Author: John Boyne
Publisher: Hogarth (August 22, 2017)
Genre: Historical Fiction, Fiction, Literary Fiction, LGBTQA+, Fictional Memoir
Trigger Warnings: Hate Crimes
If you have not heard of this book yet; then listen up. I quite possibly have found my favorite book of 2018. Yes… this novel was published in August 2017; but, for whatever reason (my wallet), it took me longer than it should have to finally read The Heart’s Invisible Furies. I am beyond thankful that I did.
The Heart’s Invisible Furies is a fictional memoir about Cyril Avery’s life. Told in the perspective of Cyril, the story begins in 1940s post-war Ireland. Cyril’s mother, young and pregnant with an illegitimate child, is banished from her home parish of Goleen. With nowhere to go, she heads to Dublin to fix her situation with an ingenious plan – to give Cyril, upon birth, to a hunchback Redemptorist nun. This is how Cyril ends up with The Avery’s. Maude Avery, the wife, is a talented author who would rather no one actually read her books and Charles Avery, the husband, who works as the Director of Investments and Client Portfolios for the bank. Although Cyril is not a real Avery, Maude and Charles provide Cyril with everything a human needs to live an average upper-class life. As the story continues, The Heart’s Invisible Furies depicts a different year of Cyril’s life. From the time of his conception to his death, each section is full of surprises that keep you mesmerized. I honestly could not guess where Boyne was going to have Cyril’s life head.
I chose this novel mainly because it was elected Book of the Year from the Book of the Month club. When it came time to exchange Christmas gifts with a friend, I last minute decided to buy her my favorite book from last year. I thought she would enjoy it as much as I did; and the rest of her gift was basically a book subscription box (reading socks, candle, favorite snacks, coffee mug, etc.) When I got to Barnes and Noble, however, they didn’t have Beasts of Extraordinary Circumstance in stock! I asked the store clerk to check every Barnes and Noble within a 40-mile drive; and nothing! They were all swept up! Not that I blame those who bought the novel; but I was at a loss. Finally, I saw the lone copy of The Heart’s Invisible Furies on the book shelve and thought, “If it is good enough to be Book of the Year; it is good enough to be a gift.” This was when I noticed the “A novel by New York Times Bestselling Author of The Boy in the Striped Pajamas.” I understood now how this could be the Book of the Year. I loved Boyne’s ability to capture his characters and express one of the most horrifying incidences in European history in the eyes of a child. I could not wait until my Book of the Month arrived.
A coming-of-age story, I describe The Heart’s Invisible Furies as the Irish Moonlight. Boyne does an incredible job of demonstrating the injustice of the past, as well as the prejudice that still remains. There was nothing extraordinary about Cyril, expect that his adopted mother was Maude Avery. Based on the theocracy, however, his preference in who he fancied was punishable by death. Now, this is why I love Boyne’s writing. Even though being gay in 1950s-1970s Ireland was illegal, Boyne was still able to convey the privilege Cyril had as being a white male. Although Cyril may not have seen his “maleness” as a privilege, it allowed him the ability hid is “gayness”; something the “fallen women” could not do with their unmarried, pregnant bellies. This is done not to compare who had it worse but simply as a way to demonstrate how everyone’s stories need to be told and listened too. The only thing that upset me was the lack of racial diversity in his novel.
I did especially enjoy how Boyne used Cyril’s friendship with Julian Woodbead to shape Cyril’s maturation into adulthood. Cyril’s life, and those in it, are always changing throughout the years, so it was nice to have Julian as an anchor. I also appreciated how Boyne reoccurring included paragraphs with Mrs. Goggin. In the first chapter, it is revealed that Catherine Goggin is Cyril’s birth mother. Thus, providing the reader with the dramatic irony that “if Cyril is telling us the story of his birth mother’s life, he must eventually meet her.” Every time Boyne brought up Mrs. Goggin I would do a secret prayer that this time Cyril would finally find out she was the birth mother. The mystery of when in the timeline this occurs made it harder to put the book down.
Overall, I rated The Heart’s Invisible Furies a 5 out of 5 on Goodreads. Even though I was disappointed with the lack of racial diversity, this novel has been the greatest book I have ever read. I cannot deny it it’s 5-star rating. Each story was beautifully crafted and well-thought out. The Epilogue had me crying happy tears and Boyne even included a “fictional” quote from Maude Avery’s best-selling title Like to the Lark, after the table of continents and before the prologue – the perfect touch. To quote the jacket, this was “Boyne’s most transcendent work to date.” I only wish my words could do this novel justice.
“You think I hate you because you’re gay?” he asked, looking at me as if he had never heard anything so stupid in his life. “I don’t give a fuck that you’re gay. I never would have cared. Not for a moment. if you had bothered to tell me. If you had treated me like an actual friend instead of someone you were just lusting over. I hate you because you’ve lied to me all these years, Cyril, and, worse still, you’ve lied to Alice.”
–The Heart’s Invisible Furies by John Boyne