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Passing Strange

3.92  ·  Rating details ·  2,359 ratings  ·  549 reviews
San Francisco in 1940 is a haven for the unconventional. Tourists flock to the cities within the city: the Magic City of the World’s Fair on an island created of artifice and illusion; the forbidden city of Chinatown, a separate, alien world of exotic food and nightclubs that offer “authentic” experiences, straight from the pages of the pulps; and the twilight world of for ...more
ebook, 131 pages
Published January 24th 2017 by
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Pluvio Yes, and the book won a Nebula Award. Under the category World Fantasy for Best Novella.

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Average rating 3.92  · 
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 ·  2,359 ratings  ·  549 reviews

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Elle (ellexamines)
me finding a book about sapphic women that doesn't end in tragedy: 👌👀👌👀👌👀👌👀👌👀 good shit go౦ԁ sHit👌 thats ✔ some good👌👌shit right👌👌there👌👌👌 right✔there ✔✔if i do ƽaү so my self 💯 i say so 💯 thats what im talking about right there right there (chorus: ʳᶦᵍʰᵗ ᵗʰᵉʳᵉ) mMMMMᎷМ💯 👌👌 👌НO0ОଠOOOOOОଠଠOoooᵒᵒᵒᵒᵒᵒᵒᵒᵒ👌 👌👌 👌 💯 👌 👀 👀 👀 👌👌Good shit

Okay, but all emojis aside, I really adored this novella about love and oppression between queer women. Passing Strange is a speculative fiction ode to San Francisco’s hi
Juliana (Midnight Book Blog)
A sapphic historical romance that ALSO has magic?? You bet I scrambled to pick this one up as soon as possible.

I absolutely ATE THIS BOOK UP. For starters, all of the scenery is described so, so beautifully, which I guess makes sense given that one of the main characters is an artist. It really felt like I was looking into a painting. I don’t usually like long descriptive passages, but every single image was rendered in such gorgeous detail.

Although the blurb claims that there are 6 main chara
K.J. Charles
Feb 26, 2017 added it
Shelves: f-f, novella, 1940s
This came highly recommended, and the Tor novellas I've read have been pretty wow so far. Great opening, absolutely engaging and brilliant. Great depiction of the under-the-radar sexual and racial world of 1940s San Francisco. Really liked the setting and the central couple.

The structure needed work though. There's a magical aspect of folding time and space which is almost completely unexplored--it comes up twice in passing mentions in the first, what, 90%, and exists only to facilitate the endi
Althea Ann
Feb 16, 2017 rated it liked it
I was delighted to find that this book is a return to the magic-infused San Francisco of Klages' story "Caligo Lane," which I loved.

In the present day, an elderly woman, setting her affairs in order as she knows her life is reaching its end, goes to sell a valuable painting to a collector. It's a 'lost work' by a pulp fiction illustrator, legendary among a certain niche market - although the subject matter is a bit unusual for the genre. But there are hints that there is something not quite on
Rachel (Kalanadi)
Dec 26, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: novellas, favorites
This is a perfect story in every way I can think of.
Apr 30, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: r2017, stars-4-0
The first thing that attracted me to this novella was the beautiful and arresting cover. All those blues had a haunting quality. Little did I know that this painting is literally at the heart of this story. Klages uses it to bookend and indeed frame a love story with a difference, using 1939 San Francisco as the backdrop.

The mix of characters works really well, as does the focus on the two main protagonists. We witness, through this snapshot, their situations in a world with little understanding
Peter Tillman
Ellen Klage's love letter to San Francisco, and to women who love women. Set in 1940, as the US moves towards WW2, San Francisco is, as always, a magnet for misfits and black sheep.

The book is as much about the City as the people, not that they can be separated. But it reminds me of how much I liked SF when I first started visiting, around 1980. There was still some of the old SF magic then, and probably still is now. The big difference (besides that I'm a lot older) is that it's an unholy pain
Jenny (Reading Envy)
One of the Tor free downloads this month (June 2019) if you join their "book club" and I will count it for "something blue" for the Reading Envy Summer Reading challenge. It's also a fun read for Pride month!

