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The erosion of one man's freedom
on 16 August 2009
MJ Hyland has written a disturbing and insightful novel which shows how one young man on the margins of society, with emotional and psychological issues, finds the boundaries of world narrowing further and further until it ends, as it must, in one room with one other person. The protagonist, Oxtoby, is flawed by his inability to develop meaningful relationships with other people - from the guest house where the novel begins, and through the institutions which follow, you always fear the worst for him. The first person perspective gives the book a claustrophobic feeling as he loses himself, his freedom and his relationships with others, but there is a great deal of dignity in his behaviour and the ending, at once shocking and inevitable, hints that he may yet find a kind of redemption.
A sensitive and thoughtful novel, sparely and fluently written, which suffers only a little from slowing down in the midsection.