Nearly everyone on Goodreads has given a 5 star rating to John Boyne’s new novel, The Heart’s Invisible Furies, and for good reason. The Irish bildungsroman is warm, funny, heartbreaking and real. It follows a man named Cyril from his adoption through old age. Cyril discovers that he is gay in an unaccepting Ireland, and lives through the AIDS crisis and 9/11 in Amsterdam and New York. He struggles to come to terms with who he is as an adopted, gay, Irishman. All readers can relate to Cyril’s confusion, love, and insecurities. His story is both deeply personal and widely familiar.
From the beloved New York Times bestselling author of The Boy In the Striped Pajamas, a sweeping, heartfelt saga about the course of one man’s life, beginning and ending in post-war Ireland
Cyril Avery is not a real Avery — or at least, that’s what his adoptive parents tell him. And he never will be. But if he isn’t a real Avery, then who is he?
Born out of wedlock to a teenage girl cast out from her rural Irish community and adopted by a well-to-do if eccentric Dublin couple via the intervention of a hunchbacked Redemptorist nun, Cyril is adrift in the world, anchored only tenuously by his heartfelt friendship with the infinitely more glamourous and dangerous Julian Woodbead. At the mercy of fortune and coincidence, he will spend a lifetime coming to know himself and where he came from and over his many years will struggle to discover an identity, a home, a country, and much more.
In this, Boyne’s most transcendent work to date, we are shown the story of Ireland from the 1940s to today through the eyes of one ordinary man. The Heart’s Invisible Furies is a novel to make you laugh and cry while reminding us all of the redemptive power of the human spirit.
Everything in this story is interconnected–past and present, parent and child, reader and writer. This was one of the things that made me truly love the novel. Without spoiling anything, Cyril’s accidental “search” for his real mother is incredibly ironic and unique. Each character in the novel is nuanced and complex, with a story of their own to tell.
The Hearts Invisible Furies is written in a fast-paced, quirky, and joking manner. Personal problems blend with the historical issues of Irish Catholicism, the AIDS crisis, and 9/11. Though the books spans multiple generations, it never feels long or overwhelming. One downside to the many characters and stories included in the novel, however, is a lack of detail and focus.
Boyne criticizes the misogynistic and homophobic past of the Irish Catholic Church in The Hearts Invisible Furies. In the novel’s opening, Cyril’s mother is publicly denounced as a “whore” by a priest who banishes her from her hometown for becoming pregnant out of wedlock. Women and gay men face violence, isolation, and persecution from the Irish church and government. It is a depressing history that I knew little about before reading this book.
Though it describes incredibly sad and horrific events, this book is hopeful and bright. Its characters triumph over loss and persecution, and in turn care for those who are less fortunate. Cyril’s happy relationship with his grandchildren, nieces, and nephews displays a positive look towards the future.
The Hearts Invisible Furies is both hilarious, depressing, and heartwarming. It is an important read for a multitude of reasons.
Rating: ★★★★1/2 out of 5
The Heart’s Invisible Furies will be published on August 22nd by Hogarth Press. I received an ARC through Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.