Dakar, Senegal, 1987: On a rainy night after a wild party, the British ambassador’s wife, Vivienne Hughes, is involved in a car crash. Her vehicle hits the motorbike of a young Senegalese doctor, Aimé Tunkara, killing him. Pleading diplomatic immunity, Vivienne and her husband flee to England.
Three decades later, Aimé’s little sister, Lily Tunkara, now a high-flying lawyer in Dakar, finds a photograph that compels her to investigate what really happened that rainy night. As Lily faces increasing hostility from the local community, she turns to Vivienne Hughes, the only remaining witness, but is either woman prepared for the truth to emerge?
Past Participle is the story of two women bound together by the faultlines of the past, a study of love and guilt, power and desire, retribution and forgiveness.
Longlisted for the Bath Novel Prize 2022
“An original and truly gripping read. There are so many strands, twist and turns. Lily is a beautiful and courageous character. Her nurturing attitude to her children together with her courage and determination to uncover the truth at whatever cost, makes us want to be with her every step of the way. A love story and an exposé. It will be on someone’s shortlist for sure.”
Jane Teverson, Author
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“Past Participle is a captivating story of murder and imperialist corruption, of friendship and motherhood and of the past haunting the present, told through the interlinking stories of two women. The novel tackles an important subject matter, but in a way that doesn’t feel hectoring or didactic. It recognises the nuances of power dynamics, personal desires and social and political realities in framing how people act and why. The novel offers a strong critique of western imperialism, attentive to the macro and micro applications of that, alongside a dynamic and moving story.”
Keiran Devaney, Author & Literary Editor
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“The past is another country you can never entirely escape, a feeling shared by Vivienne and Lily, two women a generation and a continent apart. They should have nothing in common; they should certainly never become friends. Past Participle is a love story full of psychological suspense, evoking life in Dakar, Senegal, and Dorset, England, in equal measure. It explores friendship, history, and what happens when good deeds lead to bad outcomes. Vivienne and Lily are strong, independent women, but their success comes at a cost. In describing their colliding worlds is where Jane Labous excels. She has an eye for detail, beautifully creating the thick heat of Dakar alongside the cold seascapes of the Dorset coast. A sweeping story that pulls you in, Past Participle leaves you constantly wondering: what would I have done?”
Anne Hamilton, Author & Literary Editor
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“This novel is perfection. I am *that* obsessed with Past Participle that I want to tell everyone about it! Again, I love this novel, it’s brilliant.”
Claire Strombeck, Literary Editor
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