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By Emma Donoghue
ISBN: 9781529019971
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.Room was told from the perspective of 5-year old Jack, and in Akin Donoghue jumps to the other end of the age spectrum, telling this story through the eyes of seventy-nine-year-old Noah.

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

14 thoughts on “BOOK CLUB: AKIN

  1. Akin by Emma Donoghue, published by Pan MacMillan, is a nostalgic, and reflective story, that re examines the idea of family and relationships, whilst also revealing an important part of French wartime history.

    The narrator and protagonist, Noah Selvaggio is a lonely Manhattan widower and retired chemistry professor, who plans to celebrate his 80th birthday by returning to his birthplace of Nice, in France. A place he left as a young 4 year old child when fleeing the Nazis.

    The trip is a chance for Noah to reconnect with his past and to try and uncover gaps in his family history. Gaps he is hoping to fill by finding out the origins of a few treasured 1940’s family photographs, found among his late mothers possessions.

    However just days before Noah is set to leave, he receives a call from Children’s Services. A desperate social worker reveals that he has a great nephew, whose father is dead of an apparent drug overdose and whose mother is in prison. Noah reluctantly agrees to temporarily care for 11 year old Michael until other arrangements can be made.

    And so it is that this very odd couple – an aging academic from posh Manhattan and a street wise, young adolescent from knock about Brooklyn, travel to France together.

    Set against a haunting background of Nazi violence and hidden wartime identities, the relationship between Noah and Michael is central to the book. It provides an interesting commentary on age and social background differences. Michael seems to be a typical young teen his face always buried in his phone, obsessed with computer games, selfies and his Air Jordan sneakers. Noah on the other hand lives in his memories and is very aware of his declining physical ability. Still, on a number of occasions you feel the young 11 year old, who has never before been outside Brooklyn, let alone on a plane, is more worldly and aware than his well educated and affluent great uncle.

    In the end both Michael and Noah are pushed out of their comfort zones and learn new ways, finding a degree of comfort in each other. Together they not only uncover family secrets from the past but discover a real bond.

    An interesting read from a talented author.

  2. This is one of the best books I have read for a while. The characters of Noah the 79yr old Great Uncle and Michael the 11yr old from Brooklyn are poles apart in knowledge and experience but they come to appreciate each other in the end.
    The author draws you along in the storyline with no repetition and uses intriguing language comparisons from the disparate ages of the characters along with sage advice from Noahs’ dead wife.
    The pair are thrown together by circumstance and a social worker and go on the trip of a lifetime to Nice where they uncover the truth of Noah’s mothers involvement in the resistance during WW2.
    They at first believe the worst of her but find out that she was a hero who took no credit for her involvement. This then draws parallels to the demise of Michaels’ father.
    It leaves the reader imagining a happy ending for both Noah and Michael in the coming years.

  3. I enjoyed Akin by Emma Donahue. It is the story of Noah Selvaggio who is preparing to return to Nice in France for his 80th birthday. He has not been back since childhood.
    Noah receives a phone call from a social worker regarding his deceased
    nephew’s son, 11 year old Michael, who needs somewhere to live as his mother is in jail.

    The story evolves around Noah taking Michael to France, under sufferance, and the gradual relationship between them growing. It also covers a mystery concerning Noah’s mother during the war

    The story is well written and I plan to look for other books by Emma Donahue.

    Thanks to Beauty and Lace and Pan Macmillan for the opportunity to read this book

  4. AKIN By Emma Donoghue

    Noah a 79-year-old widower living alone in a New York City apartment is looking forward to a week’s vacation in Nice, France where he was born, he hasn’t been back since he was a child. He has found some old photographs in a box that belonged to his deceased mother, which he believes may have something to do with family secrets.

    However, just before he’s set to leave for France, he gets a call from social services telling him that he is the last hope for his great-nephew Matthew, Noah’s nephew’s child, who is deceased. Matthew’s mother is in prison and his grandmother who was his career has died. Will he take him in, and take him along to France?

    I love the interaction between great uncle Noah and Matthew, at times I was laughing out loud. The uncle is continually trying to teach and the boy couldn’t care less. Matthew is street wise and has the language to match his rough upbringing, but it’s quite obvious that he was very much loved by his mum and grandmother and is having a really hard time adjusting to these changes in his life; at times it’s hard to remember that he’s only eleven years old.