San Francisco in the 1940s had its own kind of magic, but what if there also was actual magic? Six women interact with one another in a series of interlinked stories starting from the present day and explaining pieces of the story bit by bit. Pulp artistry, lesbian culture when it had to sta
Apr 15, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2017
A love story to San Francisco across the decades, and its queer community. I thought this was a lovely piece but it felt a tad disjointed. Nonetheless, well enjoyed.
Nov 02, 2017 rated it really liked it
This is a lovely little novella centered around the lesbian scene of San Francisco during the 1940s.

As someone who lives in San Franciso, I can tell you that Klages really captures the feel of the city. Obviously I didn't live there in the '40s, but there are aspects that live on in the city today. Plus, parts of this book do take place in modern times.

The shift in perspectives is a little clunky--we start the book following an old Helen, but the story is really centered on Haskell and Emily's l
Apr 06, 2017 rated it really liked it
“Hello, you,” she said. “It’s been a while.”

Friendship and love between queer women in San Francisco, circa 1940.

I could have happily read a full-length novel about these women and their lives in San Francisco. Passing Strange is a great novella. Though it's not perfect. The fantastical aspects sort of get the shorter end of the stick. I did wish for a deeper exploration of the magical.

Nevertheless, Passing Strange is a beautiful little novella that I liked very much indeed.
The fantasy label and blurb are misleading on this one. This reads much more like a mash up of magic realism and literary historical fiction.

1940s San Fransisco is brought to life with a wonderful set of characters. Make sure you have internet access handy when you read this, you'll want to look up all of the real locations where the story takes place.

Here is a taste:

This was beautiful.

Passing Strange is a novella set in San Francisco. It follows a group of queer women, some of which are magical. Most of the story is set in 1940, but the first chapter takes place in modern day, and from the first page the atmosphere drew me in.

This book is exactly like its cover: atmospheric, gay, apparently quiet but beautiful if one takes the time to look at the details. Yes, I love this cover, and it's a plot-relevant beautiful cover (one of the main characters is an arti
Received to review via Netgalley; released 24th January 2017

Passing Strange is a lovely novella which takes its own sweet time. As it opens, you expect one story, one protagonist… as it continues to unfold, you see that you were wrong. In my case, I didn’t mind that bait-and-switch at all, but I imagine some people will find that shift in POV a little jarring. Though I didn’t mind, I did find myself briefly wrong-footed by it.

The novella is set in San Fransisco, 1940, among a community of queer
review to follow. What a fabulous book!
Apr 29, 2019 rated it really liked it
This World Fantasy Award-winning novella is a beautiful story. It’s a historical fiction tale (taking place in early 1940’s San Francisco) sprinkled with a bit of magic, and featuring LGBT main characters. At its core, it is a love story between two people...but it is also about friendship and sticking up for those you care about, and it is about finding your place in a world that doesn’t want you to belong.

Ellen Klages writes with a clean prose style that allows the characters to take center s
Allison Hurd
Nov 18, 2018 rated it it was ok
I loved the retrospective in the beginning, but the rest fell pretty flat for me. It had tons of atmosphere and what felt like a romantic yet desperate look at a time too close for comfort, but almost no story and less of a sense of danger or intrigue.

I think this would have been excellent in the under 40 page range. As it was, it was drawn out with nothing much that surprised or added to the narrative. It felt much more like a long inside joke or love letter to a specific person than a novel me
Aug 06, 2020 rated it really liked it
The general historical details, as well as the wonderfully rendered underground lesbian community of the period, who just wanted to live and love in peace and safety, were fantastic. The romance between Haskell and Emily was also great.
Less great was the magic system; it could have used some more definition.
I did love elderly Helen, retired judge, and her crafty plan involving that gorgeous image that graces this story.
David Harris
Jan 22, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I'm grateful to the publisher for an advance copy of this book via NetGalley.

