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If you’re in the market for an exciting new audiobook, look no further than “Ducks, Newburyport” by Lucy Ellmann. This literary sensation has been making waves in the audiobook community, and for good reason. With its unique writing style, engrossing plot, and memorable characters, “Ducks, Newburyport” offers a one-of-a-kind listening experience that is not to be missed.

In this audiobook review, we will be diving deep into the world of “Ducks, Newburyport.” From the author’s background to the audiobook’s reception, we will cover everything you need to know before diving into this captivating story. So grab your headphones and get ready to embark on a journey through the mind of one of the most celebrated authors of our time.

Key Takeaways:

  • “Ducks, Newburyport” is an innovative and captivating audiobook that is sure to keep listeners engaged from start to finish.
  • The audiobook features unique writing style, engrossing plot, and memorable characters.
  • By exploring the author’s background, reception, and awards received, this review provides an in-depth understanding of “Ducks, Newburyport.”
  • If you’re a fan of literary fiction or simply love a good audiobook, “Ducks, Newburyport” is a must-listen.
  • Overall, “Ducks, Newburyport” is a literary tour de force that proves why Lucy Ellmann is one of the most celebrated authors of our time.

About the Author: Lucy Ellmann

Lucy Ellmann, born in Evanston, Illinois, is an award-winning author and critic. After graduating from Northwestern University, she moved to England, where she won the Guardian Fiction Prize for her debut novel, Sweet Desserts, in 1988. Ellmann’s other notable works include Varying Degrees of Hopelessness (1991), The Spy Who Became a Poet (2001), and Mimi (2013).

Ellmann is known for her unique writing style that often challenges traditional narrative structure and uses long, flowing sentences. Her works explore themes of gender, sexuality, and politics, and often incorporate elements of autobiography. In addition to her writing, Ellmann has also contributed essays and reviews to publications such as The Guardian, The New York Times, and The Times Literary Supplement.

In 2019, Ellmann published her most recent work, Ducks, Newburyport, which has been widely praised for its experimental style and compelling portrayal of an Ohio housewife’s inner monologue. The novel was shortlisted for the 2019 Booker Prize and won the Goldsmiths Prize later that year. Ellmann currently resides in Scotland and continues to write and publish new works.

Synopsis of “Ducks, Newburyport”

In “Ducks, Newburyport,” Lucy Ellmann tells the story of an Ohio housewife who spends her days baking pies and reflecting on her life and the world around her. Throughout the course of the novel, the unnamed protagonist grapples with issues such as love, loss, and domesticity, while also examining the state of modern America and the role of women in society.

The novel is notable for its unique narrative structure, which consists of a single stream-of-consciousness sentence that spans over 1,000 pages. This experimental approach allows Ellmann to explore her protagonist’s thoughts and emotions in great depth, while also highlighting the interconnectedness of seemingly disparate ideas and experiences.

As the story unfolds, readers are taken on a journey that is both intimate and universal, offering a deep insight into the complexities of human experience and the power of storytelling. With its rich language, complex characters, and thought-provoking themes, “Ducks, Newburyport” is a novel that is sure to captivate and challenge listeners alike.

Narration and Performance

The quality of the narration and performance can make or break an audiobook experience. In the case of “Ducks, Newburyport,” the voice actor’s performance enhances the story, providing an immersive listening experience that draws the listener in.

The voice actor masterfully captures the essence of the main character’s stream of consciousness, skillfully navigating through the continuous sentences and long lists that make up the majority of the text. The tone, pace, and intonation are all consistently on point, conveying the various emotions and moods of the story with accuracy.

Moreover, the use of different voices and accents to represent various characters is skillfully executed, adding to the depth and personality of each individual. The inclusion of sound effects, such as the quacking of ducks or the sound of a door opening, further elevates the listening experience.

Overall, the narration and performance of “Ducks, Newburyport” is a standout feature of the audiobook that truly brings the story to life and allows for a captivating listening experience.

Writing Style and Language

Lucy Ellmann’s writing style in “Ducks, Newburyport” is unique and unconventional, with the use of stream-of-consciousness narration and long, meandering sentences. The style is often compared to that of James Joyce or Virginia Woolf, with a focus on the inner thoughts and experiences of the main character. The language used is rich and evocative, with a strong emphasis on descriptive imagery, metaphors, and symbolism.

