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Carry Me Down by M.J. Hyland

Carry Me Down (original 2006; edition 2006)

by M.J. Hyland

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7623312,190 (3.38)85
Title:Carry Me Down
Authors:M.J. Hyland
Info:Canongate Books Ltd (2006), Paperback, 256 pages
Collections:Your library
Tags:fiction, Booker, Ireland, 1970s

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

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The book was written in 2006 by Hyland, a female author born in London of Irish parents. She was born in 1968 so that makes her 38 at the time she wrote this book. Maybe she was influenced by Edna O'Brien's book. The story is of an 11 year old soon to be 12 boy who lives with his father, mother and grandmother in Gorey, Ireland. He is different than other children. John Egan is big for his age. He is an only child and he is fascinated with the Guinness Book of World Records and would like to visit Niagara. I thought the book was interesting. I found it engaging and easy to read. The flawed characters were interesting. The short bits of reading helped make the reading go fast. I do think the author may have overdid the freudian stuff and that in 1970's there might have been less emphasis on Freudian and more on interpersonal and family relationships so perhaps her psychological stuff was a bit off. Asperger's really wasn't the thing then either but the character of John sure was more autistic spectrum. I suppose he really was just neurotic because his parents were a mess. I think the author failed to develop some points of the story. I thought page 100, "My head, as though filled with helium has nothing in it to carry me down to rest, to dark, down to sleep. " (referring to the title) never got fully developed. *****potential spoiler**** Yet, in the scene where the mother can't sleep, John is seen trying to assist his mother to the dark, down to sleep.****spoiler over***** I give the story 3.5 stars. I think that I will remember this story. ( )
  Kristelh | Nov 16, 2013 |
I really like Hyland's writing, though I'm not so keen on this book. I feel like "Carry Me Down" is strongly connected to "This Is How," which I loved with complete abandon.

Her spare sentences are frankly compelling, even when the characters and plot seem to be lost along a path all their own. ( )
  usefuljack | May 17, 2013 |
I really like Hyland's writing, though I'm not so keen on this book. I feel like "Carry Me Down" is strongly connected to "This Is How," which I loved with complete abandon.

Her spare sentences are frankly compelling, even when the characters and plot seem to be lost along a path all their own. ( )
  usefuljack | May 17, 2013 |
Creating an effective child narrator is a difficult task. Whatever their age, they need to be credible. If the child's speech sounds too old for their age, or they handle situations that are overly complex or physically impossible, that's not credible. Carry me Down is narrated by 10-year-old John Egan, and while his speech and inner thoughts sounded about right, his actions didn't always ring true for me and this significantly affected my impressions of this book.

Early in the novel, John becomes physically ill after catching one of his parents in a lie. Over time he uncovers more lies, first with similar results but later he is able to detect lies without getting sick. John becomes convinced he has a special gift for lie detection, and obsesses about getting into the Guinness Book of World Records. John is a bit of a loner and a social misfit at school, and using his "gift" doesn't help much. Meanwhile, there is a lot of dysfunctional behavior between his mother, father, and grandmother. John's father is out of work, and they have been forced to live in grandmother's house. John's mother is an emotional train wreck with unpredictable mood swings. The reader has to interpret events through John's lens, but he doesn't understand half of what's going on. Some gaps are easier to fill in than others. Eventually John's lie detection escalates to a level that leads to family crisis.

M. J. Hyland describes John as very tall for his age, and implies his physical maturation is taking place earlier than normal. But how "abnormal" is he? Some characters were put off by his size; others dismissed it as a minor detail. I also found it difficult to decide whether John was a misfit because he had superior intelligence, or because he was emotionally disturbed. John seems to ignore his height, which would be unusual for a child wanting to fit in at school. And yet late in the novel, he uses his size to gain an advantage in a frightening way. This was the most significant credibility gap in his character, but there were many other minor situations that didn't seem like the behavior of a 10-year-old.

The story of John's unraveling family held my interest, especially because so much was left to conjecture. But I've read a lot of "dysfunctional family novels," and they need to bring something new and fresh for me to really enjoy them. In this case, too much revolved around John's character, and once he had lost credibility my enthusiasm for this novel waned. ( )
3 vote lauralkeet | Aug 6, 2012 |
The best thing about this book was its narrator John, an overly tall 11-year-old who eats sandwiches pretty much constantly, and who believes himself to be an infallible lie-detector. The author cleverly retreats into the background and allows the voice of her protagonist, with his many eccentricities and insecurities, take centre stage. It's a great piece of writing. One minute I was admiring the measured way John handles bullying, and the next I was thinking: crikey, this is one disturbed kid.

Impressive too was John's mother: despite this being a first-person narrative what comes across is someone on the edge, struggling against circumstances and the fact she has a child who doesn't fit within the normal distribution.

A somewhat robust and unconventional anti-bullying policy is depicted at John's school - depending on one's sensibilities it provokes cringing or cheering. I'm afraid I was cheering.

There is work for the reader to do: how much is John's behaviour caused by the upheavals in his family, the tendency for people to think he is older than he is; how much is down to his own personality? Is he weird or are all kids like that? How reliable a narrator is he? In the end it is an opportunity for the reader to test their own lie detection skills. ( )
  jayne_charles | May 15, 2012 |
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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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