The Passengers

The Passengers 1

by Eleanor Limprecht

Paperback / softback Publication Date: 21/02/2018

5/5 Rating 1 Reviews

A luminous novel about love by an acclaimed rising star of Australian literature.

A war bride and her granddaughter are on a cruise from San Diego, California to Sydney, Australia. The grandmother, Sarah, was born in Australia and has not returned since she left in 1946, after she married an American serviceman during World War II and travelled to the US after the war on the 'Bride Ship' the USS Mariposa to start life with her new husband. During the journey back to the country of her birth, Sarah tells her granddaughter Hannah the story of her life.

Hannah - who is the same age Sarah was when she made her first journey - listens avidly, seeing her grandmother for the first time as a woman and a person with a past. Her grandmother gives Hannah new perspective on the stories she has always told herself: that she will never be content with the way she looks, that the desire she feels is ugly and that she doesn't deserve happiness. It is when they arrive at their destination that Hannah realises the immensity of Sarah's life and what she has given up.

The Passengers is a luminous novel about love: the journeys we undertake in its name, the sacrifices we make and the heartache we sometimes suffer. It is about how we most long for what have left behind. And it is about the past how close it can still feel even after long passages of time and when so much has changed.

Classic fiction
Paperback / softback
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Eleanor Limprecht

Eleanor was born and raised in the US, Germany and Pakistan but now lives in Sydney, Australia.

Eleanor's previous novels, What Was Left and Long Bay were both published by Sleepers Publishing to critical acclaim.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating

5 / 5 (1 Ratings)
  • a wonderfully moving story that is also interesti

    by on

    “I wore my canary yellow pencil skirt and jacket of light wool, with my best stockings and a pair of low-heeled black pumps. Folded on top of my suitcase in the rack above my seat was my cream belted coat, my matching hat and in the coat pocket a pair of black leather gloves. I wore my nicest things, for wherever I went I would be making an impression upon strangers, and I did not want them to guess what I knew about myself: that I was lost now. Far from safety, far from home.”

    The Passengers is the third novel by critically acclaimed US-born author, Eleanor Limprecht. Hannah Fray is accompanying her grandmother, Sarah, on a cruise from San Diego to Sydney. Ostensibly this is to provide physical help for Sarah, elderly and thus frail, although Hannah’s strength is not a given. Sixty-eight years earlier, Sarah made the journey in reverse, travelling from Sydney as a war bride on the USS Mariposa to join her new husband, ex-US Army Officer Roy Jackson, now returned to the tobacco farm in Roanoke, Virginia.

    As they enjoy the amenities the ship offers, Sarah candidly describes to Hannah not only her earlier trip, but also how she met and married Roy, and the family and homeland to which she has never returned. Hannah is captivated by Sarah’s stories, learning much she would never have guessed. “I wonder if hearing Grandma’s stories has something to do with this thrill I feel. I want to feel what she felt then. When life was simply lived, not dissected into a thousand pieces. When it was grabbed tight and squeezed because tomorrow it might not be there.”

    But Hannah is also dealing with an ongoing problem of her own, something she has kept secret from her mother and grandmother. Although perhaps she hasn’t hidden it as well as she thought: “… I sensed it. It’s why I wanted you to come with me on this trip. I can see now how selfish I’ve been; I’ve probably made you worse off. But I wanted you close. I guess I hoped you’d want to talk about it, one day. I suppose it’s why I wanted to tell you about Roy. About the secrets I kept.”

    Hannah has indeed been thinking about telling: “The thing about truth, though, is that if you decide to tell it you have to tell it all. You can’t hide some things and tell others. Because they’re all connected, the lies, like the scaffolding of a skyscraper. I imagine myself as a building inside, my structure rotten, the lies holding me up. I’m not strong enough without them. I’d certainly tumble to the ground.”

    Limprecht’s third novel touches on a myriad of subjects including the demands of farming, and the pitfalls of important life decisions made under the desperate urgency of wartime deadlines. Survivor guilt, grief, adultery, xenophobia and anorexia nervosa also feature. Her plot is original and credible, and the depth of her research into Bride Ships is apparent on every page.

    Her characters are easily believable, very human and sometimes prone to disappointing behaviour. She does allow them wise words: “Just because you mess up once doesn’t mean you can’t get it right.” And perceptive observations: “I think of Grandma last night, out beneath the stars, and how hard it is to align memory with past, how you imagine the world with how it has changed.”

    The present-day narrative (Sarah and Hannah) alternates with one that begins in the mid-twentieth century on a dairy farm on the south coast of NSW. Also included are letters, pamphlets and newspaper articles. Limprecht gives the reader a wonderfully moving story that is also interesting and insightful, all wrapped in beautiful descriptive prose. Recommended.
    Quotes from an Uncorrected Proof copy courtesy of Allen & Unwin.