Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Carry Me Down” as Want to Read:
Carry Me Down
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Carry Me Down

3.30  ·  Rating details ·  2,871 ratings  ·  294 reviews
John Egan is a misfit — "a twelve year old in the body of a grown man with the voice of a giant" — who diligently keeps a "log of lies." John's been able to detect lies for as long as he can remember, it's a source of power but also great consternation for a boy so young. With an obsession for the Guinness Book of Records, a keenly inquisitive mind, and a kind of faith, Jo ...more
Paperback, 352 pages
Published January 23rd 2007 by Canongate (first published January 1st 2006)
More Details... Edit Details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 3.30  · 
Rating details
 ·  2,871 ratings  ·  294 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Start your review of Carry Me Down
Canadian Reader
Pain is much harder on the mind than ignorance.

My head, as though filled with helium, has nothing in it to carry me down to rest, to dark, down to sleep. It is pitch-black and yet there is no darkness in my mind. There is blinding bright day when it should be night.

M.J. Hyland’s second novel languished on my shelf for years. I honestly don’t know why. Last week, it called to me for some reason, and over the last few days it’s riveted me with its dark, strangely compelling narrative about an
Paul Bryant
Mar 10, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: novels, bookers
Novels narrated by an oddball young boy are standard stuff - off the top of my head The Butcher Boy (great), The Curious incident of the Dog in the Drunk Tank (pretty great) and Extremely Loud and Horribly Close (nooooooo!). This particular oddball is an 11 year old who is nearly 5 foot 10 and big with it, and talks in a manly tone of voice. (His parents are tall too. It’s a tall tale.) But the stuff he thinks are just as daft as any other 11 year old, and the family shenanigans he has to put up ...more
Aug 10, 2010 rated it liked it
I told Karen part way through this book that she would like it. At the time there was something dark and creepy about the book and it felt kind of like Liz Jensen or Ali Smith novels can feel at times. The only thing is that the creepy feeling and foreshadowing never really come to much here. Or they do but not in a way that I found dark enough.

The book works best when it feels like it is building up to something. The story that is told from the perspective from an adult sized twelve year old.
Dec 05, 2008 rated it liked it
Shelves: read-in-2008
Carry Me Down by M.J. Hyland.

I was referred to M.J. Hyland, an author I hadn't previously heard of, by the algorithm at I found this book quite disturbing when I read it, so much so that I felt I needed some distance before I could articulate my thoughts about it in a review.

A couple of months later, I think I have a better understanding of why I found the book so disturbing. Some basic information about the book: it's a first-person account, in the voice of 12-year old John Egan,
Apr 30, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: modern-lit
An easy five stars for this one. I innocently picked it up to read over breakfast and my nose didn't leave it until about nine in the evening. I couldn't put it down, despite having too much to do. My perfect novel. It has a story line, and for bonus points starts at the beginning and ends at the end; economic of language, stylistically simple, characters that you can see in your mind’s eye and so, SO real, you’d swear it was autobiographical.

Which, it transpires is somewhat the case. The author
Feb 10, 2010 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: parents of teenagers, ex-troubled teens
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
K.D. Absolutely
Aug 08, 2009 rated it liked it
Recommended to K.D. by: 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die (2010)
A somewhat different reading experience. The prose is simple and it slowly builds up into something dark and scary, then it just fritters away. However, when you finally close the book, you are left satisfied although you know you did not reach the climax because there is none.

John Egan is an 11-y/o Irish boy who is an only child. His father has not worked for 3 years so he and his parents live with his grandmother, his father's mother. Her grandmother lives with his husband's money and she spe
Allie Riley
Feb 20, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The Egan family are dysfunctional to say the least of it. And it is John, the precocious eleven-year-old boy who narrates who appears to have the most problems. It seems highly likely from what transpires, in fact, that he is mentally ill in some way.

