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The Heart's Invisible Furies
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Group Reads - Fiction > Group Fiction Read - January/February 2019 - The Heart's Invisible Furies

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message 1: by Jo (new) - rated it 5 stars

Jo Weston (joster) | 1697 comments Mod
This is the thread for discussion for the fiction book of the month. Let

Things to consider:

1. Were you hooked immediately by the book or did it take a while to get into?
2. Did you like the plot?
3. Did the characters drive the plot or were they just passengers?
4. Did it come across as a credible story?
5. Did you connect to any of the characters in the story
6. Did you like the ending?
7. Did you have any quote or lines that stood out for you?
8. Would you read any other titles by this author?


Lisa (mrswhams) | 730 comments Mod
Starting this today, looking forward to it!


message 3: by Jo (new) - rated it 5 stars

Jo Weston (joster) | 1697 comments Mod
I read this last year and it was possibly my book of the year. A full five star read, and a full read - very complete book which made it all the more satisfying. I wholeheartedly recommend it. This is the (short) review I wrote at the time:



Where to start - what a story. Part way through I worried whether it was a bit strung out, a bit too long, but when you come full circle to the end, you realise that it all mattered, every era of Cyril's life needed to be told in full.

Touching, sad (in the extreme), but some good humour and much to be happy about as well.

Wonderful.


Anna (justanna) | 145 comments just finished it. Very much enjoyed it, right from the start. Despite it being quite a big book the plot is quite full with new events unfolding often enough to keep interest.

I did find it realistic. Though touching into the farcical at times (with witty just about everyone was and how many eccentrics there were). Though the sense portrayed of the oppressive hold the church had with the constant judgement, shame and guilt heaped on the nation was very realistic in my mind.

I live in Dublin so know the vast majority of places mentioned (or at the very least know where the places were, that aren't there anymore). I'd be interested to know if not having geographic knowledge made any difference. I'm also aware of many of the real life characters mentioned that might not known outside of Ireland (such as some TDs) which might have added to certain comments about some of them.


message 5: by Jazzy (last edited Jan 09, 2019 03:48PM) (new)

Jazzy Lemon (jazzylemon) | 274 comments When I read the title of this book, I thought it said The Heart's Invisible Furries, which made me think of something completely different.

However I've been to Dublin so would be quite interested to read it.


Lisa (mrswhams) | 730 comments Mod
Oh Anna, that is interesting. Do you feel the criticism of Ireland (such as that from Jack Smoot when talking to Cyril in his bar) is fair? Or at least fair for the times?

I am on page 400 or so and really enjoying it. The only wrong note for me, which has bugged me, has been the interaction between 7 year old Cyril and Julian. The dialogue and interaction was just ridiculous for that age. Boyne gets it better later when Cyril meets his 9 year old half-brother in the cafe. But I suppose it is a minor point on the whole.


Courtney (c_kovy) | 1 comments I read this book fairly quickly, over 2-3 days this week. It was my first read by this author and I found the writing style engaging and genuine. I would say overall I enjoyed the book, but I too found that there were rather too many unusual characters or events set up to perfectly align. I suppose the plot (which is supposed to be the story of the main character's life) lost credibility to me in that it had such a small cast of characters just happening to be so intricately interwoven amidst fantastic events and despite geographic separation.
I admired that sexuality and specifically homosexuality was so openly discussed. To me, being able to read such a book was as meaningful as the character's journey.


Anna (justanna) | 145 comments Hi Lisa, sorry wasn’t ignoring you, I’ve just only had use of the app - and I don’t seem to be able to post on these discussion boards in it! There’s no comment box of button to reply.

To answer your question: no I don’t think the criticism of Ireland is unfair (though I ‘fess up, don’t have to book to hand so can’t check the passage you’re specifically referring to), it is portrayed at the extreme end of things, but what occurs isn’t that unbelievable. (There were girls who got pregnant at 16 that weren’t kicked out of home; at times her mother might claim the baby was hers, other times it was know. Also there could be gay men might be accepted, and live together - might be some in the area who would convinced themselves the two men were just batchlor friends.)

(Just to note, I’ve only lived in Ireland 20 years, but it wasn’t an unknow place to me as a child (80s would be the time I recall, 70s having me too young to notice anything.))

On your comment Courtney, I totally agree there were too many unusual characters and a few too many events too fantastic. But the interwoven thing, again, extreme but not unbelievable - there’s *definitely* fewer than six degrees of separation here.


message 9: by Joy (last edited Jan 19, 2019 05:58AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Joy Stephenson (joyfrankie) | 463 comments I do intend to read this but waiting for a library copy.


