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Carry Me Down by M.J. Hyland
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Carry Me Down (original 2006; edition 2006)

by M.J. Hyland

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8223811,042 (3.36)89
Member:miss_read
Title:Carry Me Down
Authors:M.J. Hyland
Info:Canongate Books Ltd (2006), Paperback, 256 pages
Collections:Your library
Rating:****
Tags:fiction, Booker, Ireland, 1970s

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Carry Me Down by M. J. Hyland (2006)

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Showing 1-5 of 38 (next | show all)
I was expecting to like this book more as it is set in Ireland and was read by Gerard Doyle who has a terrific Irish accent. It was shortlisted for the Booker in 2006 and won the Hawthornden Prize (a literature prize for imaginative writing by a writer under 41). Nevertheless, the young boy in a man's body, John Egan, who is the unreliable narrator of the book. was mostly annoying and sometimes repulsive to me. The following contains spoilers.

John is twelve years old but big in stature. He is an only child and, when the book starts, John, his mother and his father are living with the father's mother in Gorey. The grandmother invited the family into her house when the father lost his job some years ago. John is obsessed by the Guiness Book of Records, poring over each year's edition for hours. He wants to get into the book and he figures his best chance is with his gift for lie detection. He hones his skill for lie detecting by closely observing his parents who he catches in a number of "white lies". When a physical altercation ensues between the father and grandmother John and his parents have to move to Dublin. They get a flat in a large project which has gangs and drugs and prostitutes. John's mother slides into depression and his father spends the little money that he earns on bookies, liquor and the prostitutes who live upstairs. John catches his father lying about where he has been and tells his mother. She demands her husband leave which is very upsetting to John even though John is much closer to his mother than his father. John has something like a mental breakdown and tries to kill his mother. As a result the family get back together and move back to Gorey. Probably they will all live happily ever after ( )
  gypsysmom | Feb 20, 2017 |
M. J. Hyland’s novel of a young Irish boy growing up in domestic turmoil is poignant, moving, and well-written. If, like me, you suffered similar domestic turmoil in your own childhood, there’s a lot here you’re going to relate to. And I did, not least because the first-person narrator is my namesake.

It takes a special kind of writer to construct a novel so that, in sinking into the sea of prose, you find yourself immersed in the narrator’s world. Hyland’s prose does just that. From the very opening lines, you are in John’s world and seeing things shaped by his own understanding of them or, more often, his lack of understanding.

And there is much John does not understand. This I found so evocative of what childhood is all about. You start life from a place of such supreme ignorance that even when you can look back on those days 30, 40, or more years later, you still really don’t understand what happened. This is especially the case when there are domestic issues that your family are trying to hide from you.

It’s easy for us as adults to recognise the signs in his parents’ relationship and John’s own response to them that indicate that all is not well between them or in the mind of the child. But to John, there is little to go on. That little, though, is enough. John becomes convinced that he has the ability to detect lies in ways that other people simply cannot. Hyland constructs the novel so very well that even though your adult side says that it’s surely just an emotional response to his doubts about the stability of his family life, there’s still a little child inside each of us that hopes that what John believes is really true. Thankfully, we never get a definitive answer.

John’s family are forced through their circumstances to leave their rural Ireland and relocate to Dublin and that’s where things start to go from bad to worse. The anxiety and stress of their new life affects each of the them in turn but your view is constantly coloured by the fact that you only get John’s point of view.

So many authors successfully create the childhood viewpoint but then forget that even six months in a child’s life is a decade to an adult. Hyland does not. Instead, she does a great job of creating a flow of development of John’s thinking and emotional response throughout the novel. I found this fascinating. At the same time, you see his relationships with both parents also change, particularly in the aftermath of certain crises.

I would have enjoyed this novel a lot in print, but this is a great example of how audiobooks can just add an extra dimension to literature. I listened to this on Audible and absolutely loved the thick Irish accent of Gerard Doyle. ( )
  arukiyomi | Dec 17, 2016 |
I was instantly engaged and finished the book quite quickly. John, a mentally handicapped young boy lives in a rural area in Ireland with his grandmother, mother, and father. His father, disappointed in life and the circumstances in which he finds himself and his family, assaults his mother, who tells Michael’s family to leave. They do and take up residence in a dreary, low income housing project in Dublin, where John is beset by bullies and worry over his mother who has fallen into a deep depression. Eventually, John is sent to a juvenile detention centre but within days is released into the care of his parents who have been invited back to live with John’s grandmother. The story ends flatly with significant unresolved issues which will return to haunt them all. ( )
  ShelleyAlberta | Jun 4, 2016 |
John is a 12 year-old Irish boy living in a struggling family (struggling emotionally and financially). This book is told from his perspective. He is perhaps overly attached to his mother, distant from his father and detached from others. He is picked on at school for both his unusually large size and an incident that occurs later in th book.

My rating is a 2.5. This is not my kind of book. While it was a quick and fairly easy read, I did not enjoy the story, the characters or the over the top Freudian symbolism. The use of the adolescent male perspective was different and made you think about what was real vs. what was the boy's interpretation. Overall, I found it disturbing and unpleasant and it is not book i'd recommend to my friends. ( )
  JenPrim | Jan 15, 2016 |
Written from the perspective of an 11year old boy, this novel explores what life was like for an adolescent in rural Ireland. The narrator is very unreliable and the emotions in the book are stretched. I personally didn't care much for this but am sure others will think it's fantastic. ( )
  sashinka | Jan 14, 2016 |
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Stewart Andrew Muir

(if only there were more like you)
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It is January, a dark Sunday in winter, and I sit with may mother and father at the kitchen table.
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John Egan is a misfit, a 12 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.… (more)

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Canongate Books

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