John Boyne creates a multifaceted, intensely human main character in The Heart’s Invisible Furies. Cyril Avery is a man I’ll never forget, both for his flaws and his richness of heart. The moment I finished the book, I knew I was in for a whopper of a book hangover.
Cyril is a the son of an unwed mother, born in 1945 Ireland when the Catholic Church ruled the land. Thusly, he was given up for adoption and the coincidence-laden journey of finding his birth mother is one of the book’s themes.
His adoptive parents, Maude and Charles, are the oddest pair of uninvolved but caring folks you’ll ever read about. If that wasn’t a complicated enough childhood, Cyril realizes fairly early on that he’s gay. And gays in mid-century Ireland are relentlessly persecuted. If this isn’t torment enough, Cyril unrequited love for his friend Julian leads to tragedy after tragedy.
By now, you’re thinking this is a book of weeping and tissues, right? It’s not. Boyne takes the tragedies and stirs in giggles and outright laughter. He makes Cyril charming, self-effacing, and utterly relatable.
The social issues of sexual identity, political upheaval, terrorism, and HIV/AIDS are told through the moments, both small and momentous, in Cyril’s life. Although there were some events I wish Boyne had given more play, the nearly 600 page book moves in an epic fashion of seven year intervals.
In each part, Cyril’s life has shifted place or circumstance. But more importantly, he has changed and grown. I loved watching the growth of Cyril as a person and a man. Boyne is a master of dialogue, character development, and pacing.
Riddled with engaging eccentricities, The Heart’s Invisible Furies was everything I want in historical fiction. I learned, I laughed, I cried, and I loved every moment.