By Jane Labous
Format 198 x 129 mm
Extent 352 pages
BIC 2.0 Modern & Contemporary
Extent 352 pages
Release: 7 February 2024
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
Read a press release here...
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
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.
- Kieran Devaney, Author & Literary Editor
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
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
I have recently discovered an excellent new novel - Past Participle by Jane Labous - a perfect holiday read. A beautifully crafted story portraying the heat, colour and complexities of life in an African country, with a subtle and surprising denouement to a gripping story- just couldn’t put it down! Can’t wait to read the next novel by this promising new author!
I was lucky enough to be able to get my hands on a preview copy of Past Participle! I loved it and was absorbed as soon as the story started. The author brings to life so vividly the courageous and determined Lily, and her two little girls. I had a strong sense of them, and also of Lily’s brother, Aimé. I loved the descriptions of Senegal, which I’ve never been to, as well as the stunning descriptions of the weather.
I initially found it harder to feel anything much for Viv, and only later realised the reason she was first presented in this way, as a rather upper class, self-absorbed, older woman, with her interests in yoga and expensive clothes. When she presented her own memoir, in the first person, the whole impetus shifted sharply again. The author’s visual gifts are such that I can really see a film following the book. A real resonance for me was a line about ‘life (and its secrets) only being understood backwards'. Thank you again for letting me read Past Participle, which I read with immense pleasure and excitement. A real treat.
- Tina D.