Room, Emma Donoghue’s most famous novel, is mostly set in a cell of eleven square feet. At least half of the novel features only two characters, there is very little that you could really call plot and its narrator is a five-year-old boy who has never seen the outside world.
Those are immense compositional constraints, but within them Donoghue produced an excellent book. More than just a sonata for the left hand, Room has dashes of banality, humour and pathos thrown in amid the horror. Despite its keyhole view of life, the novel feels miraculously well rounded.
Akin, Donoghue’s new novel, offers the reader a little more breathing space. Noah Selvaggio, a retired New York chemistry professor, is planning a trip to Nice to investigate his family history. But a week before his departure, he finds himself in the position of being the only surviving able-bodied