His parents, Helen and Michael, and he live with his grandmother, in Gorey (in County Wexford, Ireland). John is obsessed with the Guinness Book of Records and believes himself to be adept at detecting lies. He spends his spare time reading up on th
Aug 24, 2008 rated it did not like it
I am not going to be an a$$hole about this book. I am not going to say it was written poorly (because it wasn't). I'm not going to say that the story wasn't interesting (because it kind of was). I'm not going to say that Hyland does not have the chops to be a great writer (not that she isn't already). What I will say is that the book is one of the most inane, preposterous, and lame stories I have ever read. This is seriously weird because Hyland first novel, How the Light Gets In was really good ...more
Betty  Cooper
Mar 27, 2008 rated it did not like it
Recommends it for: boys, perhaps they'd connect more readily to the main character.
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Mar 09, 2008 rated it it was ok
I really only perservered with this book because we're discussing it at my book club. Despite all the reviews full of praise for this one, I found it dreary, stark and uninspiring. Hyland's definitely a talented writer, but I couldn't empathise with any of the main characters and found myself 'dragged down' by the unremitting bleakness of this book.
It might be a 'worthy' read, but it certainly wasn't for me.
Jun 15, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: booker
Ok, I conclude that it is indeed an Irish book template (as against a story line) - to make sense of the adult (dysfunctional) world through a kid's eye. The only variant is the kid's condition and the dysfunctionality.

This after reading atleast 5 similar books including Roddy Doyle's Paddy Clarke, Seamus Deane's Reading in the dark, Mark Haddon's Curious incident of the dog in the night time among others.

John is a man-child who is 11 years old, abnormally tall, adores Guinness Book of Records
Mar 09, 2012 rated it it was ok
I really wondered what I had read when I finished reading this book. Yes, this is a book about John and he really believes he has the talent to detect when other people are lying. He is dead-set on getting into the Guinness Book of World Records because he wants to be famous and this theme runs throughout the whole book. He lives with his da, his mother and other relatives as he tries to live his normal 12- year old life but as I am reading this book, I am wondering, what is normal? Does John fi ...more
Jayne Charles
May 13, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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. ...more
Jun 02, 2014 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
what the hell did I just read what was the point of all of it....!!!!!
I kept reading about this kid john and that weird family of his, and I was waiting for something to happen some twist, something to make it for me reading all of this narrating, some point to reach into, but instead it was a story about a weird kid, who thinks he is a living lie detector,who has a crazy matching parents , who lived with content under the roof of his grandma, then moved for some reason in the story, have their
Angelique Simonsen
Sep 02, 2016 rated it really liked it
seriously twisted boy .... but his mother hmmm she's not right either..... strange tale ...more
Apr 28, 2008 rated it it was ok
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Dec 29, 2012 rated it really liked it
John Egan is a man-sized, child-aged lie detector and has been sending letters to the folks at Guinness Books to share his special skill. He most often gets to test his ability on his moody, big talk-little action father, whose lies end with John Egan getting physically ill. This self-ascribed specialness is John’s single safety pocket in a world where he struggles to find common ground with his father, has a borderline creepy relationship with his mother and his classmates know him as the freak ...more
I loved this book much more than some others, I think. Here's why: I found the use of young, awkward, tall, concrete John Egan's eleventh year to interrogate the emotion behind lies we tell and lies we decide to believe pretty ingenious. Then there's the child himself: his voice is strong, he believes in his own righteousness and his own deceit never seems to occur to him as more than a research method. John's youthful absolutes don't allow him much room for letting anyone, no matter the reason, ...more
Sep 30, 2007 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: fans of "Extremely Loud..." and "The Curious Incident..."
"Carry Me Down" begins so strongly, with such a profoundly fascinating protagonist, the letdown at the conclusion was probably inevitable. Young John Egan is one of the creepiest child characters I've read, and he made reading seemingly innocuous scenes very uncomfortable for me. It's clear from the start that things are going to go very, very wrong for the Egan family, and that John will probably have a lot to do with that.

But when the "very wrong" does happen, it happens quickly, and is over
Eileen Horgan
Jul 16, 2015 rated it did not like it
Recommends it for: Absolutely no one
Shelves: boring, avoid
This book was short listed for the Man Booker prize... so I read it. Hugely disappointing as it just didn't go anywhere - meandering around from Wexford to to Ballymun flats just like the thoughts of young John rambled around. No conclusion to the non existent plot line, just a tremendously boring, depressing story. I was so sickened to repeatedly read accounts of him picking an open wound on his head and other dreary stories regarding his obvious mental illness, the completely irrelevant refere ...more
Oct 27, 2016 rated it liked it
Recommended to Emily by: travelerblue
Shelves: 2016, hooplaaudio
This book was beautifully written, and Gerard Doyle's narration made it even eerier. I knew from the very beginning that something was wrong. The mood writing was perfect. Some of the things that happen in the last half of the book make sense, but the aftermath of those incidents doesn't. Which probably makes it more realistic and thus more and less satisfying.

