Ducks, Newburyport

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Ducks, Newburyport
Ducks, Newburyport (Ellmann novel).png
First trade edition cover
AuthorLucy Ellmann
CountryUnited Kingdom
Set inNewcomerstown, Ohio in 2017[1]
PublisherGalley Beggar Press
Publication date
4 July 2019
Media typePrint (Paperback)

Ducks, Newburyport is a 2019 novel by British author Lucy Ellmann. The novel is written in the stream of consciousness narrative style, and consists of mostly a single sentence, running over more than 1000 pages.[2] It won the 2019 Goldsmiths Prize[3] and was shortlisted for the 2019 Booker Prize.[4]


The novel's narrator is an unnamed middle-aged woman who lives in Newcomerstown, Ohio, is married, has four children, and was formerly a college teacher. She was treated for cancer and then quit her teaching career to help in her recovery. She engages herself in cooking. In one incident, the narrator's mother was saved by her sister from drowning in a lake in Newburyport, Massachusetts after she went chasing after ducks. The story narrates various global problems that cross the narrator's mind.[1] A sub-plot talks of a mountain lioness who is in search of her cubs; her adventures punctuate the novel.[5]

Writing and publishing[edit]

Most of the novel comprises a long sentence, broken in clauses and separated by commas and semi-colons. It uses "the fact that" as the phrase beginning many of these clauses. The novel was published by Galley Beggar Press in Norwich, England after it was rejected by Ellmann's regular publisher, Bloomsbury.[6] The North American publishing rights were bought by the Windsor, Canada-based publisher Biblioasis.[7][8][9]


A critic writing for Kirkus Reviews said the book was an example of "literary experimentation that, while surely innovative, could have made its point in a quarter the space", and compared it with Ulysses for its size and word association games.[10] Katy Waldman, writing for The New Yorker, called it an encyclopedic novel, a concept popularized by Edward Mendelson, as it renders "full range of knowledge and beliefs of a national culture".[1] Nick Major, for The Herald, said that he enjoyed the novel but could not tell what it was about, or decide whether "it's a masterpiece or a terrible splurge of fearful polemic and word association".[11] A review in Publishers Weekly called the novel a monologue that "confronts the currents of contemporary America" and summed it up as "undoubtedly brilliant".[5]

Publication history[edit]


  1. ^ a b c Waldman, Katy (6 September 2019). "Can One Sentence Capture All of Life? The Soaring Ambition of Ducks, Newburyport". The New Yorker. Retrieved 13 September 2019.
  2. ^ Preston, Alex (15 July 2019). "Ducks, Newburyport by Lucy Ellmann review – pushes narrative to its limits". The Guardian. Retrieved 13 September 2019.
  3. ^ Flood, Alison (13 November 2019). "Eight sentences over 1,000 pages: Lucy Ellmann 'masterpiece' wins Goldsmiths prize". The Guardian. Retrieved 14 November 2019.
  4. ^ Sehgal, Parul (3 September 2019). "A Thousand-Page Novel — Made Up of Mostly One Sentence — Captures How We Think Now". The New York Times.
  5. ^ a b "Fiction book Review: Ducks, Newburyport". Publishers Weekly. 10 July 2019. Retrieved 9 September 2019.
  6. ^ Hawksley, Rupert (22 August 2019). "Ducks, Newburyport: how a small publishing house is taking big risks on smart literary fiction". The National. Retrieved 9 September 2019.
  7. ^ "Biblioasis's 'Ducks' is an Unexpected Hit". Publishers Weekly. Retrieved 2019-10-12.
  8. ^ Sehgal, Parul (2019-09-03). "A Thousand-Page Novel — Made Up of Mostly One Sentence — Captures How We Think Now". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2019-10-12.
  9. ^ Chen, Dalson (2019-09-26). "Windsor publishing house Biblioasis celebrates 15-year anniversary". Windsor Star. Retrieved 2019-10-12.
  10. ^ "Review of Ducks, Newburyport by Lucy Ellmann". Kirkus Reviews. 17 June 2019. Retrieved 9 September 2019.
  11. ^ Major, Nick (13 July 2019). "Review: Ducks, Newburyport, by Lucy Ellmann". The Herald. Retrieved 9 September 2019.
  12. ^ "DUCKS, NEWBURYPORT". Galley Beggar Press.
  13. ^ "Ducks, Newburyport". Biblioasis.