Lucy Ellman is to move to Norwich-based indie Galley Beggar Press for her eighth book, Ducks, Newburyport, described as an "exquistitely accessible modernist masterpiece".
A 750-page novel told in a single-sentence, the book is made up of the inner thoughts of a middle-aged housewife from Ohio. It simultaneously offers a "brilliant portrait of domestic life, whilst also capturing a particular, Trump-era point in American history", said the publisher.
Galley Beggar co-director Eloise Millar is “over the moon” with the acquisition, saying that this novel – “so eloquent and insightful about the contemporary female experience” – promises to “revolutionise that traditionally masculine phenomenon, the Great American Novel.”
She said: “If you look at many of those lists out there – and except the inclusion perhaps of To Kill A Mockingbird and Beloved – what you’ll get in any discussion of the Great American Novel (and aside from many other issues) is an overwhelming round-up of male authors: Fitzgerald, Steinbeck, Faulkner, and more latterly Wallace, Franzen, De Lillo. Well, in Ducks, Newburyport, Ellmann kicks that door wide open.”
Calling the novel an “exquisitely accessible modernist masterpiece”, co-director Sam Jordison said: “The first things you notice about Ducks, Newburyport are its ambition and artistry and how much has been packed into this wonderful, vibrant, bursting book. It feels like all life is there – and that it’s rendered in one beautiful, breathless, eminently readable sentence just makes it feel dizzyingly virtuoso.
“As a reader, there are also other things that soon start to matter. You have to respond to the emotion and psychological insight in the novel. There’s wonderful humanity in this portrayal of a woman battling her way through the twenty-first century. It’s haunting and resonant and deeply moving. It’s also worth stressing that it’s very, very funny.”
Ellmann, who is the daughter of James Joyces’ biographer Richard Ellmann, won the Guardian First Book Award for her novel Sweet Desserts (Penguin). Her 2003 work Dot In The Universe (Bloomsbury) was longlisted for the Orange Book Prize.
She said: “In an age catastrophically averse to art and thought, Galley Beggar is a powerhouse of serious writing."
David Godwin, Ellmann’s agent, described Ducks, Newburyport as “phenomenal”. He also said he was “thrilled” at the new partnership between Ellmann and Galley Beggar Press, “who are proving to be the publisher of radical, innovative and important books”.
Galley Beggar will publish Ducks, Newburyport on 4th July 2019, the anniversary of American Independence Day.