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Carry Me Down by M J Hyland

Carry Me Down

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Shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize for Fiction 2006.

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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, (donât be put off as I was initially, itâs 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 grannyâs 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 doesnât understand why. His out of work father, a “couldâve 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. Heâs 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.

If you like M J Hyland you might also like to read books by David Mitchell, Hisham Matar and Andrew O'hagan.


Carry Me Down by M J Hyland

John is a misfit, 'a twelve-year old in the body of a grown man with the voice of a giant'. With an obsession for the "Guinness Book of Records" and faith in his ability to detect when adults are lying, he remains hopeful despite the unfortunate cards life deals him. Set in the seventies Ireland, this book is a sympathetic take on one sad boyhood.


“Carry Me Down is uncompromising, unputdownable and done with expert lightness. It's a work of discreet brilliance. M.J.Hyland is a truly gifted writer.” - Ali Smith

About the Author

M J Hyland

M.J. Hyland was born in London in 1968 to Irish parents, and spent her early childhood in Dublin. She now lives and works in Melbourne. Her short stories have been published in Australia, the USA and Ireland and she also edited the literary magazine, Nocturnal Submissions, for a number of years.

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Book Info

Publication date

6th April 2006


M J Hyland

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Canongate Books Ltd




Literary Fiction
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