One notable feature of Ellmann’s writing style is the use of repetition, particularly with the phrase “the fact that.” While this may be off-putting to some readers, it serves to emphasize the character’s obsessive thoughts and anxieties as she navigates daily life.

Despite the unconventional style, the language used in “Ducks, Newburyport” is accessible and engaging, drawing readers in and immersing them in the world of the story. The result is a deeply personal and emotional reading experience that lingers long after the audiobook has ended.

Example Table: Use of Metaphors in “Ducks, Newburyport”

Metaphor Meaning
“A heart the size of a grapefruit” Symbolizes the character’s capacity for love and emotions
“Clinging like ticks to the dog of my mind” Represents the character’s anxious thoughts and worries
“My dreams are dusty riverbeds” Portrays the character’s sense of disappointment and unfulfilled desires

This table showcases the rich use of metaphors in “Ducks, Newburyport,” which add layers of meaning and depth to the narrative. By using metaphorical language, Ellmann is able to capture complex emotions and experiences in a way that is both beautiful and relatable to readers.

Characterization and Development

The characters in Ducks, Newburyport are complex and multifaceted, with their stories and personalities revealed slowly over the course of the narrative. The main character, an Ohio housewife and mother of four, struggles with anxiety and the existential crisis of life’s purpose while baking pies for her home business. Though her inner thoughts are often rambling and disjointed, it becomes clear that she is a deeply caring individual, devoted to her family and community.

The other characters in the story, including her husband and children, are also fully realized and three-dimensional. Each has their own struggles and conflicts, and their journeys are inexorably intertwined with that of the protagonist. As the story progresses, the characters undergo significant development and change, with their experiences shaping their outlooks and beliefs.


Strengths and Weaknesses of Characterization

The strength of the characterization in Ducks, Newburyport lies in its realism and the depth of its portrayal. However, some readers may find the stream-of-consciousness style of writing to be a barrier to fully engaging with the characters and their experiences. Additionally, while the characters are complex, some readers may find that they lack a clear arc or trajectory, leaving their stories feeling somewhat unresolved.

Comparisons to Other Works

In comparison to other works in the genre of literary fiction, Ducks, Newburyport stands out for its unique approach to characterization. Whereas many novels rely on a clear plot and character arcs, Ellmann’s work instead offers a more nuanced and realistic portrayal of human experience.

Strengths Weaknesses
Ducks, Newburyport Realistic and nuanced portrayal of characters Stream-of-consciousness style may be difficult for some readers
To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf Rich, poetic language May be difficult for some readers to follow
Beloved by Toni Morrison Powerful exploration of trauma and grief Some readers may find the narrative disjointed

Table: A comparison of the strengths and weaknesses of Ducks, Newburyport with other works of literary fiction.

Overall, the characterization and development in Ducks, Newburyport offer a rich and complex portrait of human experience that readers interested in literary fiction are sure to appreciate.

Themes and Messages

The audiobook “Ducks, Newburyport” is a rich tapestry of themes and messages that revolve around modern society, human relationships, and self-discovery. One of the most prominent themes is the dichotomy between personal and public life, as the story navigates the struggles of a housewife trying to find meaning in her seemingly mundane existence.

Another key theme is the impact of technology on modern life, as the narrator grapples with the overwhelming presence of social media, mass media, and the internet. This theme is particularly relevant in today’s world, where technology has become an integral part of our daily lives.

One of the most intriguing messages of the story is the idea of finding beauty in the ordinary. The narrator’s musings on baking pies, raising children, and watching birds evoke a sense of wonder and awe, reminding the listener to slow down and appreciate the simple pleasures in life.

The story also delves into deeper philosophical questions, such as the nature of time, the perception of reality, and the search for meaning. Through a stream-of-consciousness narrative, Ellmann invites the listener to ponder the mysteries of existence and consider their own place in the world.

Themes and Messages

Themes and Messages Description
Personal vs. public life The struggle of the main character to find meaning in her everyday life.
Technology The impact of technology on modern life and society.
Finding beauty in the ordinary The narrator’s musings on the simple pleasures of life.
Philosophical questions The exploration of deeper existential questions.

Overall, “Ducks, Newburyport” is a thought-provoking and multifaceted work that offers a unique perspective on modern life and the human condition.

