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582 pages, Hardcover
First published February 9, 2017
Maybe there were no villains in my mother’s story at all. Just men and women, trying to do their best by each other. And failing.
"He tells a story, and that’s what I like. Does this fella tell a story? He doesn’t spend twenty pages describing the colour of the sky?"
The belief that I would spend the rest of my time on earth lying to people weighed heavily on me and at such times I gave serious consideration to taking my own life.
‘What’s a pervert?’ I asked.
‘It’s someone who’s a sex maniac,’ he explained.
‘I’m going to be a pervert when I grow up,’ he continued.
‘So am I,’ I said, eager to please. ‘Perhaps we could be perverts together.’
‘I’ve never even heard of President Eisaflower,’ said Bridget with a shrug.
‘Eisenhower,’ I said.
‘Eisaflower,’ she repeated.
‘That’s it,’ I said.
‘Is that supposed to be a joke?’ she asked.
‘It was,’ I admitted. ‘As I heard the words coming out of my mouth, they sounded less amusing than I thought they would.’
‘Some people just shouldn’t try to be funny.’
Long before we discovered that he had fathered two children by two different women, one in Drimoleague and one in Clonakilty, Father James Monroe stood on the altar of the Church of Our Lady, Star of the Sea, in the parish of Goleen, West Cork, and denounced my mother as a whore.I imagine I must have been under some sort of a curse for the last sixteen years or so. How else to explain that I just finished reading my first John Boyne novel. Must be the luck of the Irish, well the Irish-American, anyway. Boyne is a writer from the Auld Sod who has written ten adult novels, five YA novels, a short story collection, and god knows what else. He is best known for his 2006 work, The Boy in the Striped Pajamas, and is probably pretty tired of being asked about it, well, as irked as one can decently be about a book that sold millions, and was made into a major film. The income from his book sales and movie rights has allowed him to spend his days writing. He has won crocks full of awards, and been nominated for a bunch more. Part of my misfortune is not having a base against which to compare his latest novel, The Heart’s Invisible Furies, to his prior work. If you find that troubling, you might stop reading now and look for a pot of reviewing gold elsewhere. Are there themes that re-appear after having been considered in earlier work? Dunno. Maybe characters who appeared in one guise or another in earlier work, scenes that are replayed, rewritten here? Sorry. Is this his best book? No idea. But if this is not his best, then goddam.
I wanted Cyril to represent the country and how it has evolved over those 70 years. Although Cyril is gay, he is very frightened of that fact when he is a younger man and is terrified of the consequences of anyone finding out. He lies to himself, he lies to his friends and he lies to a woman he plans to marry. Homosexuality was still illegal in Ireland until the early 1990s, so it was a very difficult place for any gay man or woman to be. But eventually he starts to change, he begins to accept who he is and becomes proud of that. And so it is with Ireland itself, which has evolved for the better over those years. - from the BookBrowse interviewBoyne tracks that history step-wise, each chapter taking place seven years after the last, believing (erroneously as it turns out) that every seven years all our cells are replaced and so we are, in a sense, a new person.
We’re none of us normal. Not in this fucking country.Each seven-year leap offers another look at what it was to be gay in the painfully Catholic Ireland of the late 20th and early 21st century. As an adolescent at school, as a randy twenty-one-year-old, and a randy twenty-eight-year old, and so on. How can one find love when that love places you at risk of imprisonment? We track societal events as well, with mention of deviant priests, terrorist (IRA) attacks and kidnappings, the attraction of free love in the 60s, the inclusion of female members in the Dáil Éireann (Irish assembly), and 9/11, among others.
“Here’s the thing you have to understand about Ireland,” he said, leaning forward now and pointing a finger at me. “Nothing will ever change in that fucking place. Ireland is a backward hole of a country run by vicious, evil-minded, sadistic priests and a government so in thrall to the collar that it’s practically led around on a leash. The Taoiseach does what the Archbishop of Dublin says and for his obeisance he’s given a treat, like a good puppy. The best thing that could happen to Ireland would be for a tsunami to rise up in the Atlantic Ocean and drown the place with all the vengeance of a biblical flood and for every man, woman and child to disappear forever.Physical violence figures large in The Furies, with gay men being subjected to homophobic arrest, assault, and murder. Parents attack their own sons. Then there is the more usual sort of physical mayhem, from cuckolded husbands seeking vengeance to the IRA blowing things up and kidnapping people for ransom.
