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Passing Strange

3.97  ·  Rating details ·  1,397 ratings  ·  348 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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3.97  · 
Rating details
 ·  1,397 ratings  ·  348 reviews

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Elise (TheBookishActress)
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
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
K.J. Charles
Feb 26, 2017 added it
Shelves: f-f, 1940s, novella
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
Rachel (Kalanadi)
Dec 26, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This is a perfect story in every way I can think of.
Apr 30, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2017, 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
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.
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 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.
May 24, 2018 rated it really liked it
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
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)
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
Dawn Christoffersen
Nov 18, 2018 rated it it was ok
Shelves: 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.
I think this is one of the most alluring covers i've ever seen.
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)
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
Peter Tillman
Klage's love letter to San Francisco, and to women who love women. Set in 1940, as the world 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 to
Apr 16, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Elizabeth by: Melody
Shelves: fiction
i enjoyed this novella about queer life in san francisco circa 1940s. the descriptions of the city were everything & i only wish there was more than a glimpse into these character's lives.
Beth Cato
Mar 06, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2018, novella, nebula, fantasy
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
Oleksandr Zholud
Nov 13, 2018 rated it liked it
This novella was nominated for Nebula in 2018. In begins in modern day San Francisco, were a very old lady puts thinks straight before her death (not a spoiler, it starts with “On the last Monday of her life, Helen Young returned from the doctor’s and made herself a cup of tea. As she had expected, the news was not good; there was nothing more that could be done.” . Then the story shifts to her past in 1940’s San Francisco.

This is more or less a historical novel about daily life and problems of
The strength of Passing Strange lies in the setting, which is richly atmospheric and vivid. Picturing San Francisco in the 1940s and its contemporary Chinatown is easy and reading feels more like experiencing than observing. We visit all kinds of different venues, and place and time come alive on the page.

I was drawn to this book because of its incredibly beautiful and stunning cover and the blurb sounded really interesting to me as well. The opening chapters are set today and captivatingly fram
Feb 25, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
3.5 out of 5 stars -- see this review and others at The Speculative Shelf.

Passing Strange is a story of love and friendship among six women in 1940s San Francisco. Author Ellen Klages employs elegant prose, a straightforward plot, and a splash of magic to construct this beautiful and well-told story. Everything here works well, but nothing about it blew me away. That being said, I would read an entire book of Klages describing pastries!
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
Bridget Mckinney
Jan 25, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2017
Passing Strange is an absolutely magical story and by far my favorite thing I've read so far in 2017. In this gorgeously imagined romance, Ellen Klages brings the queer side of 1940s San Francisco to glittering life and peoples it with characters who are fresh and interesting and yet still feel like the kind of old friends one wants to visit with over and over again. It's a book that works precisely because of the specificity of its characters and its setting in time and space, and Klages does a ...more
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
Aug 06, 2018 rated it it was ok
This book was... fine.

The book starts with an elderly lady apparently scamming a rare book dealer with a vintage original cover of a famous pulp artist- a cover that hadn't been known to exist. Why did she do this? I don't know, because after about 25 pages of this, the book turns into a flashback. Which takes up most of the rest of the book. I feel like we need a term for this- flashbacks that end up being most of the book. It's such a common thing now. Staybacks? Or should the first part of t
”I love you,” she said. “I’d follow you to the end of the world. Any world.”

This book is like magic on paper. I don’t know how else to describe it. You feel the atmosphere in every scene—you can imagine yourself there, watching the sights as our characters do. They are as enthralled by the city as anyone would be, and you are enthralled by them. I sort of really freaking liked this book. It was short but it was, how shall we put it? A whirlwind of love. Yeah. That works.

”Please don’t die on me t
Suanne Laqueur
Apr 03, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Well that was all kinds of fun!
Feb 17, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2017-releases
This was unlike what I was expecting but it’s a magical and wonderful story.

The novella is split into two time lines: it starts at the modern time, San Francisco, then shifts into 1940s San Francisco. The story has a touch of magic, which I haven’t expected at all.

The reason I wanted to read the novella is it’s a sapphic story in historical setting and it did deliver a touching and realistic romance! I adore Haskel and Emily and them together, I love all of the supporting cast. The story is full
Jan 26, 2017 rated it really liked it
First off, the cover for Passing Strange looks beautiful when you see it at first brush. After reading it however it triggers an emotional reaction, at least for me. I won’t spoil anything, but I’ll tell you it’s one of the best ‘straight from the book’ covers I’ve ever seen.

Moving onto the novella itself – Passing Strange is one of those stories that takes magic for granted. It’s there, it happens a few times over the course of our journey but it’s never the central focus. Instead we focus on t
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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