I've completed my reading of Nella Larsen's Quicksand. I thought her writing was simply superlative in Passing, and I haven't changed my opinion. I found 'Quicksand' to be well written and very interesting from the autobiographical angle, especially her trip to Denmark; having visited relatives there myself, I thought she captured many aspects of Danish culture accurately, economically and well.
I also found this novel revealing of Larsen's own personality, her sensitivity and volatility in particular, even more than in 'Passing,' and have realized that she must have intended to depict parts of herself in both Irene Redfield and Clare Kendry in 'Passing', as she must also have done with Helga Crane and Anne Grey in 'Quicksand.' Unless, I'm going to discover more about some 'close friend' in "In Search of Nella Larsen" which I'm reading right now. However, I doubt that I will, as she did not seem to make close friends in her life. She certainly seems to be one of the most alone women I've ever encountered in my reading!
I found the ending of Quicksand supremely tragic, and also I couldn't quite buy it. But I'm wondering if the fate she assigns Helga Crane doesn't reflect her own fears for herself? Having been raised 'white' for all intents and purposes, (although as a scapegoated, marginalized white so to speak), she must have felt alienated from much of black culture and perhaps frightened of certain aspects of it, that while not necessarily 'endorsed' by African-Americans was at least not totally unfamiliar to them as it would have been to her. What a lonely character she was, in life - talk about Quicksand.
I might suggest an interesting companion piece to read along with Larsen's two novels, and that is a family memoir, "The Sweeter the Juice," written by Shirlee Taylor Haizlip about her mother who was the lightest child in an African-American family descended from the brother of Martha Washington (just to add a little historical interest), and who was essentially 'forced' to pass as white, experiencing heart-searing loss and feelings of abandonment throughout her life, while searching for her siblings. Haizlip helped her mother, Margaret, at age 80, finally track down and reunite with at least one of her sisters. Margaret experienced the 'opposite side of the coin' to Nella's experience, having looked white while being raised in a black family, yet finally finding herself set adrift in a white world.
This is a well-written book, and shows how the pain of segregation cut both ways.
Another book that is not judgemental about 'passing', but rather takes a more compassionate view, is Allyson Hobbs' 2014 book, "A Chosen Exile." I highly recommend this one!