“What’s wrong with you people?” he asked, looking at me as if I was clinically insane. “What’s wrong with Ireland? Are you all just fucking nuts over there, is that it? Don’t you want each other to be happy?”While the novel casts a steely eye at Irish society, it offers considerable warmth to many of its characters. Cyril is an everyman who just wants to find his way, and cope with the restrictions placed on him by an ignorant world. In a sense, he is looking for his true home. Catherine Goggin is a powerful woman making her way by virtue of her will, abetted by a kind, understanding heart, and a deep well of wisdom. Some characters seem a bit thin. Julian’s charm comes through early on, but he seems one-dimensional after that. Cyril’s true love is just too good to be true. Some of the baddies are also painted in single colors. A character who really is named Miss Muffett may have a unicolor green stick up her bum, but her snooty condescension and self-importance are also quite a funny send-up of the worst of the more ancient sorts of attitudes extant on the Emerald Isle.
“No,” I said, finding my country a difficult one to explain. “No, I don’t think we do.”
“Do you enjoy being a writer, Mrs Avery?” asked Julian.Boyne brings notable Irish author Brendan Behan into the tale for a short romp.
“No, of course not, she said. “It’s a hideous profession. Entered into by narcissists who think their pathetic little imaginations will be of interest to people they’ve never met.”
“Was everything you said in your book true?” asked Julian. In Borstal Boy, I mean.In a more positive writerly vein, Boyne was strongly influenced by his admiration for John Irving, to whom he dedicated the book.
“Christ, I hope not,” said Behan, shaking his head as he lifted his next pint. “A book would be terribly boring if everything in it was true, don’t you think? Especially an autobiography. I can’t remember half of it anyway, so I presume I’ve slandered a few people along the way.”
I read The Cider House Rules when I was 17 years old and quickly devoured all of John Irving's novels. Since then, he has been my favourite novelist. I admire his storytelling abilities but also his empathy for what he has always described as "sexual misfits." John was writing about transgender people, for example, in The World According to Garp, long before that was a subject that was talked about. – from the bookbrowse interviewWhether you are straight, gay, bisexual, asexual, or fall into any other of the increasing number of possible gender slots, Cyril will speak to you. He is really just a guy looking for love and a home, and you will want him to succeed. John Boyne leads us on a trail of medieval hypocrisy and mean-spiritedness that ends in a national triumph of sanity. The Heart’s Invisible Furies is a moving, epic tale that is a triumph of literary achievement. It is one of the best books of 2017 and must not be missed.
“It happens,” he said with a shrug. “We all fall in the shit many times in our lives. The trick is pulling ourselves out again.”
Long before we discovered that he had fathered two children by two different women, one in Drimoleague and one in Clonakilty, Father James Monroe stood on the altar of the Church of Our Lady, Star of the Sea, in the parish of Goleen, West Cork, and denounced my mother as a whore.
In THE HEART'S INVISIBLE FURIES, the story begins in Ireland and Catholic priests rule.
As for this reader, John Boyne rules.....Get ready to laugh, be shocked, appalled and heartbroken (continuously) as you read Cyril Avery's life story. We have here excellence in story-telling, amazing characters with outlandish names AND personalities that fit them to a big fat T.
Adopted as a baby to peculiar parents (to say the least) Cyril is often reminded he is not a real Avery; but even treated as an outsider in his own home, he just seems to go with the flow.....until his hormones reach explosion level, that is, and he seeks help to decipher why he seems to like boys.
With strange parental guidance and no emotional support to speak of, a sexually frustrated young Cyril resorts to the confessional, and (OMG) that does not go too well either. The writing is so effective here, I could almost feel the.....um fallout.
Anyway, as the story evolves, even in America, Cyril and "his lot" endure cruelty and hardships of the worst kind. As for the reader....the shocks just keep on coming.
DO NOT miss this one! Highly Recommend!
Many thanks to NetGalley, John Boyne and Crown Publishing for the ARC in exchange for my honest review. Loved it!