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Past Book Club Discussions > The Heart's Invisible Furies - April Read!

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message 1: by Bonnie G. (new)

Bonnie G. (narshkite) | 1280 comments Mod
I really liked this book, but my overall feeling was that it was a victim of how INCREDIBLY good the first half was. That is to say, I ended up disappointed, not because it wasn't good, but because Boyne set unmeetable expectations with the begining. For me, the first half of this is a 5-star (hell, its a 6-star.) The book includes IMO one of the best opening lines ever - like Pride and Prejudice/A Tale of Two Cities level great first line.

"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 was hooked as soon as I read the first sentence, and Boyne came through for me. I absolutely loved Kitty's story. And Cyril's growing up years, though certainly crazily f'd up, were gripping and gorgeously written. Cyril's coming of age, and coming to grips with his sexuality was heartbreaking. Those tawdry transactions, and here I refer both to wordless joyless men's room blow jobs and the dates with the horrid "girlfriend" were hard to read, but also beautiful and frequently bleakly funny.

BUT... then it falls into that trap so many books do -- what I refer to as the Forest Gump problem. There is a massive coincidence on nearly every page, and our erstwhile hero is connected to every major event or cultural phenomenon of the era represented. I was so happy Cyril found love, and other sweet connections, but I really wished Boyne had made his partner less perfect, and also that their love didn't have to be Cyril's connection to AIDS and queer-bashing. I lived in NYC in the late 80's and early 90's, and it was horrible, and every single Gay man (and really every single person) I knew, including me, lost people they loved to AIDS. Also, everyone at very least knew people who were victims of Anti-LGBTQ+ violence. It was an ugly time. But I wish Boyne had excised the resolution of the Julian relationship. It was wildly inconsistent with what we knew of Julian. And the immediate follow up to that storyline's predestined conclusion with an immediate terrible bolt our of the blue event seemed cheap and melodramatic,

In addition, the book IMO veered off course when Cyril's personality suddenly changed. He returned to Ireland after leaving NYC and I did not recognize him. He had been affable and lovely throughout, but suddenly he was a charming and witty quipster, especially when talking with Alice. I liked this version of Cyril, but it was jolting how different he was from the Cyril I had gotten to know.

The book is dedicated to John Irving, and his influence really shows here, for good and for ill. Like much of Irving's work the book is from the outset balanced on a knife's edge between tragic and hilarious. I love that when it works. Eventually though the balancing act was lost, and there were a lot of punchlines that just took me out of the story. Add to that an ending that is so sticky sweet I felt like the breath was being sucked out of me as I drowned in corn syrup. Still it was a really enjoyable read, with moments of unquestioned greatness. If it had perhaps been slightly less ambitious, it would have been amazing.


message 2: by Pamela (new)

Pamela | 302 comments I started yesterday and it is quite bewitching already! I am worried about the AIDS part though- I just finished The Great Believers has brought back so many bad memories of the 80s and AIDS, I'm not sure if I'm ready to live through it again.


message 3: by Bonnie G. (last edited Apr 01, 2019 10:24PM) (new)

Bonnie G. (narshkite) | 1280 comments Mod
I envy you this reread. That first half of the book was stunning. Don't worry about the AIDS storyline. I won't lie, its not fun, but its not a lengthy part and it is not that harrowing. Without spoilers I will say the way Boyne handled it was not to drench you in the pain of that time I don't even know that anyone who did not live through it (or something similar) can ever understand the pain and the fear of a monster stealing the people you love and most of America not caring.


message 4: by Pamela (new)

Pamela | 302 comments Bonnie wrote: "I envy you this reread. That first half of the book was stunning. Don't worry about the AIDS storyline. I won't lie, its not fun, but its not a lengthy part and it is not that harrowing. Without sp..."

Good- too many harrowing reads lately!


message 5: by Pamela (new)

Pamela | 302 comments As mentioned, I've only just begun. Cyril is at the college.
But omg, these adoptive parents! Horrible horrible people! Why go to the trouble to adopt a kid if you don't want to love and care for them? I'm just impressed this book is not the history of a serial murderer after this beginning!


message 6: by Bonnie G. (new)

Bonnie G. (narshkite) | 1280 comments Mod
They are appalling. But Cyril takes most everything on his stride. Until he doesn't.


message 7: by Sara (new)

Sara | 98 comments I enjoyed this, although I think I wasn't quite as high as others on the first half, so the second half didn't feel like a steep drop-off. I thought that there was a nice balance in the extent to which Cyril was engaged in the broader issues to which he was witness, so that it was neither "oh just happened to be here! what a coincidence" nor "I feel a burning passion for this situation and am central to it" all the time.

I didn't always like Cyril (it took me about as long as it took Alice to forgive him for what he did to her) but I always had a response to him, which is what you want in a book. I enjoyed watching him figure himself out, and how that led him to become more expressive -- his inner voice was allowed to be more external as he became comfortable and happy with who he was.

I didn't think the Julian relationship was inconsistent with what came before. I also think there's a certain level of coincidence that you have to allow in a narrative. It may be more realistic that he would never have seen his birth mother or Julian again after leaving Ireland, but in fiction, those are the scenes and beats you need to play.

