Ducks, Newburyport by Lucy Ellmann

An Ohio woman thinks. A lot.

Thrusting a 1,000 page book on a reader usually evokes a certain response. A slight raise of the eyebrows. Gentle turn down of the lips. A shifting of the shoulders as the heart rate increases.

But really, there are 1,000 page novels and then there are 1,000 page novels. In the former, each and every one of those pages is felt, turning the book into a depressing slog usually only undertaken by precocious teenagers and overworked English majors. However, the latter whizzes by, using up each of its pages to create and shape a world so engrossing that the time spent reading feels like a reward.

Lucy Ellmann has written the latter—and what’s more, she’s done it with a book mostly comprised of one sentence. A lot has been made of her stream-of-consciousness narrative that spans the vast majority of those pages, occasionally broken up by vignettes about a lioness. Yes, it’s salient as to the structure, but it’s perhaps the least important aspect that makes Ellmann’s work tick.

Instead, the world and the reward are the unnamed narrator herself. Worried, vulnerable, bogged down with too much information, and yet ridiculously funny and tender. She’s fully realized, something incredibly important for a story that takes place almost entirely in her mind. She teases out bits, rarely coming out directly to describe her history, instead relying on a steady stream of tangents and asides to get where she’s going. Along the way, she drops her focus to everything from Donald Trump and gun control to Meryl Streep and movie musicals to pie baking.

Ducks, Newburyport is a frenetic, challenging, and mesmerizing monologue that’s, ultimately, heavily rewarding.


Title: Ducks, Newburyport
Author: Lucy Ellmann
Publisher: Biblioasis
Publication Date: September 10, 2019
Classification: General Fiction

Publisher’s Page | Goodreads


Note: I received a free ARC of this book through NetGalley.

13 Comments

  1. I wasn’t sure where you were going with the comment about 1000 page books. I am glad you enjoyed this one, but not sure it is for me. I like short and sweet, I think it might be my ADD. Nice review though Christopher.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. That sounds like a very different read. Well, stream of consciousness does tend to be different. I understand what you mean about a long book that has to be plowed through. I’m so glad this was on the other end of the continuum. You took a risk on this one and it paid off!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I’ve heard so much about this one and I have to admit I’m really curious. I love the way you describe her, as being vulnerable but ridiculously funny and tender. It just sounds like such a well-fleshed out character. And I agree, there are definitely variations in how a 1,000-page book goes down. It’s impressive that this one is so readable considering the unusual structure and style. Excellent review as always!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The readability factor is astounding to me. I grabbed a copy from the library and I held off on starting it for a few days because I kept thinking, ‘Are you really in the right mindset to dig in right now?’ But it flew by. This one might click with you, though I know you mostly read nonfiction. It’s so compelling that it started feeling like an extended interview ,,, I totally bought into the voice!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. That’s so good to know!! I really only read about 1 novel or short story collection a year but I’m so curious about this one, even just to see how it works stylistically. So it may have to be the one. Thanks for the great exploration of it!

        Liked by 1 person

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