Tuesday 4 April 2017

The Heart's Invisible Furies by John Boyne (2017)

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.


                        A hugely entertaining read. 

As a novel set over much of twentieth century Ireland I was expecting a lot of doom and gloom with the usual mix of depressing things associated with the era: emigration, alcoholism, poverty, unwed mothers, an overly religious society dominated by the strictures of the church and under the watchful eye and the judgemental, heavy hand of the priests who show no mercy to women. Normally I would pass on anything that would remotely resemble anything with these typical tropes but I was taken by surprise with John Boyne's 'The Heart's Invisible Furies.'

I was surprised at the quick pace, the humour and the over all light tone of the novel despite some serious issues being described. The humour really lifted the whole feel of the book for me and made the experience of the novel that more enjoyable.

The story unfolds over the course of the twentieth century. It begins with Cyril's mother becoming pregnant at a young age in the post WWII era and it then follows Cyril's life from childhood into adulthood and old age. He struggles with his sexuality from a young age and has to survive in a time and place where it was illegal to engage in homosexual activities. Despite the seriousness of the issues worked into the novel I never felt the sense of hopelessness that I was expecting and I was glad of this as I wanted things to work out for Cyril. There was so much humour worked into the book that I felt a compulsion to read on and find out what happens next in Cyril's life. There were plenty of ups and downs, heartache and tragedy, fun and laughter. 

The Heart's Invisible Furies is now firmly placed on my top ten reads of 2017. Whether or not you are considering reading a book by an Irish writer this year this one should be on your reading list.

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