Book review · novella

Book review: Passing Strange

Passing Strange, by Ellen Klages

passingstrange-finalcoverDescription: (from Macmillan)

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 forbidden love, where outcasts from conventional society can meet.
Six women find their lives as tangled with each other’s as they are with the city they call home. They discover love and danger on the borders where magic, science, and art intersect.
Inspired by the pulps, film noir, and screwball comedy, Passing Strange is a story as unusual and complex as San Francisco itself from World Fantasy Award winning author Ellen Klages.

Expected publication: January 24th 2017, part of the Winter Line-Up
A review copy (e-galley) of this book was provided by the publisher on Netgalley. Some things might change in the final copy.

I really liked this novella and I’m glad I requested it on netgalley after missing the deadline to read the eARC I was kindly provided by the publisher first! I wrote this review super fast so that I could post it before the release day (yeah I know it’s tomorrow and I’m a bit late), so sorry if this feels a little rushed or with weirdly constructed sentences (more than usually at least!).
It was 131 pages long on my ereader and just the perfect lenght for such a story.

At first it really felt more atmospheric than focused on the characters. It made me want to visit San francisco for real and not just through stories and movies. But then, after the first part that is quite mysterious, everything slowly comes together and starts to makes sense, up until a very satisfying ending.

Mostly this story is about women, a love story, friendship and solidarity. My favourite parts were when they were all talking about science, art and magic; but also asian women discussing what it’s like to live in San Francisco and Chinatown during these years.
It was really refreshing; even if the whole book would have been this it would have been A+ for me!

I loved the individuality of each of these girls, each of these women. All of them of different age, from different backgrounds and with different sexual orientations. I was worried that I wouldn’t get attached to all of them when the point of view shifted at the beginning but I grew to root for them all in the end.

If you take your time to read this novella, it might even feel more like an historical fiction rather than a fantasy one. The magic was just a pinch on the story, but very well dosed. It was not the center of the plot, just something that was there when they needed it, a mystery. Told like that, it might feel like the magic was only used to help the plot move on, but not at all.

The romance was an insta-love, and I feel some people might not like that, but it really didn’t bother me. The relationship grew beautifully and rather quickly, but that’s how it happens sometimes, being pushed into another person’s arms by the circonstances.
This story felt like a beautiful modern tale, with both very magical and nice parts, and some other quite dark and horrifying.

Trigger warnings (highlight to see): conversion therapy and child abuse are mentioned, homophobia. 

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