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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction


Ann Quin

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To purchase Passages

Title: Passages
Author: Ann Quin
Genre: Novel
Written: 1969
Length: 112 pages
Availability: Passages - US
Passages - UK
Passages - Canada

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Our Assessment:

B : interesting effort, some powerful writing

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
New Statesman . 21/3/1969 David Haworth
The Observer . 23/3/1969 .
TLS . 3/4/1969 Jane Miller
TLS . 26/2/2021 Anna Aslanyan
The Village Voice . 25/2/2003 Mary Jacobi

  From the Reviews:
  • "There is a good deal that is irritatingly opaque and elliptical in the book, but this fusion between what is experienced, dreamt of and thought, a fusion most noticeable and revealing in solitude or on alien territory, is well suggetsed." - Jane Miller, Times Literary Supplement

  • "A mythical time of Dionysian excesses undertaken in pursuit of happiness, the 1960s are reflected here not as a celebration of peace and love but as a frenzied Bacchanalia that creates a brief euphoria overshadowed by the damage it inflicts." - Anna Aslanyan, Times Literary Supplement

  • "Though Passages lacks the depth and mania found in Quin's other works, it exposes the difficulty of negotiating a relationship in which the barriers are always dissolving." - Mary Jacobi, The Village Voice

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

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The complete review's Review:

       Passages explores all sorts of passages. It is a travel-book, taking place abroad. It is a book of personal growth and transitions. And it is literally presented in the form of many relatively short passages.
       There are four sections to the book, alternating narratives by the two main characters. The woman, fairly straightforwardly, describes events. The man's narrative consists of his diary entries, along with a variety of marginal annotations.
       The woman's brother has disappeared while abroad, and she and the man go to look for him. They are away for months, half tourists, half seekers, getting closer to what might have happened to the brother without getting any definitive answers. They are foreigners in the places they go (the Mediterranean, with some of the political unrest and island-locales (as well as the background-myths) strongly suggesting Greece).
       Passages is a novel of unbalance and uncertainty -- mental and otherwise --, and distance and remove. The two characters need each other and yet aren't entirely comfortable with one another (but, on the other hand, discomfort seems something both of them need). The man believes, for example: "The problem is to discover whether I can live with this woman's demons without forfeiting my own."
       They're stuck in a vicious circle: "I wish to be alone then once I'm alone I long for company" is typical for their dissatisfied confusion.
       This is a novel focussed very much on character, on people uncertain of who they are and what they can be. They seem afraid of identity and certainty, but while they can go so far as to say: "His greatest obsession was to disappear" they themselves can't do it, not completely. Only obsession gives them purpose.

       Quin writes well: these are convincing, if deeply troubled characters, and the thoughts are well and often very effectively expressed. But the self-conscious and reflective musings can be a bit much: many of their concerns are universal, but their approach (and lifestyle) isn't always easy to relate to. The story of the missing brother is also something that Quin doesn't fully explore, offering some tantalizing bits but refusing to make it too central to the book.
       An interesting if not fully satisfying short read.

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Passages: Reviews: Ann Quin:
  • See the complete review's Ann Quin page
Other books by Ann Quin under review: Other books of interest under review:
  • Works by fellow innovative writer, B.S.Johnson
  • See also Contemporary British fiction at the complete review

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About the Author:

       English author Ann Quin (1936-1973) published four novels. She won a D.H.Lawrence Fellowship as well as a Harkness fellowship.

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