Lucy Ellmann is the most recent winner of the Goldsmith’s Prize, which rewards ‘fiction that breaks the mould or extends the possibilities of the novel form’. One of this year’s judges, New Statesman culture editor Anna Leszkiewicz, was in conversation with Ellmann at the 2019 Winter Cambridge Literary Festival.
Written mostly in a single sentence, Ellman’s novel Ducks, Newburyport stretches over a thousand pages. The narrative follows the internal monologue of a Midwestern American woman baking pies in her kitchen-turned-bakery. ‘You’re supposed to swim around in the stuff,’ Ellmann told Leszkiewicz. ‘It’s not something you just read in an hour and get rid of. You’re supposed to be stuck in there like she is.’
The phrase ‘the fact that’ is repeated throughout the book. Ellmann highlights that ‘you don’t know how it’s going to end; you start a sentence “the fact that Boris Johnson is a moron” or something, that could end in various ways.’
Ellmann’s soft voice does not prepare you for the issues she is willing to discuss: from motherhood to the terrifying reality of Trump’s America; the way that women have been terrorized by their husbands or the abuse we inflict on the environment.
Lucy Ellmann offers many insights into the threats that face our world today, and I am excited to read about all of them, every single sentence!
Melina attended this year’s Cambridge Literary Festival Winter (29th November – 1 December). Their Spring Festival will take place 16th – 19th April 2020.