My second book for 2019 was The Heart’s Invisible Furies by John Boyne. I’ll start by saying I had heard rave reviews from so many people about this book and yet I didn’t really know what to expect. Because of so many people loving on the book in the last year though, I went ahead and put it on my Christmas wish list. The family came through big time with book gifts this year and The Heart’s Invisible Furies was one of those. When I received this book I knew it had to be one of the first books I read in 2019, so I put it into my January Reading List (see everything I plan to read in January HERE!
Title: The Hearts Invisible Furies
Author: John Boyne
Published: August 22nd 2017 by Hogarth Press
Genre: Fiction, Contemporary Fiction, Historical Fiction, Cultural – Irish, LGBT
Goodreads Rating: 4.47 out of 5 Stars
“A line came into my mind, something that Hannah Arendt once said about the poet Auden: that life had manifested the heart’s invisible furies on his face.”
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 glamorous 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 three score years and ten, 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.
I laughed. I cried. I raged with anger. I had so many emotions throughout the entirely of this book. I’m not an emotional person so that’s saying something. This book was a roller coaster of emotions and I have been none stop recommending this book to everyone I know. Note that the author John Boyne is also the writer of the notable book The Boy in the Striped Pajamas, which I didn’t know until after reading this book. I also didn’t realize that his most recent novel, released in 2018, A Ladder to the Sky has been sitting on my TBR shelf for roughly 6 months now. It will not be there much longer.
First up, the novel follows Cyril Avery from the time he’s 7 until practically his death as an older man. It chronicles his struggle with being a gay man in Ireland during the mid and late 20th century. Cyril, once again a gay man, is born into an extremely conservative Ireland, conceived to a unwed mother, and adopted by the Avery’s who are not bad parents but not exactly nurturing either; set the stage for the person Cyril would become. His personal experiences are set to the backdrop of two harrowing histories – the modern history of Ireland, with includes stories around the IRA, terrorist bombings, and kidnaps, plus troubled history of LGBT rights not just in Ireland but in Europe and the States. While the Irish history and LGBT histories are the most prominent, the reader is also exposed to other major world events such as: the impacts of the holocaust, the AIDS crisis, and 9/11 to name a few.
“It was a difficult time to be Irish, a difficult time to be twenty-one years of age and a difficult time to be a man who was attracted to other men. To be all three simultaneously required a level of subterfuge and guile that felt contrary to my nature.”
I think I loved this book the most though, because while LBGT rights are an essential part of the narrative and highly shape the life Cyril is to have, Boyne doesn’t try to make the reader believe that it is the only fight people face in life, especially during the era that Cyril finds himself in. The depiction of both homophobia and sexism, which were typical at the time, were so well written that I could feel rage brewing in the pit of my stomach. So much so that at one point, I needed to put the book down for a spell just to breath.
“I’ve always believed that if women could only collectively harness the power that they have then they’d rule the world.”
Past rage there is are so many other emotions the writing in this book incites as Boyne has set out to tackle some of the most controversial topics; and he does it beautifully. Most of all though, this is a sad story. While Boyne does add humor into the mix, the amount of grief this book has is tremendous and I could still feel that sadness days after finishing the book.
Overall, I give this book 5 stars for sure and while I would pretty much recommend this book to anyone I meet, my one disclaimer is that you have to go into with a very open mind. You will become attached to the characters, you may not love them, you may actually hate then, but you will become attached. You also need to be ready for a book that will make you uncomfortable both with the situation and the topics, but in my opinion I think a book that can make someone uncomfortable, is an exceptionally written book. Get it HERE!
“For the first time in my life, I started to think about my own mortality. Should I fall or have a heart attack, I could lie on the kitchen floor decomposing for weeks before anyone thought to come looking for me. I didn’t even have a cat to eat me.”
Have you read this book? Tell me your favorite parts!