Emma Donoghue

Picador, £8.99

Author of the bestseller Room, which she adapted into an Oscar-nominated screenplay, Donoghue tells the story of Noah Selvaggio, a widowed New York academic who is planning to mark his 80th birthday by revisiting Nice, the city of his birth, for the first time since he was four. At the last moment, he learns he has to take along his 11-year-old great-nephew, Michael. They’ve never met before, but Michael’s father has died of an overdose, his mother is in prison and he’ll be taken into care if a relative won’t take him in. Noah, who intended to explore his roots and solve a family mystery about his mother’s activities during World War II, finds his plans disrupted by a sullen, uncouth street kid. Generational clashes like this are old hat, but Akin has charm alongside its predictability, and the tough learning that has to be done along the way makes it worth the effort.

The Warlow Experiment

Alix Nathan

Serpent’s Tail, £8.99

Having discovered a 1797 periodical describing how a Mr Powyss of Moreham, Lancashire, had offered £50 a year for life to any man who would agree to be shut underground and see no one for seven years, Alix Nathan was unable to find out any more, and has relied on her imagination to fill in the gaps. In her novel, the willing subject, Warlow, is 43, a labourer with little schooling; his jailer, Powyss, an obscure horticulturalist who believes the experiment will be his passport to the Royal Society. Nathan tracks how both men change over the course of Warlow’s confinement – which, of course, doesn’t go quite as planned. With the agitation caused by the French Revolution rumbling in the background, it’s a portrait of social inequality suffused with the very Gothic essence Powyss despises, and if Nathan’s tight control starts to slip towards the end it’s still a darkly compelling read.

Three Bedrooms in Manhattan

Georges Simenon

Penguin Classics, £8.99

Penguin’s extensive Simenon reissue programme reaches this atypical novel, a fictionalised account of how the author met his second wife, set an ocean away from his usual French milieu. In 1940s New York, divorced actor Francois, whose wife left him for a younger man, meets the lonely, troubled Kay by chance at an all-night diner. As they get to know each other, the pair drift through a city of rainswept streets, bars and seedy hotels, drinking and trying to work out what has drawn the two of them together. Drawing elements from noir and existentialism, its terse, staccato prose summons up a bleak, jaded mood, a strained kind of romanticism in which two sad and damaged people desperately seek out a connection. It’s no masterpiece, but a distinctive and essential book for Simenon fans, showing what the prolific author could do away from the detective novels he’s more usually associated with.