#20BooksOfSummer #BookReview Ducks, Newburyport by Lucy Ellman #DucksNewburyport

And now to BOOK 20!!! YAY ME!!!!  This years challenge has been an absolute blast to take part in and I’m really glad I chose to do  my own twist on it with the LITTLE and LARGE element – even if I didn’t stick totally to the original list!!  It made for some fun discoveries of books I’d not normally have considered and gave me a really big push to pick up those chunksters of books that often get left behind! Thanks as always to Cathy at 746 Books for hosting such a wonderful challenge…. roll on 2020!!

And what a book to finish off with!!  At 998 pages long I think it probably could have counted for the last 5 books of my total! With it being so big it took me much longer to read as I had to keep putting it down to digest the goings on (so.many.words!!!) but the challenge kept me coming back for more!!

Latticing one cherry pie after another, an Ohio housewife tries to bridge the gaps between reality and the torrent of meaningless info that is the United States of America. She worries about her children, her dead parents, African elephants, the bedroom rituals of ‘happy couples’, Weapons of Mass Destruction, and how to hatch an abandoned wood pigeon egg. Is there some trick to surviving survivalists? School shootings? Medical debts? Franks ‘n’ beans? A scorching indictment of America’s barbarity, past and present, and a lament for the way we are sleepwalking into environmental disaster, Ducks, Newburyport is a heresy, a wonder – and a revolution in the novel.



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Extraordinary! That’s the simplest way I can think of to describe my time with this book! And at 998 pages long it’s not going to be one of those books you race through – not that you’d want to!

I think the author has achieved an amazing thing with this book – once you get your head round the style in which it is written, the lack of chapters/pauses…. the places you normally get to catch your breath! I found myself having to stop every now and then to take in what I’d read and then come back to it later as all those words took their toll!

It’s a book of information overload – the thoughts of a mother in America and how they take over your mind. How you think of one thing and a million other things race into your head – well, they’re all written down here so you’re left in no doubt as to how she views the world around her, the beauty, the brutality, the inane, the injustices, the horror, the humour – and everything in between. I’d find myself laughing loudly one minute at a thought she’d have, and then close to tears the next as she’d recollect events from the news or her past.

It’s often very bleak and full on but that reflects perfectly the world we live in now – it’s 24/7 and there is no escape. We’re bombarded with thoughts, news and how do we process it all? It plays on our minds constantly, building up fear, resentment, anger…..

Cleverly mixed in with the story is a side tale of a Lioness taking care of her cubs and this was beautifully written and observed, and brilliantly worked into the world created.

It all builds so ingeniously and I slowed down my pace even more reading the final few pages so that I could spend just a little bit more time in the head of this woman. This isn’t going to be for everyone because of the length of the book and the writing style, but I’m very happy to have experienced this clever and stunning book.

Heartbreaking, Humorous, Emotional and Endearing….. genius!!


#20BooksOfSummer #BookReview A Respectable Woman by Susanna Bavin

And to book 19 of the #20BooksOfSummer.  This had been sitting on my shelves for a while after I’d been sent a signed copy by the lovely Susanna Bavin, and at 477 pages long it was perfect for the long part of my reading challenge! And what a mighty fine story it was too! Loved it!!


After losing her family in the Great War, Nell is grateful to marry Stan Hibbert, believing she can recapture a sense of family with him. But five years on, she is just another back-street housewife, making every penny do the work of tuppence and performing miracles with scrag-end. When she discovers that Stan is leading a double-life, she runs away to make a fresh start.

Two years later, in 1924, Nell has carved out a fulfilling new life for herself and her young children in Manchester, where her neighbors believe she is a respectable widow and a talented machinist. But the past is hard to run from, and Nell must fight to protect the life she has made for herself and her children.

PUBLISHED BY  Allison & Busby


I’m a recent convert to the genre of Sagas and if they’re all going to be this good then I’m glad to have finally started reading them! I found this to be such an enthralling read that I had to read it in one sitting and have taken the character of Nell to my heart as she had to put up with so much heartache but still found the strength to pick herself up and carry on.

Nell had faced heartbreak in her past – she lost her family in the Great War so was facing the world alone, until a soldier, Stan, walked into her life and seemingly was her knight in shining armour. She finds married life hard, with long hours working, trying to raise her son too while Stan seemed more interested in the opening hours of the pub. By chance she finds out the truth about Stan and his other family, so she does what is best for her and her son and runs away to Manchester to start over.

Life isn’t much easier up there but she soon finds somewhere to live, a lovely woman called Leonie takes her in and treats her like her own daughter, and Nell works her fingers to the bone as a machinist as she now has 2 children to provide for. All those who know her now think she’s widowed and admire her for her ability to stay so strong. All doesn’t run smoothly though in her new home as Leonies’ son in law doesnt’ seem to like the influence Nell has over his mother in law – being nice to someone seems alien to him and the more you find out about him and how he treats his own family, the more it made my blood boil!!

As she creates a new life for herself, she never shirks the hard work and also turns into a bit of a heroine but that notoriety may soon become her downfall as the press attention brings back her past and to see how women were treated, even in the court system, at that time was appalling and quite an eye opener. With the help of her new friends you always find yourself cheering her on in her battles but always fearful that the attitudes of the time would go against her.

There were some vile characters in this book that were brilliantly described, and the character of Posy was just a delight – the author really captured the children in this so well! Naive in many situations, but wise beyond their years in others and their storylines really added extra depth to this story of triumph over adversity.


#20BooksOfSummer #BookReview Cannery Row by John Steinbeck

Time for the rundown to the completion of this fabulous challenge!  This was book 18 and, yet again!, not on my original list but I picked this one up as I was in need of a quick read – it’s only 156 pages long – and it also is the September choice for the GoodReads book club I’m  part of so I’m getting ahead of myself already!


In the din and stink that is Cannery Row a colourful bend of misfits – gamblers, whores, drunks, bums, and artists – survive side by side in a jumble of adventure and mischief. Lee Chong, the astute owner of the fantastically well-stocked grocery store, is also the proprietor of the Palace Flophouse that Mack and his troupe of good-natured ‘boys’ call home. Dora, of the flaming orange hair and taste for Nile green dresses, runs the brothel with clockwork efficiency. Doc, who owns the laboratory, is the fount of all generosity and wisdom. Everybody wants to do something nice for Doc: the trouble is, he always ends up paying.

Packed with invention and joie de vivre, Cannery Row is Steinbeck’s high-spirited tribute to his native California.


My first John Steinbeck and not going to be my last! I was a little unsure what was ahead of me when I started this and did struggle with the first few pages, but I soon took the characters to heart, especially Doc and Frankie, and I loved seeing how things were going to pan out between this wonderful mix of outsider characters, and their quest to throw a party!

I loved the comings and going on Cannery Row – it really helped set the scene as these outcasts of society came together in their own world, none more so than Doc who the others adored as he was always there to help out. But as a man himself he was happy to dance his own tune, stay out of the ‘normal’ and was totally wrapped up in his work and helping others.

This was only a short novel but it really packed a punch and I could happily have read more as the characters lended themselves to so many storylines and avenues to explore!