Categories: Literary Fiction
Ducks, Newburyport is told through the stream of consciousness of a housewife in Ohio. Her thoughts meander through her daily routine, baking pies, her four children, the current news, the state of the world and memories of her life. It’s a story that gets woven with every page, and as you are literally reading what goes through the mind of the main character for a thousand pages, it’s quite delightful that she’s funny and the book goes so seamlessly into more serious topics or random thoughts,.
It is incredibly difficult to rate this. At times, when it bore me a little, I wanted to give it 3 stars – then the next page I was in awe of this book, the intricate, rich inner life of our protagonist and the impressive writing style and want to give it 5 stars. In the end, I compromised with 4, although I have a feeling I will change it to 5 at some point.
I don’t know if I can say the book is too long – there are some parts where I thought it felt so, and I was getting a bit impatient, but in my opinion that is not what the book is trying to do, to give you only the information you need to “get” the character and move on with the plot. It’s rather that you’re supposed to immerse yourself in it for a while, in her thoughts, her problems, her anxiety and spiraling thoughts. If you like the voice of the main character, I don’t think you will mind the length of the book that much.
The chapters with the lioness were odd at first, but got me quite emotional by the end. I was almost sobbing during the last 50 or so pages of the book and had to contain myself at the dentist’s waiting room.
This is really, really brilliant. It’s a book you need to immerse yourself into and let the main character tell you her story little by little, in between thoughts about pies, deliveries, visits to the dentist, movies, news about shootings etc. Definitely not a book to rush through, not only because of its length or the very few paragraph breaks, but also because of the way it’s written – you can spend several pages reading about her opinion on cinnamon rolls and then suddenly you’re hit with an emotional scene with her mom. It’s also a very funny book, which I did not expect at all.
I said above that the book bored me a little, but let me clarify: it’s not a boring book at all. Of course some scenes resonated with me more than others, and I did not care much about the monologues on movies that I never watched and hardly know about at all, but that is an aspect of my own cultural upbringing versus the protagonist’s. There are lots of American events, news, movies etc. that I don’t know much about so of course it was harder to relate than it would’ve been if I were American myself. I think if you’re also not American it might be a little difficult to follow at times – although if you regularly read international news, then it’s probably just fine.
I think the term gets used too freely, but I honestly think Lucy Ellmann is a genius. This book really is a work of art.