Becky | 161 comments Joy wrote: "I do intend to read this but waiting for a library copy."

Same here, looking forward to reading it just waiting for the library copy to be available.


message 11: by Lisa (last edited Jan 23, 2019 07:02AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Lisa (mrswhams) | 730 comments Mod
Thanks for your reply, Anna! It's fascinating what a polarised country it is in so many ways. And so different to mainland UK, despite its closeness.

I finished the book last week and by and large, I thought it was great – gave it 4.5 stars. Thought I might answer the talking-point questions for a change!

1. Were you hooked immediately by the book or did it take a while to get into?

I think it was VERY readable and easy to get into – and lost in. You're thrown into Catherine's world straight away, it sets the tone quickly and never lets up its great story.

2. Did you like the plot?

I did. Cyril's life is full of incredible, yet also fairly ordinary, events and richly drawn characters.

3. Did the characters drive the plot or were they just passengers?

They definitely drove the plot, although Cyril would like to believe he was a passenger at times, I think! The characters are very human and sometimes make horrific mistakes.

4. Did it come across as a credible story?

There were issues, for me. I've already mentioned that I was unhappy about the scene in Cyril's bedroom when he and Julian are supposedly 7 years old but talk like they're 15. It really ruined what was a key scene. There generally has to be quite a lot of suspension of disbelief in terms of the many coincidences in the book – a few characters in Cyril's history weave through his story several times without realising their connection to him until the end.

Also, frankly, Cyril treated poor Alice so shockingly, I think he was lucky (and perhaps not that credible) she ever spoke to him again, let alone treated him so warmly by the end.

5. Did you connect to any of the characters in the story?

Mainly Alice, she was funny and acerbic, and I genuinely felt so sorry for her when she was left in the lurch. And Catherine, who was fantastic.

6. Did you like the ending?

No loose ends! It was a happy, and lovely ending.

7. Did you have any quote or lines that stood out for you?

It didn't really have that level of profundity, but there were some great Irish wit and repartee.

8. Would you read any other titles by this author?

Yes I would. I read The Boy in the Striped Pajamas a long time ago but would try more.


message 12: by Jazzy (new)

Jazzy Lemon (jazzylemon) | 274 comments I just found this book at the Amnesty Book Shop for 50p! Hope to read it this year and re-visit this thread :)


message 13: by Lisa (new) - rated it 4 stars

Lisa (mrswhams) | 730 comments Mod
Bargain!


message 14: by Jazzy (last edited Jan 23, 2019 10:02AM) (new)

Jazzy Lemon (jazzylemon) | 274 comments Oh yes, Lisa, they're having an annual book sale, and you can just imagine the speed in which I whisked it off the shelf before someone else could find it!


message 15: by Paul (new) - added it

Paul (halfmanhalfbook) | 5462 comments Mod
Jazzy wrote: "I just found this book at the Amnesty Book Shop for 50p! Hope to read it this year and re-visit this thread :)"

Result, Jazzy


message 16: by Anna (new) - rated it 4 stars

Anna (justanna) | 145 comments Lisa wrote: "Thanks for your reply, Anna! It's fascinating what a polarised country it is in so many ways. And so different to mainland UK, despite its closeness.

Not sure they are all that different to be honest Lisa. Doubt 1950s Britain was a jolly holiday for single mums and the reason gay men! (I’m going to have to go back as reread that passage you were referring to - see exactly what I agreed to!) There would have been a difference between ‘the country’ and Dublin too (though that also is hardly unusual - a difference bewtwwn rural and urban life).

The main differences between Britain and Ireland were down to the strong grip the Catholic Church had. Ireland today is different, vastly different. It’s brilliant that it is too. (I can’t deny the ‘home to vote’ for the last two big referendums (same sex marriage and repealing the eight amendment) had me a teeny bit emotional. But probably best not go into politics and referendums just now ...)

The change is tied in with the fall of the Catholic Church - this article might interest you (written by someone a bit more aware, knowledgeable and smarter than than me at least!): https://www.irishtimes.com/culture/bo...

I’m off to find the book and see I agreed to!!


message 17: by Lisa (new) - rated it 4 stars

Lisa (mrswhams) | 730 comments Mod
Anna wrote: "Lisa wrote: "Not sure they are all that different to be honest Lisa. Doubt 1950s Britain was a jolly holiday for single mums and the reason gay men!"

