M. J. 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.
New from Walker/Canongate: the compelling story of a twelve-year-old boy whose obsession with detecting lies threatens to tear his family apart. This review is provided by bookgroup.info: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.
All actions have consequences. This is how life goes. Patrick is a loner, an intelligent but disturbed young man struggling to find his place in the world. He ventures out on his own, and, as he begins to find happiness, he commits an act of violence that sends his life horribly and irreversibly out of control. But should a person's life be judged by a single bad act? This is How is a compelling and macabre journey into the dark side of human existence and a powerful meditation on the nature of guilt and redemption.
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.
John Egan is a misfit, a twelve-year-old in the body of a grown man with the voice of a giant. He has been able to detect lies for as long as he can remember and diligently keeps track of them, large and small, in a log of lies. With an obsession for the Guinness Book of World Records, a keenly inquisitive mind, and a kind of faith, John is like a tuning fork, sensitive to the vibrations within himself and his family's shifting dynamics. From his changing voice, body, and psyche to his parents' disheartening marital difficulties, this is a trying year in a fragile young boy's life, and when his sanity reaches near collapse, a frightening family catastrophe threatens to ruin what little they have. Carry Me Down is a restrained, emotionally taut, and sometimes outrageously funny portrait whose drama drives toward, but narrowly averts, an unthinkable disaster.
A powerful debut from an Australian novelist that features one of the most likeable but contrary figures you are likely to meet in contemporary fiction. Lou Connor, a gifted, unhappy sixteen-year-old, is desperate to escape her life of poverty in Sydney. When she is offered an exchange student placement at a school in America it seems as if her dreams will be fulfilled. Her host family has a beautiful house in Illinois and couldn't be more welcoming . . . until she starts to be distubed by the suffocating and repressed atmosphere of their suburban mansion and things begin to go terribly wrong. How the Light Gets In is an acutely observed story of adolescence, reminiscent of American Beauty in its dissection of engrained prejudices and middle-class hypocrisy. In Lou Connor, Hyland has created a larger-than-life protagonist who mesmerises the reader with her vivacity and vulnerability, from hopeful beginning to unexpected, haunting end.