Tuesday, 18 September 2007

Carry Me Down - M.J Hyland

"Instantly likeable" The Times.

John Egan has a gift. He can tell when people are lying. Hoping that this talent will bring him fame, he has written to the Guiness Vook of Records. But while he waits for a letter in return, his obsession with the truth begins to threaten his already fragile family.

John Egan is an unnaturally tall, awkward eleven year old living in Ireland with his parents and grandmother. As his father observes, he is an "odd mixture" of "little boy and a grown lad" and the story spans a year in John's life, from age eleven to age twelve. His ultimate ambitionis to appear in the Guiness Book of Records, with which he is obssessed. When he realises that his father is lying to him, he recognises in himself a talent that could fulfill this ambition- he is a human lie detector. He begins to keep a record of the lies he detects in his "Gol of Seil", yet becomes accomplished at lying himself.
His relationship with his mother seems unnaturally close, and his home and school life are a constant trial to him. When the family are forced to move, his world becomes increasingly difficult, and his mental state more and more precarious. His father becomes wayward and his mother depressed and together with his fixation on the truth, John helplessness spirals out of control.
I did not enjoy this as much as M.J Hyland's first novel How the Light Gets In. I found it a little slow, and felt there were undercurrents of something awful in John's past that is never explored. Although I sympathised with John, I did not feel that his character was as well constucted as that of Lou in the Hyland's debut. John's character seems somewhat autistic, yet this is never really confirmed or denied.
I was suprised that this was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize, whilst How the Light Gets In was ignored.
Although I enjoyed the book, I could not really say what kept me reading and I was glad to reach the end, and move on to something else.

"Enthralling and absorbing" Observer.

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