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Ducks, Newburyport

Lucy Ellmann

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Text Publishing Company
13 September 2019
Fiction & Literature; Modern & contemporary fiction (post c 1945)
SHORTLISTED FOR THE BOOKER PRIZE 2019

OBSERVER FICTION PICKS 2019 | THE HERALD FICTION PICKS 2019 | THE IRISH TIMES FICTION PICKS 2019 | SCOTTISH REVIEW OF BOOKS FICTION PICKS 2019 | COSMOPOLITAN FICTION PICKS 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.

A scorching indictment of America's barbarity, past and present, and a lament for the way we are sleepwalking into environmental disaster, Ducks, Newburyport is a heresy, a wonder-and a revolution in the novel.

It's also very, very funny.
By:   Lucy Ellmann
Imprint:   Text Publishing Company
Country of Publication:   Australia
Dimensions:   Height: 207mm,  Width: 136mm,  Spine: 55mm
Weight:   780g
ISBN:   9781922268938
ISBN 10:   1922268933
Publication Date:   13 September 2019
Audience:   General/trade ,  ELT Advanced
Format:   Paperback
Publisher's Status:   Active

Reviews for Ducks, Newburyport

'Its great torrent of associations and its rich humour come closer than anything else to capturing that weird combination of anxiety and inanity that is the hallmark of our troubled times.' * James Ley, ABR * 'Brilliant...Addictive...There have been comparisons to James Joyce's Ulysses, but Ellmann is in a class by herself.' * Star Tribune * 'Compulsive and completely readable.' * TIME * '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 * '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 * 'It has fundamentally changed my idea about what the novel can do.' * Mark Haddon * 'This is a book entirely true to its own voice and project; an extraordinary work of art.' * Sigrid Rausing * '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 * '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 * 'A feat of literature' * Good Reading * '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 * '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 * 'Ambitious, devastating and hilarious...a comprehensive statement on modern America that's bound to be a future classic.' * Happy Mag * 'I found myself sinking into the narrator's mind, consumed in such a way that it was as though we were merging...The length of the book works to its advantage. Yes, this is a novel about Trump's America, but politically it's about much more than that. The narrator's mind slides away from the minutiae of her everyday and toward meditations on the violence that is baked into the very structure of the United States and the entire concept of empire itself...Excess-be it an excess of words, the excess of a new nation's attempts to claim land, the excess of human attempts to cast dominion over nature-is tied, again and again, to destruction.' * Paris Review * '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 * '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 * 'A Joycean achievement...A colossal feat...Perhaps the most intensely real depiction of the life of the quotidian mind I've ever witnessed.' * Spectator * 'A wildly ambitious and totally unique masterpiece...[Ducks, Newburyport] stands out in the current literary landscape like an octopus on a sidewalk, a standing challenge to a literary culture that tends to produce quiet novels in the nineteenth century mold.' * Michigan Daily * '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 * '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 * 'Brilliantly ambitious...As accumulative, as pointed, as death-addled, as joyous, as storied, as multitudinous and as large as life.' * New York Times Book Review * 'Ignore the laundry. Let this novel open like an oubliette under your feet.' * New York Times * '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 * 'Full of wit and intelligence...One of the most charming and genuinely funny characters I have come across in recent years.' * Herald Scotland * 'Hilarious, gigantic, jaw-breakingly delicious.' * Bookmunch * 'Monumentally original...brave and funny...Splendidly idiosyncratic, utterly uncompromising...I have never read anything quite like it.' * Mechanics Institute * 'Astonishing...A Molly Bloom for Middle America.' * BBC Front Row * 'A masterpiece like no other.' * Vogue * 'Mesmerising, witty, maximalist...A bravura and caring inquiry into Earth's glory, human creativity and catastrophic recklessness, and the transcendence of love.' * Booklist * '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 * 'Brilliantly ambitious...As accumulative, as pointed, as death-addled, as joyous, as storied, as multitudinous and as large as life.' * New York Times * '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 * 'Wondrous...A complex book about a complicated time. It reads like an outpour of humanity beckoning to be heard.' * Electric Literature * '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.' * Guardian * '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.' * Literary Review * '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 * '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 * 'A remarkable portrait of a woman in contemporary America contemplating her own life and society's storm clouds...Brilliant.' * Publishers Weekly (starred review) * 'A jaw-dropping miracle.' * Library Journal (starred review) * '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 * 'Magnificent...Ellman has produced a domestic epic of modern American life in the Trump era.' * Prospect * 'Ulysses has nothing on this.' * Cosmopolitan * 'Ellmann is an expert juggler with words. Her satire is deft, sophisticated and enchantingly surreal.' * Sunday Telegraph * '[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 * 'A wildly ambitious and righteously angry portrait of contemporary America.' * Observer * 'Hilarious, eye-wateringly funny...I have found a new hero in Lucy Ellmann.' * Scotsman * 'Reading Ellmann is like finding bits of broken glass in your lollipop.' * Evening Standard * 'Lunatic and splenetic and distinctive... I begin to suspect [Lucy Ellmann] might be some sort of genius' * Telegraph * '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 *


  • Short-listed for Booker Prize 2019 (UK)
  • Short-listed for Goldsmiths Prize 2019 (Australia)
  • Short-listed for Saltire Fiction Book of the Year 2019 (UK)
  • Winner of Goldsmiths Prize 2019 (Australia)

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