Although Passing Time is definitely a romance, I found it rather depressing. The main character is well crafted and comes across as fully complex and deeply flawed. His struggle with letting his dead lover go takes up the majority of the story and focus. His sexual affair with a younger man is supposed to draw Louis back into the world of the living and it does to some extent. Unfortunately I found the ending to be pretty depressing and sad despite the slight sense of hope amid the realism.
The plot is very character driven as it revolves around the third person narrator Louis. He’s in England to sit by his mother’s hospital bed as she withers away from an unknown illness. Louis hasn’t seen his alcoholic mother in twenty years and feels nothing for her or about her death. In fact this is simply an excuse to be in England for an extended period of time and gives Louis a vague sense of tension. The real struggle is for Louis to let the ghost of his dead lover go and give a relationship with Jake a chance. It’s been two years since Carter died and Louis clings to the man’s ghost very tightly.
In fact Louis is so unwilling to let Carter go that he is very nasty and rude to Jake. As a younger university man, Jake comes across naïve and sheltered. He takes the considerable abuse Louis heaps on him without too much complaint. In some cases Jake acts immature with glares and tantrums, understandable given his treatment but it makes him come across as immature and very young. Unfortunately Jake is afforded very little depth simply because Louis is so self-absorbed and wrapped up in Carter’s ghost that Jake is seen as innocent and young and that’s it. Thus that’s the same impression and depth readers are given of Jake as well.
Louis is a fascinating yet tragic character. He cares little about his dying mother and that element isn’t very important at all. What is important is the relationship between Carter and Louis, one he’s unwilling to let go. The story does a nice job giving that relationship complexity and nuance. We’re told of Carter’s antics and how Louis wasn’t always happy yet Louis’ love for Carter was so deep that nothing else mattered. Much of this relationship is told in conversations between Louis and Carter’s ghost but those are arguably the main characters. Their love affair is romantic yet tragic, leaving very little room for Jake in the story.
The relationship between Louis and Jake is told through sex scenes. They do nothing but have sex and so there is a ton of sex in the story. Jake puts up with all of Louis’ rude and inconsiderate behavior, for reasons unknown, and even falls in love with Louis. This is told through sex once again and the ending attempts to be realistic but optimistic. I’m not sure how much I believe the ending though I do believe Louis wants to be with Jake. I though the final scene was melodramatic and depressing unfortunately. I can appreciate the symbolism and the choice but the story ends on a sad note, not a romantic one.
Passing Time is a very complex story with a lot of elements. The writing is very inspired in some scenes and the characters are realistic, flawed, and compelling. Unfortunately the topics broached and how the issues are handled may not be to all readers’ tastes. If you’re looking for a darker, meatier story this may satisfy as long as you don’t mind the story not having an upbeat, happy ending. I waivered on the rating since I think the story is good for the right reader but I found it depressing and not particularly enjoyable to read.