Carry Me Down by M. J. Hyland

Carry Me Down

Written by M. J. Hyland

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Selected by our Editorial Experts

Shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize for Fiction 2006.

New from Walker/Canongate: the compelling story of a twelve-year-old boy whose obsession with detecting lies threatens to tear his family apart.

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We chose this book at our last meeting and I picked it up when my bookgroup colleagues had gone intending to read a few pages before I went to sleep. I finally put it down at 3am. Such is the power of the writing in this second novel by M J Hyland. The story concerns an eleven-year-old boy, John Egan, (don’t be put off as I was initially, it’s not jumping on the Curious Incident bandwagon) who is too tall for his age and as fragile as a piece of glass. He relates a year of his life in which the family moves from the relative comfort of his granny’s house in rural Wexford, to a squalid high-rise in Dublin.

This is a boy with only one real friend, and too much in the company of adults. The relationship between John, his parents and his grandmother is uneasy. John feels disconnected but doesn’t understand why. His out of work father, a “could’ve been” academic procrastinates about entering university life, forcing the family to live with his mother, a mean-spirited woman who holds financial power over the family. His mother is on the edge, concerned about her strange son and wayward husband. When they fall out the move to Dublin tips her over. John suffers terribly at this time. He’s lost his only friend, his mother is depressed and on the brink of a breakdown and his father is in and out of work, gambling and consorting with prostitutes. The shocking denouement jolts the family into realising that their son needs help and we can only hope that they find redemption.

M J Hyland really gets into the head of this boy. Written in spare, flattened prose, it is a sensory tour de force.


Carry Me Down by M. J. Hyland

Ireland, 1971. John Egan is a misfit, 'a twelve year old in the body of a grown man with the voice of a giant who insists on the ridiculous truth'. With an obsession for the Guinness Book of Records and faith in his ability to detect when adults are lying, John remains hopeful despite the unfortunate cards life deals him. During one year in John's life, from his voice breaking, through the breaking-up of his home life, to the near collapse of his sanity, we witness the gradual unsticking of John's mind, and the trouble that creates for him and his family.


'I don't think I've ever read such a true book... A wonderful feat of the imagination.' - Hilary Mantel

'This is a gripping read. Hyland has a unique and compelling style.' - Irish Independent

About the Author

MJ Hyland was born in London to Irish parents in 1968. Until August 2005, she lived and worked in Australia, but she now lives in the UK, and has recently published her third novel. Her second novel, Carry Me Down, was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize and Commonwealth Writers' Prize, and won the Hawthornden Prize and the Encore prize. She has also been appointed to the Centre for New Writing at the University of Manchester as a Lecturer in Creative Writing. Her work has been acclaimed by the likes of Ali Smith, Hilary Mantel and JM Coetzee, who commented, This is fiction writing of the highest order.

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Book Info


336 pages


M. J. Hyland
More books by M. J. Hyland


Walker Books Ltd

Publication date

7th June 2012




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