Saturday, February 22, 2014

This is How by MJ Hyland reviewed

When I reviewed Kevin Sampson's excellent move into crime drama, I applauded him for developing the layers and foibles of an important central character - the city of Liverpool. MJ Hyland does the exact opposite with this powerful and stark story of a young man. It isn't timed or placed - but I put the first part in Lytham and the second in a large institution in Manchester. You quickly realise once you've done so, that it really doesn't matter.

Without spoiling the plot it has a big turning point about a third of the way in - and essentially hinges on the first person account of the central character Patrick Oxtoby, an early twenties loner on the rebound from a break-up and distant from his parents.

Stripped to its raw dialogue, with sparse descriptions of places only as they enter two very narrow worlds as the central character sees them (high functioning autistic?) - it is a remarkable book.

Maria's writing style is direct, tight and relentlessly focuses on the state of mind of Patrick. Good writing takes you through that range of emotions - irritation, sympathy, disgust sometimes, but you do root for him.

I met Maria at a Manchester Literature Festival event I chaired a couple years ago and enjoy her how-to pieces which you'd expect are good, as a lecturer in the school of creative writing. I am thinking of registering on her weekend writing course and it's clear she's got great technique. No word is wasted.

So, this is another notch off the 2014 reading pile. I'll get a few other reviews up soon.

No comments: