Wednesday 24 March 2010

Orange Wednesday: This is how (MJ Hyland)

As UK readers will know, Orange Wednesday is when those with mobile phones serviced by Orange can go to the cinema on 2 for 1 tickets. I thought I'd borrow their phrase to organise my blogging about the Orange longlist; I wrote last week that I intend to read and blog about some of the longlist. I also decided that I want to go back over the previous longlists and use them to inspire and broaden my reading over the next few months - it turns out that I have been reading more of these since I originally looked at the longlist of longlists and I'd like to read more. So over the next few weeks and months you can expect an Orange Wednesday post devoted to a title from an Orange longlist.

My first title is from this year's longlist, and is This is how by MJ Young, which Canongate kindly sent to me after the longlist was published last week.

It's slightly difficult to write about this book without spoiling the plot; the blurb on the back of the book suggested that something was going to happen which would be key to the plot (it was slightly more explicit than I am being here!), and I spent most of the first 130+ pages waiting for the event to happen and to see what it was! This was a little disappointing as rather than being swept along with the story, I was just waiting... So if you are going to read the book, then please don't look at the back beforehand.

The book is about a man called Patrick. He has just moved to a seaside town in search of a new start, having broken up with his fiancee. He finds a new home in a boarding house, gets a new, well-paid job as a car mechanic, and meets a waitress in a nearby cafe to whom he takes a fancy. Hyland really gets inside Patrick's head, revealing him to be a loner and socially awkward. It's a tense and claustrophobic read; somehow despite Patrick's desire to start afresh, nothing goes quite right, and quite without the spoiler, the reader is waiting for something to happen.

I don't want to write anymore about the plot, but I want to say how very gripped I was by the book. I literally was unable to put it down until I had finished, and stayed up until midnight to do so. For several days afterwards, Patrick and his story occupied my brain, and it is extremely rare for a book to do that to me.

MJ Hyland is certainly an author that I want to encounter again, and I see that her earlier novel Carry me down, which was shortlisted for the Booker prize previously made it to an Orange longlist.


  1. I finished this book in a single sitting too. I was a bit disappointed by the bleakness of it all, but I can't fault the writing. I wonder if it will make the short list?

  2. I love the new feature! I'm very excited about your future posts and the learning about the books that you'll read.

    I have This is How waiting for me to collect at the library; I think I'm already aware of the thing that you allude to but I'll be sure to avoid the back cover just in case.

  3. A book that can not be put down in the best sort of recommendation! Looking forward to hearing more about other Orange Prize books in the running.

  4. I have heard an interview with the author about this one and she was quite explicit about the big event in the novel which is why I have stayed away from it - it just sounds too bleak for me at the moment. Although I did love Carry Me Down - she is a fantastic writer.

  5. I love your idea of Orange Wednesday - fantastic! Would love to join you actually, but I am going to be reading the lost booker shortlist in April and I think that's enough for me to get through. I like to linger a little bit over books - no more than two a week!

    Always good to have a new title to add to the 'to read' list though.

  6. Jackie - it was bleak wasn't it?

    Claire - it's difficult to say much about it, and I found it was a bit spoiled by knowing that SOMETHIGN would happen and that it didn't for so long.

    Darlene - absolutely!

    Karen - I would be very interested to hear Hyland talk. Keen to seek out more of her.

    Vanishing lake - I think this will be an ongoing project as I include previous lists.

  7. I also love the new feature! The Orange Prize is one of my favorites also, so I can't wait to read more of your impressions.

  8. I enjoyed this book too though I liked Carry Me Down a little more. Hyland is very good at revealing the pschological depths of her characters. I look forward to reading more of her in future.
    I read the Orange Prize longlists too, as well as doing Orange January and Orange July. Orange Wednesdays are a good idea. I'll come back and read more.

  9. Thanks Laura - it's going to be fun I think.

    Sandra - I've now read Carry me down which I enjoyed, and have her other novel in my bag today! Do come back and join in the future Orange Wednesdays - I'm looking forward to digging out some hidden gems (I hope!)


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