"Helen Young went into her bedroom. She changed into a pair of blue silk pyjamas, brushed her hair, and put on a touch of lipstick. Then she got into bed, turned out the light, and went to sleep for the last time humming a Cole Porter tune until she and the melody simply drifted away."

So ends one of the characters is this hauntingly beautiful tale of life in the queer melting pot of 40s San Francisco.

Helen is one of a g
Nov 04, 2018 rated it liked it
3.5 stars.

An enchanting portrait of a lesbian group in San Francisco in the 40ies, with a hint of magic.
I liked the setting and the characters, but I would have wished for more story in this novella. (and for more Helen)
Dawn C
Nov 18, 2018 rated it it was ok
Shelves: media-ibooks
If you are into fluffy, romantic, virtually plotless stories about lesbians who chitchat over everything and anything and some of whom are also a bit magically inclined, this is for you. I personally need more depth and layers to be interested, unfortunately.
Sep 07, 2020 rated it liked it
Review of Passing Strange by Ellen Klages.

Not bad, but the beginning starts in the present day and implies one MC, however the rest bounces between the heads of about three different characters. The rest is also all past, leading back to the present day. It ties together nicely, but takes FOREVER to get to the point. Positive: representation, however the lack of acknowledging that the Japanese character should be hiding her nationality due to America being in the middle of WWII and the prejudice
Annemieke / A Dance with Books
3,5 stars.

Another one of those Tor free ebooks of the month and this one was a bit different. It is more of a historical romance with a dash of magic thrown in. The first part and last part are set in our world but everything inbetween tells the story of two females finding love with one another.

I didn't end up falling in love with this one because I didn't love the characters it was about. After the first part I had secretly hoped that Helen Young was the mc and she didn't turn out to be so I
Sep 02, 2017 rated it really liked it
This book was adooorable. I just wish it had been longer; the magic aspect seemed like an afterthought but it was cool and worth exploring. Still--1940s lesbian romance in San Francisco? Shut up and take my money. (Or, well, take my interlibrary loan request)
I think this is one of the most alluring covers i've ever seen. ...more
•°• gabs •°•
i wish there was an emoji with pleading eyes but which is also gasping bc that would be just perfect to insert here
Jan 30, 2021 rated it it was amazing
I was sitting on giving it 4/5, but the ending pushed me over the line. A very magical book.
Jan 29, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Disclaimer: Received an ARC. Have novellas published with the same line. Take my review as you will, especially with those variables in mind.

Having said that –

Passing Strange is an ache, a pang in my chest, a queer story so ferociously loving of its characters that the simplest interactions feel almost like a real family. Haskel, Emily, Helen, Franny, and all the rest – the cast do not come across as vehicles of their narrative, but genuine people. By the end of the book, there was a tiny part
Dec 04, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This was a charming novella - it packs a lot of story in, alternately delighting, charming and saddening me in turn.

I would have loved just a bit more exploration of the mathemagic - the folding was intriguing but ultimately only a brief aside. But that's a small quibble in a story filled with characters who revealed startling depth given the brevity of the format. And the added glimpses of the real world mixed in piqued my curiosity - the three garment rule was real; as was Frieda and Diego's r
Beth Cato
Mar 06, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: novella, 2018, fantasy, nebula
Passing Strange is a current Nebula nominee, and I read this as part of my voting packet.

This heavily-researched novella goes deep into the history of the lesbian community in 1940 San Francisco as it tells the story of a romance between a pulp magazine artist and a singer. The atmospheric details are incredible; San Francisco is a vivid character itself, but most of the cast is likewise bright and full of life. A big clash at the climax felt too predictable, though, and some of the consequences
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SciFi and Fantasy...: "Passing Strange" by Ellen Klages (BR) 34 87 Feb 14, 2020 09:12PM  

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Ellen Klages was born in Ohio, and now lives in San Francisco.

Her short fiction has appeared in science fiction and fantasy anthologies and magazines, both online and in print, including The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, Black Gate, and Firebirds Rising. Her story, "Basement Magic," won the Best Novelette Nebula Award in 2005. Several of her other stories have been on the final ballot f

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