Past Perfect by Karen Zelas


Prompted by a brush with mortality, her children approaching adulthood and the relationship with her husband being tested, Sue Spencer embarks on a search for meaning in her life.

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A New Zealand novel set partly in the present and partly in 1840, at the time of the French settlement of Akaroa. 

Her quest takes her to Akaroa, to France and back, tracking her genealogy, but her discoveries are unexpected and place further pressure on strained family relationships.

Parallel to Sue’s journey and interwoven with it, is that of her ancestor, Frenchwoman Brigitte (Bibi) Dujardin. Bibi arrived on the Comte de Paris from Rochefort, France, in 1840 to settle in Akaroa. Bibi’s story is told in letters written to her mother in France. As the novel proceeds, Sue and Bibi come closer and closer together.

Past Perfect is a story of love and loss, prejudice and resolution, and the search for selfhood. The backdrop of the French settlement of Akaroa, with its established Maori community, enriches this novel with the diversity and complexity that make up our past.


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