Oh yes, sorry, I don't mean it to sound like Britain was (or is) a bastion of equality and tolerance! Or that Ireland hasn't modernised and changed. Obviously that's very much the case (I, too, cheered the 'home to vote', which was utterly wonderful in every way). I just meant the dominance of religion (and its subsequent hold on morality) in the country, which I don't think Britain ever experienced in the same way. That thing Boyne writes about Ireland not wanting its people to be happy.

Thanks for the link – I'll definitely read it.


message 18: by Paul (new) - rated it 4 stars

Paul Butler | 1 comments My first book with the group and I have to say I thought it was really good

I agree with Lisa’s views so won’t repeat

Did think some of the connections were too neat and this detracted a bit from the story

Amazed that Cyril never wanted to find out who his mother was, even though his adoptive father and too a lesser extent mother made it very clear of his position
in the family

Now reading Educated which does not flow quite so well


message 19: by Joy (new) - rated it 5 stars

Joy Stephenson (joyfrankie) | 463 comments I'm just over a quarter of the way through this and finding it very readable - and funny!


Becky | 161 comments I finally got it from the library this week. I haven't started it yet but will get to it soon. I'm looking forward to it after seeing all the positive comments.


message 21: by Joy (new) - rated it 5 stars

Joy Stephenson (joyfrankie) | 463 comments I've just this minute finished it and I loved it! Funny, poignant, heart-warming... I'll write a proper response a bit later.


message 22: by Joy (new) - rated it 5 stars

Joy Stephenson (joyfrankie) | 463 comments What did you think was the purpose of the historical inaccuracies in this novel? (One that struck me was the use of decimal currency in Ireland before the date of its real introduction but there were a number of others.)
I'm convinced they are not errors - I find it hard to believe that the author would make them and anyway an editor would spot them - so why are they there? The novel contains some real-life characters among the totally fictional, so are the inaccuracies a way of saying 'this is fiction; these aren't really real'? I'm not happy with that explanation but struggling to think of another.
Is it a metaphor for Ireland (or people generally) being unable to accept the truth about the world? And 9/11 is included - but the TV is turned off; again does this signify an inability to see the world as it is? (Not sure, just thinking aloud.)


message 23: by Joy (new) - rated it 5 stars

Joy Stephenson (joyfrankie) | 463 comments Another thing that sttod out for me was the structure of the story - revisiting Cyril every seven years throughout his life. It brought to mind "Seven Up' the TV documentary that started in the 1960s which revisits the same group of people every seven years (should be 'Sixty-three Up' this year I think.)
Anyway that of course brought to mind the Jesuit saying of 'Give me the child till he is seven and I will give you the man.' However in this book Cyril's eventual adult life does not reflect his early life (he becomes an affectionate and caring person despite the emotionally barren upbringing). I feel this is done deliberately by the author as a way of saying that people can change themselves and don't have to be restricted by their physical or emotional circumstances.

I thought this was such an optimistic book. Over the course of Cyril's life, not only does he develop but so does the culture and attitudes of society around him. Looking back over my own life (I'm 60) I take delight in the way we have, generally, become more tolerant and less judgmental as a society.


Becky | 161 comments I really enjoyed the book and agree with most of the comments here. In fact, Lisa's comments made me think that perhaps I could consider the questions this time but then, I noticed my answers would all be the same as hers.

I wonder if the historical inaccuracies are down to Cyril's memory. If he's looking back on his life, is he just misremembering some bits?

I liked the structure. The jumps in time always being 7 years made it very easy to keep track of where we were without having to rummage back through the book to check the date on the previous part. I've just read another review that said that John Boyne had done this because he had believed that every seven years all our cells are replaced and so we are, in a sense, a new person.

It was quite an emotional read that at various times made me sad, angry and frustrated but the humour throughout tempered the sadness of the story and made it just very compelling.


message 25: by Joy (new) - rated it 5 stars

Joy Stephenson (joyfrankie) | 463 comments Becky wrote: "I really enjoyed the book and agree with most of the comments here. In fact, Lisa's comments made me think that perhaps I could consider the questions this time but then, I noticed my answers would..."

Thanks for the comment about John Boyne's reason for the seven year structure. I hadn't read that and it's interesting - it supports the theme of personal transformation.
And I think you're probably right that the historical errors are Cyril mis-remembering. Our views of ourselves and past lives are fallible.


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