WINNER OF THE 2019 GOLDSMITHS PRIZE • SHORTLISTED FOR THE 2019 BOOKER PRIZE • A NEW YORKER BEST BOOK OF 2019 • A NEW YORK TIMES NOTABLE BOOK OF 2019 • A TIME MUST-READ BOOK OF 2019
"This book has its face pressed up against the pane of the present; its form mimics the way our minds move now toggling between tabs, between the needs of small children and aging parents, between news of ecological collapse and school shootings while somehow remembering to pay taxes and fold the laundry."—Parul Sehgal, New York Times
Baking a multitude of tartes tatins for local restaurants, an Ohio housewife contemplates her four kids, husband, cats and chickens. Also, America's ignoble past, and her own regrets. She is surrounded by dead lakes, fake facts, Open Carry maniacs, and oodles of online advice about survivalism, veil toss duties, and how to be more like Jane Fonda. But what do you do when you keep stepping on your son's toy tractors, your life depends on stolen land and broken treaties, and nobody helps you when you get a flat tire on the interstate, not even the Abominable Snowman? When are you allowed to start swearing?
With a torrent of consciousness and an intoxicating coziness, Ducks, Newburyport lays out a whole world for you to tramp around in, by turns frightening and funny. A heart-rending indictment of America's barbarity, and a lament for the way we are blundering into environmental disaster, this book is both heresy―and a revolution in the novel.
APPLE BOOKS REVIEW
A novel doesn’t have to reinvent the wheel in order to blow us away—but Ducks, Newburyport does both. Stream of consciousness in the truest sense, the book presents an Ohio housewife’s real-time internal monologue. There are no chapters or even paragraph breaks; most of the hefty novel’s prose consists of a single sentence. The effect is profoundly intimate and strangely moving, offering a deep dive into the heroine’s anxieties, memories, and wit as she contemplates topics ranging from climate change and school shootings to online shopping and poached eggs. American-born British novelist Lucy Ellmann achieves something great here: reflecting America’s collective unconscious through a smart, troubled, and very endearing character.
This shaggy stream-of-consciousness monologue from Ellmann (Sweet Desserts) confronts the currents of contemporary America. On the surface it's a story of domestic life, as the unnamed female narrator puts it: "my life's all shopping, chopping, slicing, splicing, spilling." Her husband, Leo, is a civil engineer; they have "four greedy, grouchy, unmanageable kids"; she bakes and sells pies; and nothing more eventful happens than when she gets a flat tire while making a pie delivery. Yet plot is secondary to this book's true subject: the narrator's consciousness. Written in rambling hundred-page sentences, whose clauses each begin with "the fact that...," readers are privy to intimate facts ("the fact that I don't think I really started to live until Leo loved me"), mundane facts ("the fact that fridge' has a D in it, but refrigerator' doesn't"), facts thought of in the shower ("the fact that every murderer must have a barber"), and flights of associative thinking ("Jake's baby potty, Howard Hughes's milk bottles of pee, opioid crisis, red tide"). Interspersed throughout is the story of a lion mother, separated from her cubs and ceaselessly searching for them. This jumble of cascading thoughts provides a remarkable portrait of a woman in contemporary America contemplating her own life and society's storm clouds, such as the Flint water crisis, gun violence, and the Trump presidency. The narrator is a fiercely protective mother trying to raise her children the only way she knows how, in a rapidly changing and hostile environment. Ellmann's work is challenging but undoubtedly brilliant.