I have been an avid reader since childhood. Books are my friend, and there’s nothing better than a book that truly grabs you and pulls you into its arms… and leaves you sorry to let it go, when you finish. The Heart’s Invisible Furies, by John Boyne is a book that checked off all of my favorite boxes. The story follows the life of Cyril Avery, in seven-year increments, from the time his teenage mother is cast out of her small Irish town, to age 70 when… * Well, I won’t give it away.
It’s enchanting for its quirky elements, but there’s real heart to this story, throughout, as well as sharp, intelligent writing–– touching on literature, art, politics, religion, morals, history, and the world’s inability to accept homosexuality (and the horrific ways that has played out). How have I not ready John Boyle before now? I kept asking myself this question, with each brilliant detail, each clever saying (“I’d rather bore a hole through the earth with my tongue”–– it’s feckin’ brilliant!), each gorgeous string of words and descriptive passage. His writing is a joy to read on so many levels!
Cyril is given up for adoption by his young mother, who is sassy, intelligent and resilient, but alone and poor. He lands in the affluent home of writer Maude and scoundrel Charles Avery, who never really nurture or care for their adopted son. Young Cyril is left to a world of books and observations on people, without guidance or love. He becomes enthralled with Julian, the son of his father’s lawyer, and their lives form the storyline for much of this book, as Cyril follows his misleading heart.
This is a long book, but is well worth the time and effort. I was swept up in this strange boy–> teen–> man’s life experiences as a homosexual in Ireland and abroad. The main plot focuses on the oppressive doctrines of the Irish Catholic church, which dictated social, political and family mores (for centuries) just after WWII, when the story stars, until today–– where things are definitely changing, but still influenced by this heavy burden of judgement.
Cyril’s story of sexual identity and the universal need to understand ourselves and feel loved, moves us through the humorous, lonely, horrifying, and always informing events that impact his life, as well as the ironic twists that inform the kismet of that trajectory. While it is never stated, Cyril definitely seems to have some Aspberger personality traits, which lead to constant confusion and misunderstandings as he stumbles through life. This aspect of his personality also shields him from the painful attacks that encounters from all sides. His adoptive parents constantly remind him that he is “not a true Avery,” and his early awareness of his sexuality makes it impossible to live a safe or open life in Ireland.
He can also be selfish and and self-absorbed in a way that makes it hard to always feel compassion for the situations he finds himself in. This aspect of the story is really well done by Boyne. The reader, who can see all sides of the story, while Cyril can’t, does not have a straight path. One can only feel compassion for a young child who is so alone in the world, but as Cyril stumbles along, we are torn between frustration and disdain with his insensitivities, while also feeling sensitive to the reasons.
This book was wonderful gem from start to finish. I couldn’t wait to pick it up, whenever possible, to see where Cyril Avery would take me. Anyone who loves real literature, with all it’s pathos and meaning, and without the gimmicks many popular books have these days (they have their place on my shelves as well), then The Heart’s Invisible Furies is a must read! Loved this book… and still coming to terms with it’s conclusion. It’s always the mark of a great read, when I miss the characters long after finishing the book. Catherine, Cyril, Charles, Maude, Julian, Bastian… will be with me for a long time to come.
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