I did not love the glow-up Charles got near the end, and this was definitely one of those books you could tell was written by a man, if you didn't already know, from how he wrote the women -- not egregiously off, but there were some points where I had to say LOL nope.


message 8: by Carolyn (new)

Carolyn | 6 comments For the strangest reason in my mind the narrator was a woman throughout the opening sequence with Catherine, Jack and Sean. In the following section, when Cyril introduces himself, it took me several chapters to remind myself, 'he's a boy... ' LOL.
Overall I enjoyed the book and the dramatization of the Roman Catholic Church's dominance over Ireland versus the rest of Britain and Europe. I wasn't quite convinced Dublin is SO SMALL that the wise, protective women that provides Cyril council (seemingly) randomly but repeatedly would logically be Catherine. Yet as a plot device it made the journey of discovering she is his bio mother more substantial.
I also enjoyed the evolution of Cyril's character. Yes, the quippy widower that returns to Dublin is barely recognizable as the sex-driven social outsider of his youth. I think the intent is to represent how far he had grown into fully accepting his 'whole self.' The man who comes home to Dublin is one who had finally experienced a fully mutual romantic partnership with Bastiaan - possibly the first and only love in his life where he was allowed (and allowed himself) to be his true self. What a striking contrast from what Charles and Maude provided.


message 9: by Kris (new)

Kris | 252 comments Mod
Soooo, I’m on page 177 of 582. I’m concerned that nothing is going to happen.
I also thought the narrator was a woman for the first part. I’m thinking that may have been intentional.

Tell me something happens and I’ll keep reading.


message 10: by Bonnie G. (new)

Bonnie G. (narshkite) | 1280 comments Mod
Many things happen, but it is not a plot driven book at all. More a historical sketch and character study


message 11: by Kris (new)

Kris | 252 comments Mod
Hmmmm. Ok. Soldiering on!


message 12: by Bonnie G. (new)

Bonnie G. (narshkite) | 1280 comments Mod
Kris wrote: "Hmmmm. Ok. Soldiering on!"

You are brave! :) Please report back.


message 13: by Pamela (new)

Pamela | 302 comments I was making good progress and then my mp3 player has died, taking the book with it! Grrr.... I have a long drive tomorrow and could have gotten through much of the book!


message 14: by Bonnie G. (new)

Bonnie G. (narshkite) | 1280 comments Mod
Pamela wrote: "I was making good progress and then my mp3 player has died, taking the book with it! Grrr.... I have a long drive tomorrow and could have gotten through much of the book!"

Bummer! I just use my phone for everything. If that breaks I am dead.


message 15: by Pamela (new)

Pamela | 302 comments Bonnie wrote: Bummer! I just use my phone for everything. If that breaks I am dead. ."

I use my phone for audible but I use my mp3 for Overdrive so there's no due date.


message 16: by Bonnie G. (new)

Bonnie G. (narshkite) | 1280 comments Mod
Pamela wrote: "Bonnie wrote: Bummer! I just use my phone for everything. If that breaks I am dead. ."

I use my phone for audible but I use my mp3 for Overdrive so there's no due date."


Interesting...I did not realize you could do that. If I can remember where my Ipod is I may use it.


message 17: by Pamela (new)

Pamela | 302 comments Bonnie wrote: Interesting...I did not realize you could do that. If I can remember where my Ipod is I may use it. ."

Shhh....not super ethical. But the good news is my new sandisk player has arrived and I'm #1 in the hold queue for a new copy! I'll be back in business soon. Thank god it's been raining so no long walks I need my books for!


message 18: by Bonnie G. (new)

Bonnie G. (narshkite) | 1280 comments Mod
Just between you and me...


message 19: by Kris (new)

Kris | 252 comments Mod
So, I thought I’d pop by and give my review.
As I mentioned, I almost stopped reading this. I’m glad that I continued.
Though set in a completely different country and time period and with different challenges, this did remind me quite a bit of A Gentleman from Moscow. It was a slow burn. And I appreciated that the character grew up. I didn’t find his personality to have changed that dramatically, as was noted above, but I think it was tempered by nearly losing his life and understanding that he had to try to make the most of it.

I did find Charles’ actions to be incongruous with what we knew of him. Him taking care of Alice seemed waaaaaay out of character for him. And his eventual brain tumor... yeah, I kind of wish he hadn’t been redeemed. He was a terrible person.


message 20: by Siobhan (new)

Siobhan | 14 comments I'm a little late to the party but I wanted to share my thoughts. I found the first half of the book really hard to read due to the descriptive realistic style. I did enjoy his encounters with his mother over the years (especially knowing that when the characters didn't). I did like the story following Cyril over his whole life and seeing what happened to him and how his relationships developed. I tend to prefer female authors but it was interesting reading a book set mostly in Ireland which I visited a few years ago.


message 21: by Pamela (new)

Pamela | 302 comments So I finally got my library book back!

Question.... Maude's book feature a little dishonest boy. Julian calls Cyril dishonest. Could there be some truth in these observations and perhaps Cyril is not the the most honest narrator?


message 22: by Pamela (new)

Pamela | 302 comments Finally done. I would say in general I loved it- it was a really good audio book as the guy with the irish accent made it seem like an evening at the pub.
Cyril's passivity annoyed the crap out of me. I suppose its from the way he was raised. And the coincidences were a bit too small world- although I did also kinda like them. I felt the NY section was something else, like the author spent some time volunteering like Cyril did and felt he owed it to those he met then to tell their stories. It interrupted the flow. And the epilogue was so cheesy I think I've lost an eye I was rolling them so hard. Yikes, all these problems I'm listing! But I found it in general a fun and interesting read.
Although as someone trying to get a museum job, I really question how a guy without a college career could just become a curator at the Anne Frank House. Fiction!

Thanks y'all for recommending it- I would probably never have picked it up on my own.


message 23: by Bonnie G. (new)

Bonnie G. (narshkite) | 1280 comments Mod
Interesting Pamela. I hadn't really thought about Cyril's veracity. Everyone else is so odd, I just assumed he was the truth teller. We do know that Julian's memories differ from Cyril's, but that could just be the years, or Julian could be lying.

Glad you liked the book. I did too. Not as much as A Ladder to the Sky which was just fabulous, but still this was a super enjoyable read.


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