Summary and book reviews of The Heart's Invisible Furies by John Boyne

The Heart's Invisible Furies

A Novel

by John Boyne

The Heart's Invisible Furies by John Boyne
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  • Published:
    Aug 2017, 592 pages

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Book Summary

From the beloved New York Times bestselling author of The Boy In the Striped Pajamas, a sweeping, heartfelt saga about the course of one man's life, beginning and ending in post-war Ireland

Cyril Avery is not a real Avery -- or at least, that's what his adoptive parents tell him. And he never will be. But if he isn't a real Avery, then who is he?

Born out of wedlock to a teenage girl cast out from her rural Irish community and adopted by a well-to-do if eccentric Dublin couple via the intervention of a hunchbacked Redemptorist nun, Cyril is adrift in the world, anchored only tenuously by his heartfelt friendship with the infinitely more glamourous and dangerous Julian Woodbead. At the mercy of fortune and coincidence, he will spend a lifetime coming to know himself and where he came from - and over his many years, will struggle to discover an identity, a home, a country, and much more.

In this, Boyne's most transcendent work to date, we are shown the story of Ireland from the 1940s to today through the eyes of one ordinary man. The Heart's Invisible Furies is a novel to make you laugh and cry while reminding us all of the redemptive power of the human spirit.

part i
SHAME

1945 The Cuckoo in the Nest
The Good People of Goleen

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.

The family was seated together in the second pew, my grandfather on the aisle using his handkerchief to polish the bronze plaque engraved to the memory of his parents that was nailed to the back of the woodwork before him. He wore his Sunday suit, pressed the night before by my grandmother, who twisted her jasper rosary beads around her crooked fingers and moved her lips silently until he placed his hand atop hers and ordered her to be still. My six uncles, their dark hair glistening with rose-scented lacquer, sat next to her in ascending order of age and stupidity. Each was an inch shorter than the next and the disparity showed from behind....

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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

There are numerous themes at play here: obsession vs. love; bigotry vs. openness; and cultural influences vs individual integrity. Instead of being heavy-handed in dealing with such lofty topics, John Boyne employs a steady undercurrent of humor that is disarming in its subtlety but often laugh aloud funny. The thread of the mother/son connection knits together the story as it weaves in and out of the narrative (Peggy A).   (Reviewed by BookBrowse First Impression Reviewers).

Full Review Members Only (673 words).

Media Reviews

Library Journal

Cyril’s life story is extraordinary, tragic, and triumphant…Readers will fall in love with Boyne’s characters, especially Mrs. Goggin and Cyril’s adoptive mother, Maude Avery, in this heartbreaking and hilarious story.

Booklist

Starred Review. Boyne, who has a wonderful gift for characterization, does a splendid job of weaving these various lives together in ways that are richly dramatic, sometimes surprising, and always compelling… Often quite funny, the story nevertheless has its sadness, sometimes approaching tragedy. Utterly captivating and not to be missed.

Kirkus Reviews

Starred Review. With quick strokes and bitter humor, Boyne’s opening scene encapsulates the Irish church’s hypocrisy… Boyne continues his crusading ways with the quiet keening of this painful, affecting novel.

The Guardian (UK)

A picaresque, lolloping odyssey for the individual characters and for the nation that confines them…The book blazes with anger as it commemorates lives wrecked by social contempt and self-loathing…. a substantial achievement.

The Sunday Times (UK)

This is nothing less than the story of Ireland over the past 70 years, expressed in the life of one man…highly entertaining and often very funny…Big and clever.

Mail on Sunday (UK)

By turns savvy, witty, and achingly sad…This is a novelist at the top of his game.

THe Daily Express (UK)

An epic novel…The Heart's Invisible Furies proves that John is not just one of Ireland's best living novelists but also one of the best novelists of Ireland.

Press Association

Boyne creates lightness out of doom, humour out of desperately sad situations… a terrific read.

The Irish Times

An epic full of verve, humour and heart… sure to be read by the bucketload… deeply cinematic [and] extremely funny.

Reader Reviews

Maribeth R. (Indianapolis, IN)

For those Who Love Jigsaw Puzzles
If you enjoy the complexities of assembling a challenging jigsaw puzzle, you will likely savor this wonderful story where the pieces elude you from time-to-time, but gently fall into place as the picture finally reveals itself. This fictionalized ...   Read More

Sandi W. (East Moline, IL)

Another Boyne master piece....
I have read a couple of John Boyne books before, so I was prepared for anything. Boyne takes on hard subjects and presents them relentlessly. I am aware that his themes and character development are beyond reproach. This particular book sucked me ...   Read More

Nicole S. (St. Paul, MN)

Not very good - fantastic
Wow. Have you ever read a book that hooks you and doesn't let go? This is it! The characters are Interwoven in ways that delight and keep you reading. The narrator, Cyril, is so delightfully human that you cringe, cheer and understand (even when you ...   Read More

Phyllis R. (Rochester Hills, MI)

Finding oneself and happiness
Thanks for the opportunity to read and review this excellent book. The title comes from a W.H. Auden poem and even after reading this novel, I cannot figure it out! The setting is Ireland, Amsterdam, New York City, and back to Ireland. The time ...   Read More

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Beyond the Book

The History of Homosexuality in Ireland

The Republic of IrelandIn The Heart's Invisible Furies, author John Boyne traces the evolving acceptance of homosexuality in Ireland through the life of his main character, Cyril Avery.

Historically speaking, The Republic of Ireland has a conservative reputation, but homosexuality was actually accepted and accounted for in the set of medieval laws known as the Brehon Law. It's speculated that the early inhabitants of the country practiced a warrior culture and were therefore more tolerant of physical relationships between men, as was common in other warrior cultures (e.g., the Greeks – think Achilles and Patroclus). Brehon Law specifically stated that male partnerships should be tolerated as long as neither was married, and some historians ...

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