Anna Burns on Tuesday became the first author from Northern Ireland to win the Man Booker Prize for Fiction for her novel 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.

“None of us has ever read anything like this before,” Booker Prize chair of judges Kwame Anthony Appiah said. “Anna Burns’s utterly distinctive voice challenges conventional thinking and form in surprising and immersive prose. It is a story of brutality, sexual encroachment and resistance threaded with mordant humour.”

Appiah said the novel was “challenging” at times because it does not use character names. “I spend my time reading articles in the Journal of Philosophy so by my standards this is not too hard,” he said. “And it is enormously rewarding if you persist with it.”

At a press conference later, the 56-year-old Burns said she “just had to wait for my characters to tell me their stories”. “I’ll clear my debts and live on what’s left,” she said when asked what she would do with the £50,000 prize money.

First awarded in 1969, the Man Booker Prize is open to writers of any nationality, writing in English and published in the United Kingdom and Ireland. Other authors on the shortlist this year included debut novelists Daisy Johnson and Robin Robertson, for Everything Under and The Long Take, respectively, as well as American writers Rachel Kushner and Richard Powers for The Mars Room and The Overstory, respectively, and Canadian writer Esi Edugyan for Washington Black. At 26, Johnson was the youngest-ever author to be shortlisted for the prize.