Title: The Passengers
Author: Eleanor Limprecht
Published: February 21st 2018
Publisher: Allen & Unwin
Genres: Fiction, Historical
Rating: 4.5 stars
Sarah and Hannah are on a cruise from San Diego, California to Sydney, Australia. Sarah, Hannah’s grandmother, is returning to the country of her birth, a place she hasn’t seen since boarding the USS Mariposa in 1945. Then she, along with countless other war brides, sailed across the Pacific to join the American servicemen they’d married during World War II.
Now Hannah is the same age Sarah was when she made her first journey, and in hearing Sarah tell the story of her life, realises the immensity of what her grandmother gave up.
The Passengers is a luminous novel about love: the journeys we undertake, the sacrifices we make and the heartache we suffer for love It is about how we most long for what we have left behind. And it is about the past – how close it can still feel – even after long passages of time.
Life is certainly a voyage, of which we are simply passengers, is the meaningful message behind Eleanor Limprecht’s new novel, titled The Passengers. This evocative war-time, crossed with present day journey, conveys messages of the importance of family, second chances, the past, secrets, love, pride and hope. The Passengers is a heartfelt testament and a beautifully rendered tale that combines the experiences of two different women, from contrasting generations, in the one ideal format.
The Passengers begins on board a cruise ship. Sarah and Hannah, a grandmother and her granddaughter, are undertaking a voyage from San Diego in the US, to Sydney in Australia. After many decades away from the country of her birth, Sarah is finally making the trek home. In 1945, Sarah left Australia’s shores on board the USS Mariposa, a ship full of war brides and their children. Sarah, along with many other brides sailed across the seas to be reunited with their American Servicemen, who they became betrothed to during the war. Now, many years later, Sarah is bringing her granddaughter Hannah along with her on this important trip. Hannah is roughly the same age as Sarah was when she made the fateful voyage to the US back in 1945. As the two women sail across the ocean, Sarah recounts her incredible journey. In doing so, Hannah begins to understand the sacrifices her grandmother made and the brave front she put on through this time of big change. The Passengers is a novel that examines the pathways we take in life, the mistakes we make and the lessons in love we learn along the way. It is also about reconciling with long held secrets and putting the ghosts of the past to rest.
The Passengers is a heartfelt and graceful tale, set on the high seas, from an author that I have yet to have the pleasure of reading until this very book. My pure enjoyment of this very satisfying novel, has definitely encouraged my resolve to explore more writing of Eleanor Limprecht in the very near future.
What I immediately loved about this book was the subtle and clever interlinking of Hannah, a nineteen year old student nurse’s story, with her grandmother’s enthralling history. This is a narrative device that really works to the book’s advantage. As a result, we get quite enmeshed within the involving lives of both Hannah and Sarah. Both stories were contrasted very well, but it is possible to see links between the two tales as well.
There is no denying that Eleanor Limprecht, the author of The Passengers, has clearly undertaken a great deal of research to inform her storyline. Firsthand accounts and the inclusion of detailed sources from World War II, with a particular focus on war brides, has been carefully included in this narrative. Although I have read more than one book on war brides in the past, I still felt I learnt more from the capable and informed hand of Eleanor Limprecht. Sarah’s story was both compelling and authentic, reminding us the female experience of war, which was defined by impulse decisions, constant fretting about the safety of loved ones, the concerns about personal safety, due to threats of invasion and of course, grief over the loss of loved ones. It was a time of great flux, distress and uncertainly, which Limprecht evokes with precision in The Passengers.
Limprecht’s characterisation is superb and I was impressed by the formation of her full bodied character list. There are some very well formed side characters in this novel, including the male love interests. However, I felt Sarah, the main character of this novel, was so well drawn and I soon became completely invested in her story. I appreciated how Limprecht stretched out Sarah’s experiences from way back to being a child, to a young woman, a wife and to an elderly woman. I know I didn’t want to let go of Sarah’s journey, I wanted to hold her hand and continue to listen to her colourful life experiences. Her granddaughter Hannah’s story is slightly different, but also very consuming. Hannah is a finely drawn protagonist and I felt like to reader was made privy to her innermost thoughts, feelings and fears in the book. The story that emerges from the character of Hannah is one of profound sadness, upset, fear and anxiety. Limprecht really spreads her wings in these sequences and gives us a detailed account of a young woman suffering from mental illness, body image and health issues. Limprecht is careful to balance Hannah’s scenes with insight and sensitivity. Despite this rather melancholy character journey, I have a great deal of respect for Limprecht’s writing in these scenes of the novel.
The setting in The Passengers is quite expansive. The scenes on board the cruise ship in the present day were beautifully rendered. Likewise, the moments on board the USS Mariposa, were touched so much realism, I thought I was another passenger on board this vessel. In addition, the scenes in Australia, referencing Sarah’s upbringing and family life, was authentic and engaging. Finally, when the book moved to the US, I felt like it hit its peak and really took off in the locale department. I personally connected with the US scenes featuring Sarah after the war.
The Passengers is a skilfully composed tale that infuses historical fact within one very engaging narrative. The structure of The Passengers, which employs the rich first person narrative voices of two unforgettable women, experiencing the same issues in life, despite the gap of time and impressed this reader greatly. Limprecht’s graceful writing style is to be relished, savoured and appreciated for its strength in all facets – the characters, setting, time period, narrative interest and its poignant conclusion. The Passengers is a book well worth your time to investigate and one that will appeal to readers far and wide.
The Passengers by Eleanor Limprecht is published on February 21st 2018 by Allen & Unwin. Details on how to purchase the book can be found here.
To learn more about the author of The Passengers, Eleanor Limprecht, visit here.
*I wish to thank Allen & Unwin for providing me with a free copy of this book for review purposes.
The Passengers is book #15 of the Australian Women Writers Challenge