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An original and profound portrait of contemporary Britain told through the testimonies of its inhabitants.
‘A spectacularly enjoyable and compelling reading experience . . . funny, moving, surprising and thought-provoking. It humanises literature in this toxic moment.’
MAX PORTER, author of Lanny
‘Seemingly simple yet so deeply profound, The Passengers is an absorbing insight into the lives and minds of so-called ordinary people: their hopes and fears and idiosyncrasies at a specific moment in time.’
CLIO BARNARD, director of Ali & Ava and The Essex Serpent
‘A nation’s psyche comes to the surface. The Passengers is not just an oral history of the contemporary moment but, drenched in mood and texture, renders the country itself as a sonic collage.’
SUKHDEV SANDHU, GUARDIAN
Between October 2018 and March 2021, Will Ashon collected voices – people talking about their lives, needs, dreams, loves, hopes and fears – all of them with some connection to the British Isles. He used a range of methods including letters sent to random addresses, hitchhiking, referrals from strangers and so on. He conducted the interviews in person, on the phone, over the internet or asked people to record themselves. Interview techniques ranged from asking people to tell him a secret to choosing an arbitrary question from a list.
The resulting testimonies tell the collective story of what it feels like to be alive in a particular time and place – here and now. The Passengers is a book about how we give shape to our lives, find meaning in the chaos, acknowledge the fragility of our existence while alleviating this anxiety with moments of beauty, love, humour and solidarity.
‘A magical mystery tour of Britain . . . extraordinary.’
‘Ashon’s gloriously polyphonic book scales the heights. A deeply felt and humane portrait of where we are.’
NIVEN GOVINDEN, author of Diary of a Film
‘This book couldn’t have come into my life at a better time. It’s a guiding mate. It enters like a cat through a window, ready to take your attention and show you what it needs to.’
TICE CIN, author of Keeping the House
From the first nine words, through thick and thin to the last nine words, The Passengers has both a dizzying symphonic complexity and a booming ambient simplicity, and these two characteristics work hand in hand, as in life, to unsettle, intrigue, perplex or inspire. The book makes you feel less alone. It opens the walls of the boxes we all trade our language and emotions in and lets us travel among ourselves.
In an era of social distancing, this book made me feel gloriously connected to the country I live in. A kaleidoscopic voyage through the inner lives of so many ordinary, extraordinary people. A tapestry of epic themes and tiny moments, there is laughter and tenderness and life as it is really lived on every page. It’s a book to make you fall in love and fascination with the human race. I adored it.
Will Ashon’s gloriously polyphonic book scales the heights. A deeply felt and humane portrait of where we are.
Seemingly simple yet so deeply profound, The Passengers is an absorbing insight into the lives and minds of so-called ordinary people: their hopes and fears and idiosyncrasies at a specific moment in time. These are everyday voices we don’t hear from or listen to often enough – oral history becomes verbatim poetry.
A catalogue of startling intimacies. A brilliant, surprising, addictive book.
Like a modern day Turner, Will Ashon surveys England with a novelist's eye for empathy and craft. Fascinating in its form and execution, The Passengers succeeds in teasing out the similarities and relationships between disparate lives – no easy feat, especially in the context of the past couple of years where we have been more divided than ever.
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