by Maille Halloran
Ireland, Australia and England can all attempt to claim celebrated novelist M.J. Hyland as their own, but only Australia can claim Hyland the lawyer.
Hyland studied English and Law at the University of Melbourne. She graduated to practice, first in a prestigious firm for one awful year and later as a commercial lawyer, and briefly an academic, teaching Criminal law. After seven years Hyland ended the internal battle between her literary ambitions and law career, left the profession and followed her calling to fiction.
The law is not absent in her work, however. Hyland’s characters encounter conflicts that often render her novels tragedies. ‘This is how’ (2009) explores the moral ambiguity of an unpremeditated crime. The novel also takes a blatant stand against the death penalty and much of its drama occurs within the confines of a prison cell.
For Hyland, studying the law was a valuable intellectual pursuit regardless of what her career blossomed into. Although the author claims she was an incompetent and bored lawyer she says she enjoyed the discipline of the profession.