The Heart’s Invisible Furies by John Boyne
Published August 2017
We visit Cyril Avery every seven years as he grows up in Ireland and discovers a part of himself of which his country deeply disapproves.
The Heart’s Invisible Furies is a character study of an Irish boy who comes of age.
Cyril is born in 1945 Ireland to an unwed teen mother. As a result, she’s ostracized from her small town and church and puts him up for adoption. He’s adopted by a couple who don’t truly want him and never let him forget that he isn’t part of the family. It seems like he’s shunned by everyone from the very beginning.
We check in on Cyril every seven years. Along his journey to adulthood, we see his friendships, relationships, hurts, and missteps.
In one sense, The Heart’s Invisible Furies is a coming of age novel. We see Cyril grow and develop, shedding his innocence and discovering some of the world’s harsh realities.
But those harsh realities expose another aspect of the novel: mid 20th-century Ireland and its rejection of the homosexual community.
When Cyril discovers he’s attracted to boys instead of girls, he lives in shame and darkness. In one of the book’s funny moments, he confesses his homosexuality to a priest. As a result, the priest drops dead on the spot from shock.
Other parts of his personal history are not so funny. Much of Cyril’s life is lonely. He keeps his feelings and desires inside.
“It was a difficult time to be Irish, a difficult time to be twenty-one years of age and a difficult time to be a man who was attracted to other men. To be all three simultaneously required a level of subterfuge and guile that felt contrary to my nature.”
The book’s title is fitting.
Cyril’s furies are invisible to the world, living inside his own heart.
Despite this and the exclusionary attitude of his home country, the final years of this book are quite satisfying. Almost as satisfying as his earlier years are frustrating.
It’s long, long book, encompassing one man’s life. But through his eyes, we see the changing of a nation.