The Passage by Justin Cronin

The Passage, Justin CroninWoman with Sainsbury’s carrier bag on the tube: “I’m baking lemon drizzle cake tonight… it’s the first time I’ve done it.”

Friend: “What you’ve never made lemon drizzle before?!”

Me (silently seething): “SHUT UP!!”

There are few things worse than getting to a gripping point in a book and then somebody else’s conversation invades your thoughts, totally breaking the spell. I suppose that’s what I should expect reading on public transport. I devoured the final few chapters of The Passage at home on the sofa, giving it the attention it deserved – and this book deserves, no demands attention. At nearly 800 large pages it is not a novel to be picked up lightly (excuse the pun). It’s sheer size and epic scope as well as the fact that it is a bit of a page-turner means that it can take over your life for a good few days or weeks depending on how fast you read. I was absorbed to the point that I found it quite frustrating having to put it down to do something else (like go to work).

The Passage is quite a difficult book to sum up without giving away the storyline too much. After all, if you are going to bother reading a massive book then, I imagine that you would like some of it to be a surprise. To be on the safe side I’ll quote the blurb:

“Amy Harper Bellafonte is six years old and her mother thinks she’s the most important person in the whole world.

She is.

Anthony Carter doesn’t think he could ever be in a worse place than death row.

He’s wrong.

FBI agent Brad Wolgast thinks something beyond imagination is coming.

It is.


I will say that it is a book about vampires, although more of the 28 Days Later variety than RPatz in Twilight. It did make me think of how I felt watching the films 28 Days Later and I Am Legend because of the way that the monsters in the book were terrifying, insensible and lacking any obvious humanity, and also because it felt quite cinematic. It doesn’t surprise me that the film rights have been sold to Ridley Scott because I can imagine it translating well to the big-screen.

However, by drawing comparisons to these films I am in danger of selling The Passage short as being unoriginal. If anything it has a very different style to any book I’ve read in a similar genre. The first half of the book sets the scene of the story in-depth, exploring the lives of key characters – Amy, Anthony Carter and agent Wolgast. Cronin creates incredibly well-developed personalities, each with their own quite tragic back story. He takes his time progressing the story, however the writing never feels slow, rather you feel fully immersed in the plot.

There is a quite sharp change in the story about halfway through the book, which I have to admit threw me. Initially I thought it felt a bit disconnected, however once I became used to this (trying not to give anything away!), I soon became absorbed again. I think this break in style is a bit of a gamble, but one that pays off – mainly because Cronin’s storytelling is so strong.

Cronin is a talented novelist. The Passage is really well written. It is a brutal book. It combines vicious bloodthirsty monsters with characters that you really don’t want to be killed off because Cronin makes you like them. He describes people and landscapes with a great deal of skill and moments of everyday beauty and  are offset against which are set against the underlying sense of horror. By the time you finish reading The Passage you really feel as if you have been on an epic journey with the characters. An impressive achievement and a totally absorbing read.

My Rating:

8 out of 10

Thanks to Simon (Savidge Reads) for my now well-thumbed copy. You can read his thoughts here.

25 responses to “The Passage by Justin Cronin

  1. I’m still waiting for this to turn up from the library. Given everything else that I have to read this summer, maybe I should be glad it hasn’t turned up yet, but I’m not! I’m jealous of all those on the list before me.

    • novelinsights

      That’s the bind – you always need more time to finsh the books you have and yet you still want to get new ones!

  2. LOL – I love the “automatically generated” posts under yours are all about lemon cake!

    Firstly, re the ladies on the tube – grrrrrrrr!!! I hate that too: when I was on the train down to see you guys in London I was trying to read my book and very nearly ended up throwing it at some girl who orgnaised her social life for the entire month (and this girl doesn’t do staying in, let me tell ya) on the phone. People are so inconsiderate to bibliophiles!

    Anyway, onto the book. I have been really curious about this book. Part of me wants to really read it and part of me is shying away from it (don’t know if that’s the length or the vampires). I didn’t want to read I Am Legend either when I had to for a book club but I ended up really enjoying it so maybe I should give this a go.

    Oh, and thanks for the reference to RPatz – that has made my day 😉

    • novelinsights

      Ha – I’m glad you enjoyed the RPatz reference! I see what you mean about the lemon drizzle links… Aggggh I can’t escape!!!

  3. I ordered this yesterday after reading Simon’s review, yours has made me look forward to reading it even more!

  4. I have often said that there should be a reading only carriage on all tubes but you know someone would break it like they do with the no alcohol law, theres always someone who thinks it doesnt apply to them. People talking loudly on the tube does annoy, who wants to know their business, even the people with them often don’t. Anyway…

    Glad you enjoyed the book. I have noticed that neither of us has mentioned the fact that there are another two more to come as its a trilogy hahaha.

    • novelinsights

      Yes they should definitely have a bookish carriage – preferably with tea and muffins laid on. Hmm it does seem crazily epic that there are more books to come doesn’t it!?

  5. You should travel on the District Line when I do… never hear a peep out of anyone. Perfect for reading. And I love seeing what everyone else has their nose stuck in… I suspect this particular tube line is *very* well read! I see everything from Tolstoy to Heyer on my commute.

    Am hanging out to read this now… saw it in Waterstone’s today but resisted the temptation!

    • novelinsights

      🙂 well done you. I’m not surprised about the district line actually but will try to refrain from my usual generalizations about different tube lines in this public space!!

  6. Ahaha I hate reading on public transportation. If I don’t have an mp3 player there’s no point in even trying.
    This sounds really great, I’m keen to pick up a copy, but at the same time a bit hesitant because of it’s size. I tend to buy long books with every intention of reading them but ending up leaving them setting on the shelf as I keep picking the shorter ones. I think I should give The Passage a try though.

  7. The last annoying moment on reading on public transport I had was to hear a teenager playing her very-teenage songs loudly on her phone so everybody could hear. It did NOT fit with the book I read! (or any books I read really) Argh.

    About the Passage, mm to be honest the word “vampire” put me off completely. I think it’s just not up my alley. But good that you enjoyed it.

    • novelinsights

      Oh I can’t bear it when people play music out loud on public transport – it’s sooooo rude!!

  8. People are so rude interrupting the dialogue you had entered into with Cronin. No consideration at all for that private conversation.

    I’ll be reading this over summer. Nothing else to contribute, really, except that I’ve been reading a bit of vampire fiction lately (more about that later) and I’m interested to look at the genre from a completely different angle in The Passage.

  9. Yes BookWhisperer et al, I emphatically agree. Why do people have to talk so darn loud? It is the same on planes, buses, in cafe’s, all over the darn place. No matter how good a book is (and lets face it all books are good) the natterings of someone who has just had a new kitchen plumbed in, or some chick who couldnt get served at a bar, or some guy with a groin injury type conversations also distract me even though they are talking complete compost. Im afraid we may have to sort books into categories like “only to be read at home (away from family)” or “can be read where there is a lot of compost in the air”, or perhaps we could carry a couple of light reading books to hand out to these rude people in the hope we convert them to the higher cause (bowing at the feet of authors type cause). I use to read while at the gym (place book on control panel of treadmill) and even though quite clearly I was reading while walking or jogging, some prat would want to ask me something or engage in conversation when my body language clearly showed “Im reading so do not disturb”.Shesh.

  10. I really want to read this but need to create enough reading space before I can do so… I’ve too many books to read! Plus it’s a really big book and won’t fit into my bag. The reviews have been pretty amazing, so let’s see.

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