By Emma Donoghue
Copy: Pan Macmillan Australia
Akin is the twelfth novel from Emma Donoghue, whom most readers will remember from her breakout novel Room, about a mother and child, held captive for eight years
Noah, a recently retired chemistry professor, is on the cusp of a birthday trip to his childhood home of Nice, France, when he receives a call asking him to take temporary charge of his great-nephew Michael, who is eleven. Childless by choice and with seemingly no clue how to take care of a small boy, let alone communicate and connect with one, Noah is reluctant to get involved. However Noah soon realises he is the boy’s only hope of avoiding foster care, and so arranges for Michael to travel to Nice with him.
The trip unearths some new questions for Noah, his parents’ role in the Nazi occupation of France and the history of his extended family. With help from Michael, Noah learns more about his famous maternal grandfather, and unearths some secrets about his mother – is she the person he remembers her to be? Noah and Michael soon realise that despite their differences in age, education, wealth and upbringing, Michael’s motto Family Over Everything applies even to them.
Ever the teacher, Noah can’t help but give Michael (and so the reader) lots of little science and history lessons throughout the book, which I quite enjoyed. It helped give depth to both the city and the characters, Noah stumbling along desperately trying to find some common ground with Michael, and Michael seemingly ignorant and disinterested, but actually desperate for acceptance and love. Both characters feel innately real, the mannerisms and speech of both are just as you would imagine an upper-class octogenarian and a lower class adolescent to be.
This book didn’t have the tension and drama of Room but I enjoyed the witty dialogue and the blossoming friendship between the two characters. It’s been said that no two Emma Donoghue books are the same, and I look forward to exploring more of her writing.
Many thanks to Pan Macmillan and Beauty and Lace for the opportunity to read Akin.
A selection of our Beauty and Lace Club members are reading AKIN by Emma Donoghue. Find out what they thought in the comments section below, or contribute to the discussion. Please tag us in your social shares @beautyandlacemag #beautyandlacebookclub