Claire's Reviews > Passing

Passing by Nella Larsen
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really liked it
bookshelves: classic, fiction

I really enjoyed this, but I might be in the minority when I say I lived Quicksand even more.

In Passing we meet Irene who has just received a letter from an old friend, one who twice in her life she believed she would never see again and with distaste realises this letter is evidence of her reappearance in her life. She intends to resist, ignoring it.

We then go back in time to the earlier encounter when Irene was visiting Chicago where her parents live, last minute shopping for her son's, overcome by the heat, she hails a cab and asks the driver to take her to a roof top hotel. It is here that Irene practices her version of 'passing' as a white bourgoise person, alone, unobserved, quietly taking tea by a window where no one is near, to recuperate.
""It's funny about 'passing'. We disapprove of it and at the same time condone it. It excites our contempt and yet we rather admire it. We shy away from it with an odd kind of revulsion, but we protect it."

Only a man and woman appear to her horror and take the table next to her. The man leaves. The woman stares at her. Fear pervades her as the woman approaches, recognising her.

"About her clung that dim suggestion of polite insolence with which a few women are born and which some acquire with the coming of riches or importance."

Passing is taut with tension beginning with this scene, Irene is careful, her old friend Clare takes risks and Irene does all she can not to fall into her web. But her charm is near impossible to resist, she is more practiced in passing and in getting what she wants, in ways Irene wouldn't dare to imagine.

The fear Irene has turns it into something of a psychological suspense novel, use of the word dangerous planting the seed of it early on.

"Her brows came together in a tiny frown. The frown, however, was more from perplexity than from annoyance; though there was in her thoughts an element of both. She was wholly unable to comprehend such an attitude towards danger as she was sure the letter's contents would reveal; and she disliked the idea of opening and reading it."
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Reading Progress

June 27, 2020 – Shelved
June 27, 2020 – Shelved as: to-read
June 27, 2020 – Shelved as: classic
June 27, 2020 – Shelved as: fiction
June 29, 2020 – Started Reading
June 30, 2020 –
50.0% "Tension filed novel of 2 friends who meet after not seeing each other for 12 years, one of them is living a dangerous lie and appears not to be ruffled bu it, nor aware of the anxiety and terror her acting has on the freind, who tries hard to sever the tie, but is unable to resist her charm and manipulative ways, invoking Irene's empathy and pity.
A psychological, taut narrative, highlighting how silence builds fear"
June 30, 2020 – Finished Reading

Comments Showing 1-2 of 2 (2 new)

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message 1: by Cheryl (new)

Cheryl I agree, Claire. Quicksand is also my favorite. I read both in the edition Quicksand and Passing.


message 2: by Shankar (new)

Shankar Wonderful review ! A must read for me now !! Thanks for introducing this author to me.


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