A 1000-page novel written almost entirely in one long sentence has won the 2019 Goldsmiths Prize.
Lucy Ellmann was announced as the winner of the £10,000 prize rewarding fiction at its most novel at a ceremony at Foyles, Charing Cross, on 13 November 2019. Her novel Ducks, Newburyport has been compared to the work of great modernist writers such as James Joyce.
Testing the limits of the stream-of-consciousness narrative, Ducks, Newburyport rejects conventional plot and story structure. Instead it captures the thoughts that pass through the mind of a middle-aged Ohio woman as she bakes pies in her kitchen. What emerges is a linguistically sinuous meditation on life, memory, motherhood and the randomness – and purpose – of everyday experience.
The judging panel was made up of writer, critic, former literary editor of The Times, and lecturer in creative writing at Goldsmiths, Erica Wagner as Chair of Judges; novelist, video journalist and previous Goldsmiths Prize nominee Guy Gunaratne; the New Statesman’s Culture Editor Anna Leszkiewicz; and Icelandic poet, novelist and Academy Award-nominated lyricist Sjón.
Erica Wagner, said: “There were six extraordinary novels on the shortlist of the Goldsmiths Prize in 2019; it was a challenge to choose a winner, one which all the judges approached with seriousness and care. But Lucy Ellmann’s Ducks, Newburyport is that rare thing: a book which, not long after its publication, one can unhesitatingly call a masterpiece. In her gripping and hypnotic book, Ellmann remakes the novel and expands the reader’s idea of what is possible with the form. We are lucky to have such a winner this year.”
Eligibility for the Goldsmiths Prize was extended this year to authors of any nationality, provided they have been resident in the UK or Republic of Ireland for a minimum of three years. Previously, the Goldsmiths Prize was only open to those born in the UK or Republic of Ireland.
The Goldsmiths Prize launched in association with the New Statesman in 2013. It is committed to rewarding British and Irish fiction that breaks the mould or extends the possibilities of the novel form.
Deputy Editor of the New Statesman Tom Gatti said: “The New Statesman is proud to be part of the Goldsmiths Prize, which once again has shone a light on the year’s most exciting fiction. A remarkable shortlist has produced, in Ducks, Newburyport, a winner that is truly worth celebrating.”
Lucy Ellmann was born in Illinois and 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.
Eimear McBride was the first winner of the £10,000 Goldsmiths Prize for her work A Girl Is A Half-formed Thing, followed by Ali Smith in 2014 for How to Be Both, Kevin Barry in 2015 for Beatlebone, Mike McCormack in 2016 for Solar Bones, Nicola Barker with H(A)PPY in 2017 and Robin Robertson in 2018 for The Long Take.
This year’s shortlisted works were:
- Slip of a Fish by Amy Arnold (And Other Stories)
- Ducks, Newburyport by Lucy Ellmann (Galley Beggar Press)
- The Porpoise by Mark Haddon (Chatto & Windus)
- The Man Who Saw Everything by Deborah Levy (Hamish Hamilton)
- Good Day? by Vesna Main (Salt)
- We Are Made of Diamond Stuff by Isabel Waidner (Dostoyevsky Wannabe)