The Passengers by Eleanor Limprecht

The joy of reading The Passengers is that this novel represents the lives of women and also illustrates the vastness and separateness of Australia from the rest of the world. Eleanor Limprecht’s work can be relied upon to follow certain themes; she writes about women’s struggles and hopes, allowing a greater, and necessary, understanding of hidden pain. Here, in her third novel, she addresses concealed torment, shown through the lives of two vastly different women who are both pursuing notions of fulfilment that wouldn’t usually be considered fulfilment by others.

The story centres on Sarah, a former war-bride heading back to Australia on a cruise ship after 63 years of living in America. She is travelling with her granddaughter, Hannah, who is the same age Sarah was when she made her first journey. As they travel, Sarah tells the story of her life to her beloved granddaughter. Meanwhile, Hannah is privately contending with a debilitating disease. As she learns her grandmother’s story, Hannah is left to ponder her own experiences of heartbreak and self-loathing. The two women have both dealt with pain through deception, and it has cost them greatly. Ironically, it is this shared understanding that allows the two women to regard each other with respect and devotion.

Limprecht is an experienced author, and in The Passengers she manages to entwine issues of the past and present into an effortless read. She gives us time to ponder family, despondency, and how existences are made from decisions at a series of crossroads. In doing so, she honours the heroic strength needed in order to change direction. Readers of Toni Jordan’s Nine Days and Melanie Joosten’s Gravity Well will enjoy this novel. It’s a perfectly contained story of now and before.

Chris Gordon is the events manager for Readings.