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Author Lucy Ellmann wins James Tait Black prize for Ducks, Newburyport

Ellmann's novel, detailing the life consciousness of a mother in Ohio, consists mostly of one single sentence.




Lucy Ellmann, author of Ducks, Newburyport has won The James Tait Black award for the novel. The prize was founded in 1919 and is considered one of UK’s oldest prizes. Four decades earlier, her father, Richard Ellmann had won the same. Ellmann’s novel, detailing the life consciousness of a mother in Ohio, consists mostly of one single sentence. The protagonist was a teacher once and spends most of her time in the kitchen. The book is a manifestation of her often winding thoughts.

“Amid the daily assaults on our lives and intelligence, it is really cheering to receive this prize. I liked the international flavour of the shortlist. English literature exists and thrives way beyond the boundaries of England. If it didn’t, there’d be little hope for it,” the author was quoted as in The Guardian. The book was shortlisted for The Booker Prize in 2019.

The book impressed and befuddled literary critics for its striking stream of consciousness style. In a article in The Guardian, author Alex Preston wrote, “This is a book about the chaos of consciousness and the artificiality of traditional narrative; it’s about, as the narrator says, ‘the fact that there’s a lot you just have to blank out if you want to get through life’. Our brains are constantly at work, with memories, dreams, images, scenes from films and books bubbling up and interrupting the flow of our thoughts. Ducks, Newburyport tries to capture the reality of what it’s like to be trapped in the prison of a mind.”

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