First Impression Friday will be a meme where you talk about a book that you JUST STARTED! Maybe you’re only a chapter or two in, maybe a little farther. Based on this sampling of your current read, give a few impressions and predict what you’ll think by the end.
“Baking a multitude of tartes tatin for local restaurants, an Ohio housewife contemplates her four kids, husband, cats and chickens. Also, America’s ignoble past, and her own regrets. She is surrounded by dead lakes, fake facts, Open Carry maniacs, and oodles of online advice about survivalism, veil toss duties, and how to be more like Jane Fonda. But what do you do when you keep stepping on your son’s toy tractors, your life depends on stolen land and broken treaties, and nobody helps you when you get a flat tire on the interstate, not even the Abominable Snowman? When are you allowed to start swearing.
With a torrent of consciousness and an intoxicating coziness, Ducks, Newburyport lays out a whole world for you to tramp around in, by turns frightening and funny. A heart-rending indictment of America’s barbarity, and lament for the way we are blundering.”
For the fourth consecutive book in a row, I find myself diving into one of the books shortlisted in the 2019 Man Booker Prize. Lucy Ellmann’s Ducks, Newburyport was one of six books shortlisted for the said prize. Judging from the five of the six shortlisted books I’ve read so far, it is by far the longest.
First off, what made me want to read the book? After Bernardine Evaristo’s Girl, Woman, Other, and Margaret Atwood’s The Testaments were declared the joint winners of the 2019 Man Booker Prize, Twitterverse went abuzz with claims that Ducks, Newburyport was a perfect shoo-in for the prestigious award. This naturally piqued my curiosity and here I find myself finally reading one of the books I look forward to reading in 2020.
Ducks, Newburyport is related on the first-person point-of-view of an anonymous narrator. Judging from the flow of her thoughts and her talks about her four children, it is palpable that the anonymous narrator is a middle-aged woman. Whilst she talks lengthily about her children at times, the story is more than just about her children or her life.
In the three hundred pages I’ve read so for of this 1,000-pager behemoth, the primary narrator has related her worries and thoughts about several universal and local issues and subjects. These subjects include global warming, climate change, pollution, politics, history, gun control, to name just a few.
What really stands out from the onset is the novel’s unusual structure. It s written in the stream of thought narrative style and the story is consisted of long sentences. This would not have been a challenge as I had to deal the same difficulties with Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s The Autumn of the Patriarch. However, these sentences were broken into clauses, separated only by commas, and semi-colons. Each clause starts with the phrase “the fact that”. It did take a while to get use to the structure; imagine the first chapter is one long sentence that ran for a whopping 81 pages! That is one whole chapter comprised of one long sentence.
Although not totally unheard of, the narrative style feels mostly like an experimental approach. As a reader, I can only surmise that the structure and the mental diatribe is a representative of the female mind – the confusions, the endless worries, the indecisions, the challenges. It is both challenging and fascinating at the same time. At least it felt fascinating when I was finally able to get the hang of things.
So far, my main lamentation lie with the plot, or the lack of it. Yes, this is an experimental approach, hence, a veer from the stereotypical formulaic approach that readers are used to. However, the story, if there is, is still a little out there. Everything is still a little muddled, confusing even though I am already a third done. I am hoping the narrator’s endless stream of thoughts subtly obscures the real plot. I sure do hope that everything unravels as I progress through the story.
Happy weekend reading everyone!