The Heart’s Invisible Furies – by John Boyne – independent book review – Historical Fiction (Ireland, U.S.)

Pure Delight! Here is the deeply compassionate and humor-filled life story of an Irish man, beginning at the age of six until he reaches old age. Awarded five stars on Goodreads.

Cyril Avery is the sensitive, intelligent and gay protagonist, whose life spans dramatic shifts in the history of gay rights.

Born just after World War II, Cyril comes of age in Ireland during the 1950s and 1960s, when the country was dominated by conservative clergy– full of hypocrisy and quick to demonize unwed mothers, divorce, and even a whisper of homosexuality.

As he matures, snapshots from Cyril life show us the furtive underground of gay sex, the considerably more open city of Amsterdam, and New York City as the AIDS epidemic unfolds. And when an older Cyril ultimately returns to Ireland, he finds a society more accepting of alternate lifestyles.

Surrounding Cyril are some of the most distinctive and fascinating (though somewhat odd) characters you could ever want to meet: a chain-smoking novelist who considers professional success equivalent to disaster; her philandering husband determined to avoid taxes despite repeatedly getting caught; a pregnant teenager humiliated by and kicked out of her small town but determined to make her own life; and a beautiful charmer using his looks in the pursuit of serial sexual conquest.

But what is most remarkable to me about all Boyne’s characters is how believably they grow and change over time. So often authors create characters that age, but never change. But the people in this novel do change over time. They grow wiser and kinder, more honest, and more able to accept responsibility for their own actions and to forgive others. And Cyril gets funnier!

The book is longish, but you won’t be tempted to skim. Because every page of this one is a gift. I SO wish I could meet Cyril Avery!

John Boyne

This is my first book by this author. But I will definitely be looking to read more. FYI, he wrote The Boy in the Striped Pajamas.

And Good News! He’s quite prolific. More about John Boyne.

You may be interested in my reviews of other books by John Boyne:

The Boy in the Striped Pajamas

A Ladder to the Sky

A History of Loneliness

Next of Kin

The Absolutist

The House of Special Purpose