Author: John Boyne
Publisher: Hogarth Press/Random House Audio
Narrator: Stephen Hogan
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.
There are so many things about this novel that made me love it. First, it is indeed a saga; the audiobook runs for twenty hours and five minutes sans a dull moment. Next, the author’s strong, fully-developed characters, and direct, honest narrative make this a powerful, unforgettable story about post WWII Ireland. Another interesting aspect is the story unfolds in seven-year increments. (I’ve my thoughts on why, but I’ll let you draw your own conclusions.)
Something else I loved is I purchased this audiobook expecting a mainstream heterosexual saga, maybe similar to Angela’s Ashes. (Frankly, I’m sick to death of the same ol’ same ol’ poorly edited, unimaginative, tiresome crap being dumped on us by the truckload via the big six MM publishers.) Imagine my surprise when I learned the MC, Cyril, is gay, as are other characters. The novel is marketed as “contemporary fiction,” and I’m pleased to comment that it’s about time that MM fiction doesn’t include an identifier such as “Gay,” or “LGBTQ.” The audiobook’s publisher, Random House Audio, tags it as contemporary fiction. I don’t believe this is an attempt to mislead listeners; rather, I suspect Random House wanted this fabulous novel to be read by many, rather than those who do most of their book-buying from the niche MM market. It’s high time some publisher had the chutzpah to do it! Any homophobe who feels misled by the lack of “gay/bi/queer” warnings can either return the novel, or try opening his/her mind. Wow, what a novel concept to be reading to expand your horizons! But don’t you worry none; that “gay homosexual” MM queer sex stuff is off stage/behind closed doors/not described, but you know what’s happening. (Boogah-boogah!)
The summary tells you all you need to know about the plot, and I’ll not provide spoilers by giving you my synopsis of this beautifully written work of literary genius. The narration is fabulous from beginning to end. The fully-developed characters, plot and subplots will capture your attention and keep you listening. A Heart’s Invisible Furies will make you smile, weep, and get you genuinely pissed off about the control “The Church” held over Northern Ireland for centuries. Nonetheless, this novel has a bittersweet but heartwarming conclusion. (I know such sounds unlikely, but the author pulls it off magnificently.)
The Heart’s Invisible Furies will go down as one of my all-time favorite novels, and will hold a permanent spot in my iPod so I can listen to it again, and again, and again. I highly recommend it to anyone wanting an MM saga that breaks away from the angst-ridden, boy meets boy, boy falls in love with boy, boy loses boy, boys get back together romantic cookie-cutter standards. (Hey, gay couples are more than just the bedroom.) Bravo John Boyne!