Three and a Half Deaths

Emma Donoghue

02 December 2011
41 pages


An accident, a suicide, an act of criminal negligence . . . and a near-death experience. The short stories in Emma Donoghue's Three and a Half Deaths – set in France, the USA and Canada – bring together calamities from two centuries.

'What the Driver Saw' is inspired by a freak accident on Nice's Promenade des Anglais, the 1920s equivalent of Princess Diana's last ride through Paris.

'The Trap' takes us to New York, 1878, when a woman at the centre of a public scandal decides that she's finally had enough.

Any thinking about death must of course include its lingering effects on the living; 'Sissy' explores the guilt and culpability of a woman whose young sister died in the 1840s in London, Ontario.

Finally, 'Fall' is about an incident at Niagara Falls in 1901 when a middle-aged schoolteacher staked her whole future on an act so daring it could be called suicidal. A near-death, a sort of rebirth: the kind of moment that makes visible the discreet courage it takes to live a whole life.