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Ducks, Newburyport


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An utterly original novel, longlisted for the 2019 Booker Prize in which one woman navigates, through compelling inner monologue, the tension and disquiet of contemporary America.

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, Scottish Review of Books, Time Out (London), Art Monthly, Thirsty Books, Bookforum, Aeon, Evergreen and Baffler. American by birth, she now lives in Scotland.


'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.' * Irish Times *
'Reading Ellmann is like finding bits of broken glass in your lollipop.' * Evening Standard *
'Hilarious, eye-wateringly funny...I have found a new hero in Lucy Ellmann.' * Scotsman *
'A wildly ambitious and righteously angry portrait of contemporary America.' * Observer *
'[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.' * Guardian *
'Ellmann is an expert juggler with words. Her satire is deft, sophisticated and enchantingly surreal.' * Sunday Telegraph *
'Ulysses has nothing on this.' * Cosmopolitan *
'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.' * 2019 Booker Prize Jury Citation *
'A jaw-dropping miracle.' * Library Journal (starred review) *
'A remarkable portrait of a woman in contemporary America contemplating her own life and society's storm clouds...Brilliant.' * Publishers Weekly (starred review) *
'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.' * Financial Times *
'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.' * LA Review of Books *
'Wondrous...A complex book about a complicated time. It reads like an outpour of humanity beckoning to be heard.' * Electric Literature *
'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.' * New Yorker *
'Effervescent...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.' * Chicago Review of Books *
'Mesmerising, witty, maximalist...A bravura and caring inquiry into Earth's glory, human creativity and catastrophic recklessness, and the transcendence of love.' * Booklist *
'A masterpiece like no other.' * Vogue *
'Hilarious, gigantic, jaw-breakingly delicious.' * Bookmunch *
'Full of wit and intelligence...One of the most charming and genuinely funny characters I have come across in recent years.' * Herald Scotland *
'A bravura feat: a stream of consciousness, a transcript of the mind under modern conditions, and (as a consequence of Ellmann's ferocious and succinct wit) very funny.' * Scottish Review of Books *
'Ellmann adeptly riffs on a vertiginous range of subjects, all the while carefully avoiding the didacticism that would warp the novel into a soapbox or a gallows. Her heroine's anger burns cleanly, refusing the easy conflagration of self-righteousness. The cumulative effect is devastating. This is a powerful and deeply felt indictment of moral failure, a fearful, dazzling bloom of conscience...A grand, mimetic achievement.' * Nation *
'Delicious...Brilliant...Mind-blowing...There are novels, and then there are extraordinary novels-truly unique, one-of-a-kind, sui generis-terms that are often used as cliches but I assure you not in Lucy Ellmann's case.' * Counterpunch *
'A Joycean achievement...A colossal feat...Perhaps the most intensely real depiction of the life of the quotidian mind I've ever witnessed.' * Spectator *
'This amazing sustained narrative...may be the tour de force of our era, indeed "the great American novel" of now, arguably the greatest by a woman ever, or at the very least a masterpiece.' * Jewish Chronicle *
'Like other great works of art, I believe when we reflect back on Ducks, Newburyport we will think it strange that the world once existed without it.' * Review31 *
'If the novel can feel like a colossal hold-all for one clever, thoughtful, fretful, sad, funny editorialising consciousness, what makes it gel is a sense of wounding...Ellmann's stylistic achievement here is to weave a net of words that honours her narrator's unique yet universal self.' * Saturday Paper *
'A sublime literary enactment of how guilt, grief, rage, regret, compassion and every other emotion swirls and ebbs in unbalanced defiance of rational logic...If art is measured by how skillfully it holds a mirror up to society, then Ellmann has surely written the most important novel of this era.' * Paris Review *
'Absolutely compelling...And although it's a thousand pages, you read it with energy and pace and verve. It's just a great ride.' * Five Books *
'The Goldsmiths Prize rewards work that breaks the mould and opens up new possibilities for the novel: Ducks is the kind of book that feels unmistakably contemporary, but that you can't quite believe didn't exist before now...With Ducks, Ellmann reminds us that the very idea of recreating on the page a "fully formed" human being in all their unfathomable depth is absurd - while getting closer to achieving that impossible aim than any writer in recent memory.' * Goldsmiths Prize judge Anna Leszkiewicz *
'This is a book entirely true to its own voice and project; an extraordinary work of art.' * Sigrid Rausing *
'It has fundamentally changed my idea about what the novel can do.' * Mark Haddon *
'Every line has something important, sad, funny and fierce to say about "civilisation" and its discontents as its female narrator gives voice to chaos, and expresses the human sublime.' * Preti Taneja *
'Ellmann, in this compassionate and moving and funny crumb quilt of a novel, keeps you enchanted till the very last word and full stop.' * Hindu Review *
'Compulsive and completely readable.' * TIME *
'Brilliant...Addictive...There have been comparisons to James Joyce's Ulysses, but Ellmann is in a class by herself.' * Star Tribune *
'Very funny, very readable and one of those novels that expand the possibilities of what a novel can be and do.' * Mark Haddon *
'Ducks, Newburyport stretches the imagination and brings to the universe it seeks to recreate such intensity of purpose and flamboyance that one would be hard-pressed to think of any other word other than "original" to describe it.' * Chigozie Obioma *
'Dive into this brilliant, funny and poignant Booker Prize finalist written mostly in one long sentence. Adjust your settings and enjoy manifold rewards.' * NZ Listener *
'Few books make you work this hard, fewer still pull off such an arresting literary form while capturing the life and mind of an individual.' * Urbis *
'A looping, joyously parenthetical excursion through the mind of an American housewife and the anxieties and absurdities of our historical moment.' -- James Bradley * Australian *
'Relish the wit, intelligence and love that infuse every line. It is a novel of easy virtuosity, written from inside the mind of a suburban everywoman, that will break your heart and reorder your mental hard drive.' -- Geordie Williamson * Australian *
'[An] experimental epic that changes the way you think about narrative and the activity of reading.' * Adelaide Review *

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