From the author of the Man Booker-shortlisted Carry Me Down comes a novel of remarkable power and resonance.
When his fiancée breaks off their engagement, Patrick Oxtoby leaves home and moves into a boarding house in a remote seaside town. But in spite of his hopes and determination to build a better life, nothing goes to plan and Patrick is soon driven to take a desperate and chilling course of action.
This Is How is a mesmerising and meticulously drawn portrait of a man whose unease in the world leads to his tragic undoing. With breathtaking wisdom and an astute insight into the human mind, award-winning M.J. Hyland’s new book is a masterpiece that inspires horror and sympathy in equal measure.
‘This Is How confirms M.J. Hyland as a true original. She has a ferocious imagination, and an eerie way of squeezing the distance between author, character and reader, so that the atmosphere of the book soaks and penetrates the reader’s mind. When you’ve been reading Hyland, other writers seem to lack integrity; they seem wedded to weak confabulations, whereas she aims straight for the truth and the heart.’
‘A tour de force. Hyland illuminates this man’s damaged soul with such a steely, brilliant clarity that your heart breaks for him.’
‘It reminds us that there are some truths only fiction can carry…Very skilfully, Hyland combines a timeless story about emotional repression and unease in the world with a restrained portrait of late 1960s mores…If the first half is involving, the second…is extraordinary…Bleak yet moving, mercilessly dispassionate yet shot through with kindness and wit, it is a profound achievement.’
‘[Hyland’s] haunted and haunting male main characters ring with a truth drawn sharp and new from the depths of a most original and insightful imagination.’
Hyland is interested not in diagnosis but in mystery: in whatever it is that keeps humanity a riddle to itself, and in the atmosphere of foreboding that such mystification can create…Hyland creates and maintains [Patrick’s] voice unwaveringly; it is wholly convincing and quite unnerving. She has already earned with her first two novels a reputation as a writer of great originality and power, and this book can only add to that.’
‘Hyland is an astonishing writer…This Is How is pared to the bone, relentless, heartbreaking: an immersion in another human being’s life that feels like a gift…This Is How secures Hyland a place among today’s very best writers of fiction in English.’
‘If you think of Hemingway without the extraneous detail, you get a sense of This is How, but hardly of the ever-mounting tension based on a growing conviction that something terrible is just about to occur, unease built up from a series of innocent-seeming exchanges…Nearly four hundred pages of such selective work make this point on the pulses: that ordinary life can be perilous; that perfectly ordinary people are always unpredictable and might, at any point, prove treacherous; that quiet conversation can turn catastrophic without preamble. It is, among other things, a view of language in relation to personality Hyland provides here, marvellously.’