REVIEW | The Heart’s Invisible Furies

The Heart’s Invisible Furies

John Boyne

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I remember a friend of mine telling me once that we hate what we fear in ourselves

I hadn’t realised that John Boyne also wrote The Boy in the Striped Pjyamas!

I don’t often truly cry when reading a book, but the Heart’s Invisible Furies absolutely destroyed me. The Heart’s Invisible Furies is a deep and lengthy story about family, identity, country, love and loss. We start with young Catherine, being (literally) booted out of a church by a bitter minister, shamed by her friends and family for her growing belly. Pregnant, alone and pennyless, Catherine boards a bus to Dublin to make a life for herself. Fast forward a couple of years where we meet little Cyril. Adopted by the cold and stern Avery’s, a majority of his interaction with his adoptive parents is through the haze of Maud’s cigarette smoke, or Charles’ persistent reminders that Cyril is not a real Avery.

Despite Cyril’s already tragic childhood, things only seem to get worse as he gets older. Cyril meets his best friend and great love, Julian, and is completely enraptured with him. However, tolerance for homosexuals in the mid 90’s was intolerable in Ireland and Cyril keeps this fact hidden from Julian, suffering teenage lust and longing in silence.

I had never considered myself to be a dishonest person, hating the idea that I was capable of such mendacity and deceit, but the more I examined the architecture of my life, the more I realised how fradulent were its foundations. 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 into taking my own life.

The Heart’s Invisible Furies is ridiculously complex. Poor Cyril is tested with moral quandries time and time again and as a reader, I found it insanely difficult to determine what the ‘right’ thing to do would be in those situations. I think that’s the most heartbreaking thing about this book. Living in a time where free love is so normal, Boyne did a great job of portraying what kind of implications existed in those times for LBGTQI+ people. Homosexuality was actually illegal in Ireland up until the late 90s! Things are difficult enough for LGBTQI+ people in modern times, I can’t imagine how difficult it would have been back then.

The novel itself has an incredibly fascinating beginning, you can’t help but feel angry and sad for Catherine’s predicament. However, as we go into Cyrils part, the book seems significantly slower. That being said, the world building and character development is absolutely necessary for the latter half of the book. Trust me. Hang in there until about half way and it will be more than worth your time.

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.

You can really feel Boyne’s personal experiences through this novel. I would find it difficult to believe that the novel was entirely fiction. Heartbreaking and beautiful, The Heart’s Invisible Furies will leave you feeling for Cyril long after you put the book down.