    Noah and Matthew are only in France for one week but during that time many thing happen that puts pressure on both of them, but by the end of the week they start to respect one another, and by the end of the book Noah has actually found something to give his life meaning.

    I loved reading this book and highly recommend it. Thank you to Beauty and Lace

  5. Noah, an elderly childless man is about to travel to France for probably his last time to try to discover more about his mother’s activities during the war. His plans change drastically when he is suddenly given responsibility for Michael a young boy he hardly knows. The two of them travel together and their relationship develops while they discover Noah’s mother’s history. This is a great book. Poignant and funny. Noah and Michael are wonderful, believable characters

  6. I really enjoyed reading this book. Within the first couple of pages I was drawn into the story of Noah and his return home. The story and character development made this book a pleasure to read and a challenge to put down.

    This is a story of Noah and Michael, two people from different worlds who find respect and acceptance of each other.

    Great story, well written and a great read.

  7. Akin by Emma Donoghue is a charming, contemporary novel about family and wartime secrets.

    Elderly Noah is eagerly anticipating his return to Nice where he hasn’t been back since he was a child, when life takes an unexpected turn of events. A social worker imposes on his plans when she asks him to temporary look after Michael, an eleven year old child who is a great-nephew he has never even met. Consequently, Michael joins Noah on his trip but everything appears to go drastically wrong as their differences become apparent. But is blood really thicker than water?

    With mystery surrounding Noah’s mum’s involvement during the war in France, as well as very funny quotes from both Noah and Michael, I really enjoyed this story. Emma has written a wonderful, funny and heart-warming tale of two different generations coming together and I thoroughly recommend this novel to others. I found it very engaging and an entertaining read.

    Thank you very much Beauty and Lace for the opportunity to review this book.

  8. I couldn’t put this book down. Emma Donoghue nails the personalities of a traumatised 10-year-old and an 80-year old man perfectly. The balance between humour and poignancy is both heart-warming and heartbreaking. Brilliant. In addition to the characters, exploring Nice and learning about its seldom-told history during WWII will keep you turning the pages.

  9. I really enjoyed this story of an inter-generational friendship, of sorts.

    Retired Professor Noah Selvaggio’s wife passed away nine years ago. They had never had children preferring to dedicate themselves to their careers. He found himself now just going through the paces until it was his time. Noah decides to take a last trip, an eightieth birthday treat, back to his birthplace of Nice, France.

    A call out of the blue lands him as temporary custodian of his great-nephew Michael. Left with no other choice Noah takes Michael on his trip. In his luggage he has an envelope of mysterious photographs Noah has found in his late mother’s belongings.

    The story unfolds with 80 year old Noah trying to connect with 11 year old Michael who is in turn withdrawn and reticent, more interested in his online games than the sites. But Noah slowly pulls Michael into helping solve the mystery of the photos.

    I really enjoyed the mystery surrounding Noah’s mother during WWII and how the clues slowly unfolded. I felt Noah and Michael’s interactions were well written and believable with both characters getting on my nerves at times.

    Overall Akin is an endearing story of family with a compelling mystery as a side story.

  10. This is the first novel I have read by Emma Donoghue, Would I buy it- Yes.

    Noah at age 79 is still grieving the loss of his wife 9 years ago & also his sister. He has planned a trip to NIce to learn more about his heritige when he is contacted by social services to look after his 11 year old great nephew whom he does not know.

    Uncovering the story of family history in this novel keeps you wanting to turn the pages & read more.

    A well written novel & I enjoyed reading it 🙂

  11. Noah, a retired New York professor, gets a call from a social worker to look after his eleven year old great-nephew as his father and grandmother have died and his mother is in prison. Noah is the only local kin that the social worker can locate.
    This begins the journey of Noah, a widowed seventy-nine year old who never had children, and Michael. Noah had booked a trip to Nice, his birthplace, for his eightieth birthday and has to now take Michael along with him. While there Noah wants to get to the bottom of some of his mother’s photo’s that were left behind after her death and this provides a great insite into the history of France.
    I really enjoyed the adventures these two got up to and found myself laughing aloud at some of the conversations they had.
    I liked Emma Donoghue’s style and look forward to more from her.
    Although I didn’t get this book from B&L I wish to share my review.

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