The Other Passenger by Louise Candlish
The Other Passenger, a new novel by Louise Candlish, author of the bestseller Our House, grabs the attention of the reader from the first lines and holds it until the very end. Through first-person narration, we are immersed in the consciousness of a middle-aged man who struggles between life with a wealthy partner and a minimum-wage job, while simultaneously strengthening his threatened self-confidence in a secret love affair with a young woman. The characters are placed against a perfect plot-forming background – contemporary London, historical and picturesque: “the London the world recognizes” and the “brutal city” where millions of residents spend their lives “sleeping under faulty boilers, sharing a bed with shift workers, eating customers’ leftovers”.
In this psychological thriller, complex social problems are very often a tool: the issues of class inequality and generational conflict run through the plot, frequently becoming the main motives that determine many of the characters’ decisions. As if inspired by Crime and Punishment, Candlish once again shows the world what people can be capable of when they are trapped in poverty and debt. She exposes one of the main curses of the millennial generation: “they live the way they think they have the right to live, not the way they can afford to”.
Candlish uses the technique of retrospection, alternating time periods throughout the narrative and successively throwing breadcrumbs in front of the reader – hints of something unexpected to come, an epiphany that will divide the novel into before and after. Unfortunately, with increasing dynamism the story reaches a point where the protagonist’s choices cease to fit organically into the character and the meticulously developed structure shows a crack. Closer to the end, events and twists seem less surprising and less natural.
Overall, The Other Passenger is a light and intriguing read, which captivates with its contemporaneity and simplicity of presentation. However, it is not devoid of symbolism: the constant presence of water and the river penetrating the story may be related to rebirth and even atonement. The text raises the themes of sex, jealousy, betrayal and class and generational differences, but the main focus is on the psychological portraits of the characters and how these figures interact in a complicated, well-created plot.
Photo: Johnny Ring
The Other Passenger is published by Simon & Schuster at the hardback price of £14.99, and is available in the UK on 25th June 2020. For further information visit here.