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Carry Me Down Paperback – 6 Apr 2006

3.7 out of 5 stars 44 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Canongate Books; 1st Paperback Edition edition (6 April 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1921145099
  • ISBN-13: 978-1921145094
  • ASIN: 1841957348
  • Product Dimensions: 13.5 x 2.6 x 21.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (44 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,566,660 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review

'This is fiction writing of the highest order.' -- JM Coetzee

Book Description

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 text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Format: Paperback
"This is writing of the highest order." This is how JM Coetzee describes Carry Me Down. So, it is with high expectations that I started reading M.J. Hyland's latest offering - and at the end of the book I emerged astonished, puzzled, bewildered, and deeply disturbed.

Few pages into the book, and you wonder if this is another coming-of-age offering similar to David Mitchell's latest offering; the somewhat simple, yet brilliantly devious prose reminded me of Ali Smith's brilliant novel, the Accidental. However, continue reading, and you realise that this is no ordinary tale. It is meant to haunt the reader long after he or she finishes reading it.

Narrated by the almost 12-year old boy, John Egan, Carry Me Down offers little but the complicated lad's view of the story. He, his beautiful mother and his jobless father all live with John's paternal grandmother at her place in Gorey, Ireland. Much of the second half of the book takes place in Dublin, where the family moves after a nasty spat between John's father and his grandmother.

However, the theme of the story lies in what the boy claims is his extraordinary ability to "detect lies." The lazy reader who likes to have an informed opinion by just reading the jacket of the book might assume that the boy indeed does have a gift. But, Hyland offers little in the way, despite the "apparent" (and I stress the word apparent) experimental successes John demonstrates - particularly, when it comes to revealing his father's extramarital affair, although I'm not convinced, if indeed that is the case.
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Format: Paperback
This novel held me in thrall for all its pages. These passed too quickly, except for the excruciating pain of the move to the project slum in Dublin, with its unforgettable stench and filth- particularly the scenes around the elevator and the gang bullying.These were so vivid and real that each second dragged by painfully.I found John totally believable and not nearly as weird or eccentric as others have. I find John's reactions to his world a credible and deeply moving reaction to the adults that stifle his creativity and his peers that reject him when he behaves differently to the norm- or simply because he matures early and is a target for bullying and derision. His hopes to make his mark in the world and achieve something beyond the moribund pretensions of his father fuels an obsessive need to excel and be noticed.This is so common a need in teenagers as to be a cliche.John's methods may be unusual but his motivation is a deeply innate part of the individuation process essential but so painful during adolescence.That he chooses lie detection as his "gift" perfectly reflects the role he takes in the family- as the go between from his mother's sensual and imaginative life and his father's closed intellectualism and his granny's cloying possessiveness.John understands his purpose in life is to reveal the truth- like all art at its highest levels. Taking on this role is a potential minefield, and explosions abound.

John's mother's lively encouragement of his imagination and creativity, reflecting her own love of fantasy and theatre, add to this explosive mix, and his sensual attachment to her is poignantly expressed , as are his other emerging sexual feelings.The betrayal of Brendan is keenly observed by Hyland, and the claustraphobic intensity of the shed scene was unforgettable.
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At first, John Egan seems a normal enough twelve year-old, but as the novel develops, we are enabled to explore a rare kind of psycholgical abnormality, although it is not until near the end that this becomes really apparent. The narrative device of using the present simple tense is used by the author to take us inside the boy's mind as he observes the world around him, and although there is plenty of action, this is what the the novel is really concerned with.

John becomes obsessed with the truth or falsehood of what others are telling him, and comes to believe that he has a unique gift for detecting lies. This obsession has tragic consequences for his parents' marriage, and leads to an enthralling climax.

I enjoyed the atmosphere of Dublin and the Irish countyside created by Hyland and much of the characterization is convincing, but some of the realism is not for the over-sensitive.
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Format: Paperback
This novel is long-listed for the 2006 Booker and is the best of the bunch that I've read so far. The prose is clean and sharp and the suspense and atmosphere that builds up is awful (meaning great).
Comparisons t other child narrators like that in The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time or David Mitchell's latest rather miss the point; this is a book about the consequences of a kind of extreme puritanism and perfectionism - the desire to make the world in the way you want it and the inabiity to fully realise that other people have lives that are outside your ken.
However, like the best child narrators, John Egan (the 12 year old central character) does evoke strong felings of sympathy (despite him being a little creepy)and sees the world with an off-kilter vision that has not yet been dulled by adulthood.
A great read.; highly recommended.
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