Lucy Ellmann’s Ducks, Newburyport shortlisted for the Booker Prize 2019

WE ARE DELIGHTED that Lucy Ellmann’s Ducks, Newburyport has been shortlisted for the Booker Prize.

Ducks, Newburyport is 1040 pages long, took seven years to write and has been hailed as “one of the outstanding books of the century.”

The book is made up of the inner thoughts of a middle-aged housewife from Ohio, rendered in one beautiful, breathless, eminently readable sentence, intercut with more conventionally punctuated sections telling the story of a mountain lion.  It simultaneously offers a brilliant portrait of domestic life, whilst also capturing a particular point in American history and the horrors of the Trump era, environmental desecrations and mass shootings.

Galley Beggar Press co-director Eloise Millar says: “We’re thrilled by the news today. It’s an amazing validation for an astonishing, revelatory novel – as well as for Lucy, who has worked so hard, so fearlessly, and put everything she has into this book. She’s not just a fantastic writer, but also  one of the most lovely, funny, kind, and altogether extraordinary people I’ve ever had the pleasure of meeting. So we’re just overjoyed for her… as well as so happy that, with this shortlisting, even more readers are going to discover Ducks, Newburyport.”

From Lucy Ellmann: “I’m ecstatic. Like that Hardy poem, ‘The Convergence of the Twain’, about the simultaneous growth of the iceberg while they were building the Titanic, I started writing my novel seven years ago, just about the same time Galley Beggar Press was coming into being. They just celebrated their seventh birthday, and thanks to their care and aplomb and sheer verve, my book’s now on the Booker shortlist. It's a happier outcome than the Titanic's – by far! I guess I’m the iceberg.”

Ducks, Newburyport is virtuoso and humane. It is very funny. It is deeply moving. It’s a book that feels overwhelmingly brilliant the first time you read it – and even more impressive when you read it again and realise how much careful artistry has gone into it.

“I actually liked the book even more when I read it the second time,” says Galley Beggar Press co-director Sam Jordison. “Then you start to see all kinds of new things in it and realise just how cleverly it’s put together. It’s one of those books where you see more in it every time. It’s such a huge flood of words that the first time you read it, you’re completely overwhelmed, which is a brilliant, lovely feeling. And the next time, you’re like, it’s all been planned out really carefully, which is just amazingly impressive. I think and hope that it is a book that people will be talking about for years to come. And which will be revealing new things to its readers long into the future.”

The shortlisting is big news for this small publisher. It means new print runs and new readers.

Eloise Millar says:  “Lucy’s shortlisting for the Booker Prize is a wonderful boost for Galley Beggar Press, of course – but we also like to see it as a kind of ‘waving of the flag’ for all small presses out there in the UK, many of whom we know personally, who help and support us on a daily basis – and who we watch working so hard, so passionately, and so constantly for their books and their authors. We feel privileged to be part of this community; it’s a daily inspiration. Most of these companies are run by no more than a handful of people – and because of them, many important books and writers are finding a home, and a way into the world.”

Most of all, the Booker Prize shortlisting is also fantastic news for this unique and important novel.  “Ultimately, you just want other people to read the books,” says Sam Jordison. “There are few better ways of getting new readers than being on the Booker Prize shortlist. Thousands more people are going to get to know about this incredible novel, Ducks, Newburyport, and the author Lucy Ellmann. That’s a wonderful thing.”


Born in Illinois, Lucy Ellmann moved to England as a teenager. Her first novel, Sweet Desserts, won the Guardian Fiction Prize. Her most recent novel, Mimi, was published in 2013. She lives in Edinburgh.

Lucy says that the book that most influenced her was her mother Mary Ellmann’s feminist classic from 1968, Thinking About Women.

ENDORSEMENTS for Ducks, Newburyport

 “Extraordinary... astounding... amazing... one of the outstanding books of the century, so far.” —THE IRISH TIMES

“In her latest novel, Lucy Ellmann doesn’t just carry on as before: she doubles up, doubles down, and absolutely goes for broke. … Success? Failure? A triumph.” —THE GUARDIAN

“Resplendent in ambition, humour, and humanity. … In Ducks, Newburyport, Ellmann has created a wisecracking Mrs Dalloway for the internet age.” —THE FINANCIAL TIMES

“A novel that rewards perseverance, is truly unique, and feels like an absence in your life when you finish it.” —THE OBSERVER

“Forbidding and magnificent... Ellmann has produced a domestic epic of modern American life in the Trump era.” —PROSPECT 

“Astonishing. … A Molly Bloom for middle America.” BBC FRONT ROW

“Full of wit and intelligence... and one of the most intriguing, charming and genuinely funny characters I have come across in recent years.” —THE HERALD

“Is it any good? Oh my word, yes. Reading it at this point in time feels like an act of human solidarity, a commitment to a world of truth and reason.” —THE LITERARY REVIEW

“A bravura feat: a stream of consciousness, a transcript of the world under modern conditions, and (as a consequence of Ellmann’s fierce and succinct wit) very funny.” —THE SCOTTISH REVIEW OF BOOKS

“Timely, fresh… and possibly one of the most important books of the decade.” —THE LA REVIEW OF BOOKS

“Hilarious, gigantic, jaw-breakingly delicious. … Ducks, Newburyport contains multitudes. This is the book of the year and of the first couple of decades of the twenty-first century.” —BOOKMUNCH

Ulysses has nothing on this.” —COSMOPOLITAN

“A huge achievement.” —THE TLS

“A masterpiece like no other.” —VOGUE