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Booker Prize 2019 Longlist: Ducks, Newburyport by Lucy Ellman



Book Number 12 and our final review before the short list is announced. This one was read (entirely) by Tracy (partly) by Book Worm & Anita

Synopsis from Booker Prize website: Latticing one cherry pie after another, an Ohio housewife tries to bridge the gaps between reality and the torrent of meaningless info that is the United States of America. She worries about her children, her dead parents, African elephants, the bedroom rituals of “happy couples”, Weapons of Mass Destruction, and how to hatch an abandoned wood pigeon egg. Is there some trick to surviving survivalists? School shootings? Medical debts? Franks ’n’ beans? A scorching indictment of America’s barbarity, past and present, and a lament for the way we are sleepwalking into environmental disaster, Ducks, Newburyport is a heresy, a wonder—and a revolution in the novel.

Book Worm’s Thoughts: When you look at my ratings it won’t surprise you to know that I hated what I read of this book, in fact the only way I will finish this is if it makes the short list or if our readers comments can convince that it is worth investing another 10 hours of my life…

I have made it to 40% and as this is a 1000 page novel I make that 400 pages surely that is enough time for something/anything interesting to happen, sadly that is not the case. I get the feeling I could flip to random pages of this in no particular order and not miss anything.

One thing that is driving me mad with this narrative is the constant use of “the fact that” my Kindle reliable informs me that this one phrase is used 16,376 times. How many pages could we have saved if we dropped this repetition and just used normal punctuation?

Let me explain my ratings: Writing quality – see above – no punctuation (this is not edgy it’s lazy) and constant repetition.
Originality – others have written the internal monologue in far more interesting ways (using punctuation & an extended vocabulary)
Character Development – how is this even possible when all we have is a constant stream of randomly related thoughts?
Plot development – see above – unless this rapidly changes in the next 60% there is no plot.

Writing quality: 1/5
Originality: 1/5
Character development: 1/4
Plot development: 1/4
Overall enjoyment: 0/2
Total: 4/20

Anita’s Thoughts: It’s pretty unfair of me to judge a book after reading 1%.  And very unlike me as I can count on one hand the books I have DNF’d in my life.  But, the thought of reading 1000 pages only interrupted by the phrase “the fact that” did me in.  The last time I read a literary voice I disliked this much was The Milkman.  It won the Man Booker so goes to show what I know.  But The Milkman was short, so I forced myself to read it.  With Ducks, it took me a half hour to read 1%. ONE PERCENT.  The worst thing is, I bet you this makes the shortlist.  Which will make me feel compelled to give it another try.

Writing quality: 2/5
Originality: 5/5
Character development: 2/4
Plot development: 2/4
Overall enjoyment: 0/2
Total: 11/20

Tracy’s Thoughts: I understand why many people love this book. There is a lot to praise- it’s original, the writing is excellent and subtle, and there is purpose and humor.

That being said, I really disliked it.

I have no patience for stream of consciousness style writing, and no patience for lack of punctuation, especially in a book that is 1000 pages long.

This narrator is that woman you go out of your way to avoid in the grocery store.

I also was irked at all the environmental talk, then to see so many “the fact that”s- if she’d just replaced them with a dot, space and capital letter, it would have saved so much paper!

Writing quality: 5/5
Originality: 5/5
Character development: 3/4
Plot development: 1/4
Overall enjoyment: 0/2
Total: 14/20


The Man Who Saw Everything 18.2
Girl, Woman, Other 16.66
Lanny 15.92
Night Boat to Tangier 15.6
Frankissstein 15.2
Quichotte 15
My Sister, the Serial Killer 14.6
An Orchestra of Minorities 13.66
Lost Children Archive 13.3
10 Minutes 38 Seconds 12
The Wall 11.57
Ducks, Newburyport 9.6

What are your thoughts on this one will it make the short list



5 Comments Post a comment
  1. I eagerly read your reviews – have been dying to hear how the book has been received. I can’t buy it -(budget) won’t buy it (eyesight probs; book is too long) but was extremely curious. Curiosity now satisfied. So now I know. Thanks to the RR team.

    Liked by 2 people

    August 31, 2019
  2. I haven’t read this nor do I plan to. It sounds pretentious and over engineered. The fact that she has to keep using that phrase to bridge from one idea to another indicates to me a weak writer.

    Liked by 2 people

    August 31, 2019
  3. Rachel #

    I applaud Tracy for actually reading the whole thing. It sounds awful and I don’t blame the other two for not finishing it.

    Liked by 2 people

    August 31, 2019
  4. Book Worm #

    Knowing my luck this will make the short list and I will feel compelled to force myself to finish it


    September 1, 2019
  5. mootastic1 #

    I know you all hated it, but I have a tendency to love books written in this style, so strangely I’m more excited to read it not less.


    September 3, 2019

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