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Ducks, Newburyport

Ducks, Newburyport

Lucy Ellmann

  • awardShortlisted, Booker Prize, United Kingdom, 2019


    An Ohio mother bakes pies while the world bombards her with radioactivity and fake facts. She worries about her children, caramelisation, chickens, guns, tardigrades, medical bills, environmental disaster, mystifying confrontations at the supermarket, and the best time to plant nasturtiums.

    She regrets most of her past, a million tiny embarrassments, her poverty, the loss of her mother, and the genocide on which the United States was founded.

    But in Lucy Ellmann’s scorching indictment of American barbarity comes a plea for kindness. Ducks, Newburyport is a heresy, a wonder, and a revolution in the novel. It is also unforgivably funny.


    Chicago Review of Books 
    Electric Lit 
    Guardian: The Booker prize shortlist resists easy reading 
    Literary Hub 
    Los Angeles Review of Books 
    New York Times 
    New York Times 
    New Yorker 

    Lucy Ellmann
    About the Author

    Lucy Ellmann’s first novel, Sweet Desserts, won the Guardian fiction prize. Her short stories have appeared in magazines, newspapers and anthologies, and she has written for the New York Times, Washington Post, Guardian, Independent, Independent on Sunday, Times Literary Supplement, Telegraph, New Statesman and Society, Spectator, Herald, ...

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    Text publication date:
    3 September 2019
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    Praise for Lucy Ellmann
    andDucks, Newburyport

    ‘Breathlessly brilliant…An extraordinary achievement of wit and imagination…This isn’t just one of the outstanding books of 2019, it’s one of the outstanding books of the century, so far.’

    ‘Lunatic and splenetic and distinctive… I begin to suspect [Lucy Ellmann] might be some sort of genius’

    ‘Reading Ellmann is like finding bits of broken glass in your lollipop.’

    ‘Hilarious, eye-wateringly funny…I have found a new hero in Lucy Ellmann.’

    ‘A wildly ambitious and righteously angry portrait of contemporary America.’

    ‘[Readers] will recognise Ellmann’s dauntless cataloguing of desires, her refusal to be anything but self-directed…It’s a book about a mother’s love, but also about loss and grief, and anxiety dreams about Donald Trump, and despair about mass shootings…It is also a catalogue of life’s many injuries and mishaps…and of the simple joys and consolations of memory and imagination. [A] triumph.’

    ‘Ellmann is an expert juggler with words. Her satire is deft, sophisticated and enchantingly surreal.’

    Ulysses has nothing on this.’

    ‘Magnificent…Ellman has produced a domestic epic of modern American life in the Trump era.’

    ‘The unstoppable monologue of an Ohio housewife in Lucy Ellmann’s extraordinary Ducks, Newburyport is like nothing you’ve ever read before. A cacophony of humour, violence and Joycean word play, it engages—furiously—with the detritus of domesticity as well as Trump’s America. This audacious and epic novel is brilliantly conceived, and challenges the reader with its virtuosity and originality.’

    ‘A jaw-dropping miracle.’

    ‘A remarkable portrait of a woman in contemporary America contemplating her own life and society’s storm clouds…Brilliant.’

    ‘A work resplendent in ambition, humour and humanity…It is a cornucopia of everyday experience, a lifetime of memories hoarded and pored over, like the family heirlooms the narrator and her husband have inherited along with all the joy and desolation contained within them…In Ducks, Newburyport, Ellmann has created a wisecracking, melancholy Mrs Dalloway for the internet age.’

    Ducks’ achievement is in making the thoughts of its unnamed narrator feel timely, fresh, and on a pressing narrative trajectory. It manages intimacies between the narrator and reader, between the self and the other, and between literary and actual time…Ducks, Newburyport, as all the best novels do, had reenchanted the world.’

    ‘Is it any good? Oh my word, yes. Reading it at this point in time feels like an act of human solidarity, a commitment to a world of truth and reason. … No other novel published this year is likely to have a stronger claim on the attention of contemporary or future readers.’

    ‘This book has its face pressed up against the pane of the present; its form mimics the way our minds move now…Let the novel open like an oubliette under your feet. It feels dense at first, a bit like drowning, without a period or paragraph break in sight. But a rhythm asserts itself and a structure, musical and associative….The capaciousness of the book allows Ellmann to stretch and tell the story of one family on a canvas that stretches back to the bloody days of Western expansion, but its real value feels deeper — it demands the very attentiveness, the care, that it enshrines.’

    ‘Wondrous…A complex book about a complicated time. It reads like an outpour of humanity beckoning to be heard.‘

    ‘Ellmann captures the pathos of the everyday…The time and care that she lavishes on her narrator seem like their own form of political speculation—that every individual is owed an unending devotion, and that such devotion, applied universally, might change the fate of the world.’

    ‘Brilliantly ambitious…As accumulative, as pointed, as death-addled, as joyous, as storied, as multitudinous and as large as life.’

    ‘Ellmann has made a case that a richer, less regimented language leads to a more vibrant and capacious mind, and has thus crafted the entrancing Ducks, Newburyport into a celebration of all that words, and the minds they build, can contain.’

    Other editions ofDucks, Newburyport
    • Ducks, Newburyport
      ISBN: 9781925923421
      3 September 2019
      Buy ebook