If you want a quaint, cheery novel, DON'T READ THIS! If you enjoy decidedly Irish fiction or theater that will slowly and quietly break y
Emma Monfries
Mar 06, 2018 rated it did not like it
This book just took forever to get through. I always read Man Booker nominees because I usually love them. Not this one. The narrator, who really can’t be trusted, is a boy who grows too fast whose parents treat him as though they don’t like him. His father is a bastard, his only friend dumps him, and things just continue to get worse. It’s bleak and ends up exactly where it started. Didn’t enjoy any of this novel. Not recommended.
Mar 30, 2017 rated it really liked it
A well written book that was a good read quite a strange tale about a weird boy and his weird family
Aug 27, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This was the most pleasant surprise! This book wasn’t on my radar, I’d not seen it before or heard of the author, it wasn’t on my TBR either so finding it in a short-term rental, advertised as shortlisted for the 2006 Man Booker Prize meant I had to read it. Every single page and every sentence is a delight. Told through the eyes of an 11 year old boy this book is simple, effective and powerful. The characterisation is exceptional - I particularly love the way John describes his grandmother and ...more
Sep 05, 2012 rated it it was ok
I didn’t find this one particularly enjoyable. The writing, as usual, was superb and lured me in. Her skill in bringing people and situations to life really shone through in the first few chapters in which the kittens were killed. I was reading that particular scene in a bookshop at the time, and I couldn’t help physically cringing. Although this sort of writing may turn off some, I found that although I am not a fan of horror of any kind, I do appreciate an author who can make me feel, and Hyla ...more
Nomadic SA Chick's Book Reviews

John is a young boy who isn't the most popular, but he does okay at school. Things are okay at home too, but he knows there is a lot of stress between his parents and his fathers mother. His life is turned upside down when his parents move him from their sleepy town, living with his grandmother, to the bustling city, far away from his friends, his most loved teacher, and his grandmother. John struggles to find himself in his new environment, always on the v
Oct 21, 2013 rated it liked it
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 vis ...more
Sep 29, 2009 rated it it was ok
hylands 2nd book. i read her most recent one first (This Is How), which pushed me to read this. reckon if i read this first, maybe wouldnt have been SO madkeen about This Is How. cos she hasnt developed much in terms of style or content. even tho this is about an 11 yr old irish kid with height issues convinced of his talent for detecting lies, and This Is How is about an older bloke who lives in a seaside dormitory, who, due to his own headfuckedness, SUDDENLY kills the dude across the hall, th ...more
Jun 15, 2008 rated it it was ok
The entire time I was reading this book, I couldn't decide if I was ambivalent about it or actively disliked it. The farther away from it I get, the more I decide that I actively disliked it. The narrator had a compelling voice and the book itself was brilliantly written, capturing the personality of the 11-year-old narrator and limiting the descriptions and commentary on his parents' failing marriage to things that would be grasped by said 11-year-old boy. I think what I disliked so much was ho ...more
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
topics  posts  views  last activity   
Reading 1001: Carry Me Down by M.J. Hyland 4 12 Aug 18, 2019 11:34AM  
2015 Reading Chal...: Carry me Down by M.J. Hyland 2 18 Sep 18, 2015 10:48PM  

Readers also enjoyed

  • In the Country of Men
  • Are You Dave Gorman?
  • Cleo McDougal Regrets Nothing
  • Headland (A Bill Murdoch Mystery, #1)
  • Acid Row
  • A History of London
  • The 13 Clocks and The Wonderful O
  • A Room Made of Leaves
  • The Good Turn (Cormac Reilly, #3)
  • The Genius
  • No Summit out of Sight: The True Story of the Youngest Person to Climb the Seven Summits
  • The Secret River
  • Small Pleasures
  • Infinite Splendours
  • Yes Man
  • Chocky
  • Free Fall
  • The Living Sea of Waking Dreams
See similar books…
M.J. Hyland was born in London to Irish parents in 1968 and spent her early childhood in Dublin. She studied English and law at the University of Melbourne, Australia and worked as a lawyer for several years. Her first novel, How the Light Gets In (2003) was short-listed for the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize and the Age Book of the Year and also took third place in the Barnes & Noble, Discover Great ...more

Related Articles

Kazuo Ishiguro insists he’s an optimist about technology.  “I'm not one of these people who thinks it's going to come and destroy us,” he...
390 likes · 37 comments
No trivia or quizzes yet. Add some now »