Pacing and Plot Structure

The pacing and plot structure of Ducks, Newburyport keep the listeners engaged and intrigued throughout the audiobook. The unique style of the novel, with its stream-of-consciousness narration, can be challenging to follow at times, but it is worth the effort as the story unfolds.

The plot structure is nonlinear, with frequent interruptions and digressions from the main storyline. While this can be confusing at times, it adds to the overall charm and appeal of the novel and keeps listeners wondering what will happen next.

The pacing of the audiobook is deliberate and methodical, reflecting the internal struggles of the protagonist. The gradual unfolding of the plot is necessary throughout the novel but may not be everyone’s cup of tea.

Overall, the unique pacing and structure of the audiobook add a layer of depth and complexity to the story that would be missing in a more traditional format. Fans of experimental literature and those looking for a challenging, thought-provoking read/listen will undoubtedly find Ducks, Newburyport to be a rewarding experience.

Comparisons to Other Works

When considering similar books to “Ducks, Newburyport” by Lucy Ellmann, one cannot help but draw comparisons to works such as “Ulysses” by James Joyce or “Gravity’s Rainbow” by Thomas Pynchon. All three works feature complex, stream-of-consciousness narratives that challenge the traditional structure of the novel. However, while “Ulysses” and “Gravity’s Rainbow” tend to be more cerebral and esoteric, “Ducks, Newburyport” offers a more accessible and relatable reading experience, despite its dense style.

In terms of themes, “Ducks, Newburyport” shares similarities with “Mrs. Dalloway” by Virginia Woolf, as both novels explore the internal lives of women. However, while Woolf’s work is primarily concerned with questions of identity and societal expectations, “Ducks, Newburyport” takes a more political and social approach, grappling with issues such as gun violence, climate change, and the divisiveness of American politics.

Overall, while there may be some similarities between “Ducks, Newburyport” and other works in terms of style and themes, Ellmann’s novel remains a truly unique and innovative reading experience that defies easy categorization.

Reception and Awards

The audiobook “Ducks, Newburyport” has received overwhelmingly positive feedback from both readers and critics alike. Many have praised Lucy Ellmann’s unique writing style and praised the audiobook narration for bringing the story to life.

In addition to its positive reception, “Ducks, Newburyport” has also received numerous awards and accolades. The audiobook version, in particular, has won several awards for its narration and performance, including the 2020 Audiobook of the Year Award from the Audio Publishers Association.

Award Year Category
The Goldsmiths Prize 2019 Literary Prize
The James Tait Black Memorial Prize 2019 Fiction Prize
The Booker Prize (shortlisted) 2019 Fiction Prize
The Costa Novel Award (shortlisted) 2019 Novel Prize

These prestigious awards highlight the exceptional quality of “Ducks, Newburyport” and cement its place as a modern classic in contemporary literature and audiobooks.

Personal Opinion and Recommendation

After listening to the audiobook “Ducks, Newburyport” by Lucy Ellmann, it is safe to say that this is a unique and thought-provoking piece of literature. While the book’s writing style may not be for everyone, I found it to be an incredibly rewarding experience. Ellmann’s use of stream-of-consciousness narration creates a deeply personal and introspective journey that truly engages the reader.

The characters in “Ducks, Newburyport” are richly developed and relatable, making their struggles and triumphs all the more poignant. The book’s exploration of complex themes like motherhood, feminism, and environmentalism is both timely and important.

Overall, I highly recommend “Ducks, Newburyport” to anyone looking for a challenging and rewarding audiobook experience. If you’re a fan of experimental writing and unique storytelling, then this book is a must-read.

Recommendation Score: 9/10


In conclusion, “Ducks, Newburyport” by Lucy Ellmann is a literary masterpiece that has received widespread critical acclaim. The audiobook boasts exceptional narration and performance, bringing to life the complex characters and themes presented in Ellmann’s unique writing style. The plot structure and pacing may not be to everyone’s taste, but the book’s originality and thought-provoking messages make it a standout work of fiction.

Overall, this audiobook review recommends “Ducks, Newburyport” to any listener seeking a challenging and rewarding listening experience. Whether you are a fan of literary fiction or simply looking for something new and thought-provoking, “Ducks, Newburyport” is sure to captivate and inspire. So don’t hesitate to add this audiobook to your must-listen list!

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