February 24, 2020

Ducks, Newburyport

Reviewed by Eric Karl Anderson at Lonesome Reader

Galley Beggar Press (Sept 19)
ISBN: 978-1913111984

About Eric…

I’m an American who has lived in the UK for my whole adult life. I started my book blog LonesomeReader in 2013. Since then I’ve posted more than 500 book reviews (primarily contemporary literary fiction) and I cover many book prize events. My biggest achievement was when one of America’s greatest contemporary writers and my favourite author Joyce Carol Oates dedicated her book Soul at the White Heat to me.

“Incredibly sympathetic, absurdly funny, poignant and the most extraordinary novel I read in 2019!”

– Lonesome Reader

Ducks, Newburyport by Lucy Ellmann

While it’s intimidating to read a novel which is a 1000 page unbroken string of thoughts, Ducks Newburyport is also hypnotic for the rhythm it develops, the frequent laugh-out-loud humour and the moving way it portrays the inner life of an unnamed Ohio housewife and her many anxieties living in present-day America. With its many descriptions of cooking, it also inspired me to bake cinnamon rolls for the first time!

She ruminates on a whole range of subjects from her personal past to her immediate family life to local news to political divisions in America to global environmental concerns. The trivial rubs alongside the meaningful. This profusion of thoughts has a consistent rhythm so it becomes easy to follow and accumulates more meaning as certain subjects, memories or ideas resurface frequently. Thus, they steadily acquire more resonance and take on a humorous edge. Interspersed with her thoughts there’s also a surprising tale narrated from the perspective of a mountain lion. I was utterly gripped throughout and enthralled by the dramatic turns the story takes towards the end.

Does this big mother quacker justify its length? Absolutely. There’s an accumulation of detail which builds to something truly monumental in its depiction of her life and the sympathetic way she shows how we often feel as if we’re burdened with the weight of the world on our shoulders today. It’s incredibly sympathetic, absurdly funny, poignant and the most extraordinary novel I read in 2019!

 

nb 103/SPRING

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