reading it aloud".

Set in the 1970s, the novel was published amid the global eruption of sexual misconduct allegations sparked by the #Metoo movement.

Booker's chair of judges, the philosopher Kwame Anthony Appiah, said that the novel is "incredibly original". The other nominees were The Long Take by Robin Robertson, Washington Black by Esi Edugyan, The Mars Room by Rachel Kushner, and The Overstory by Richard Powers.

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US novelist Rachel Kushner's "The Mars Room", U.K. poet Robin Robertson's "The Long Take" and American writer Richard Powers' "The Overstory" are competing for the 50,000 pound ($66,000) prize with a reputation for transforming writers' careers.

The Man Booker Prize shortlist of six writers was dominated by women this year, with four women making the top selection.

"If we had been drifting towards thinking that one of the men on the list was the best one, I wouldn't have said "No guys, we're going to get in trouble for this" any more than if we'd been drifting towards an American", he said.

The writer was awarded the Man Booker at an award ceremony at the Guildhall in London. The winning author also receives a designer bound edition of her book and a further 2,500 pounds for being short-listed. "We picked the one. most deserving of the prize". Past winners include such literary titans as Kazuo Ishiguro, Ben Okri, Hilary Mantel and Michael Ondaatje, who was longlisted this year. It was originally open to British, Irish and Commonwealth writers but Americans have been eligible since 2014.

She is the first Northern Irish author and 17th woman to win the prize since it began in 1969.

Judges have said they did not consider the current prominence of Northern Ireland or the gender equality debate in their deliberations, nor was the accessibility of the book to average readers "on the Tube". But Appiah said the vivid, distinctive Belfast language in Burns' book was "really worth savoring".

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