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All booksHistorical fictionThe Heart's Invisible Furies
The Heart's Invisible Furies by John Boyne
Historical fiction

The Heart's Invisible Furies

Book of the year
Each year thousands of members vote for our Book of the Year award—congrats to The Heart's Invisible Furies!

by John Boyne

Quick take

Follow the meandering, funny, and heartbreaking adventures of a young Irishman searching for belonging.

Why I love it

Liberty Hardy
BOTM Judge

Laugh, cheer, and weep as John Boyne takes you on an unforgettable journey through the Dickensian life of one of the greatest new protagonists in literature! It has been a long time since I have loved a character as much as I love Cyril Avery.

Given up as a baby by an unwed teen mother in post-war Ireland, Cyril is adopted by the Averys, whose treatment of Cyril is more of a business arrangement than that of loving parents. It’s as if they forget he even lives there—except when they’re reminding him he’s "not a real Avery."

As the book moves from 1945 to 2015, we follow sweet, well-intentioned Cyril from Dublin to Amsterdam to New York City as he embarks on a series of humorous and heartfelt adventures.

As he grows up, goes off to boarding school, and then out into the world, he struggles with identity, religion, and sexuality, all the while trying to discover who he really is, inside and out. For many years he is adrift, trying to make sense of his heart’s desires in a cruel, confusing world.

The story also documents a very real period in Ireland's history, when expressing interest in the same sex meant persecution by friends and family, excommunication from the Church, and even imprisonment. While these same laws no longer apply, the book is a reminder that people suffered under these rules not that long ago. The wonderful humor throughout helps cushion that reality.

This novel is perfect for fans of John Irving and Frank McCourt. It’s big, bawdy, and brimming with heart. I wanted to wrap Cyril up and keep him safe from a world that has told him his love is wrong. This novel is a thing of magic, it absolutely floored me. Don’t be surprised at the end of the year when I tell you it’s my favorite book of 2017. And don’t be surprised when you agree.

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From the beloved 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.

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Member thoughts

All (14173)
All (14173)
Love (11292)
Like (2253)
Dislike (628)
14592 ratings
  • 77% Love
  • 15% Like
  • 4% Dislike
  • Wauwatosa, WI

    I loved this book. When I started reading the book I didn’t care about Cyril’s childhood. However as he grows up he becomes a compassionate, caring person. I thought it was a ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ star book.

  • Cleveland , OK

    Incredible! I found myself laughing, gritting my teeth in anger, sobbing with heartbreak, crying in happiness, and sitting on the edge of my seat over and over. ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

  • Westminster, CO

    One of my all-time favorite novels. It’s one boy’s journey of growing up gay in Ireland where there were grave consequences to ‘come out’. Grief, loss and ultimately love and family prevail. 5 big ⭐️s

  • Manhattan Beach, CA

    What a wild ride! Dublin to Amsterdam to New York; laugh-out-loud to satire to streaming tears; 1940s to the age of Tinder, this book is immersive, so well written, and full of tender moments. ❤️❤️❤️

  • Pittsburgh , PA

    God, what an epic. I loved this book and was comparing it to Jeffrey Archer’s “As The Crow Flies” while reading it. If you liked this book, grab that one too. They’re twisty turns epics you’ll love!

  • Louisville, KY

    Truly one of the most beautiful coming of age sagas I’ve ever had the privilege to read. The writing is superb, and the story is both heartbreaking and gorgeously uplifting. ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

  • Anchorage, AK

    Going down as one of my favorites. Boyne paints an eye opening picture of what it’s like to be an unwed mother or a gay man throughout Catholic Ireland’s history. Read this book, you won’t regret it.

  • Dayton, OH

    I don’t even know where to begin reviewing this book. I sobbed and laughed with the first 50 pages. It’s huge but I read it in two days. It’s so important and yet the characters felt like real friends

  • Whitesboro, TX

    I would say it’s definitely in my top 10 reads of all time. It’s a beautifully written story. There’s love, heartbreak, prejudice, sex, self hate, biogtry, religion, family, sickness, and so much more

  • Columbus, OH

    When I sat down with this book and before I opened it I said “you have to read 100 pages before you decide not to read it”. I finished it in 3 days and couldn’t put it down. Such a pleasant surprise

  • Los Angeles, CA

    I can’t even start to explain the attachment I have to Cyril and the characters in this story. I’m so thankful to have a glimpse into this honest portrayal of life, love and loss. Would recommend 100%

  • Cypress, TX

    Beautifully written. Doesn’t feel like it’s one count. One of very few that begins and ends in the same place. Slow in places, still kept turning pages. Theme of church, religion, identity and forgive

  • Huntsville, AL

    I love Boyne’s writing as it is, but this book is an absolute saga following one man’s life. It took my breath away to follow along his trials and joys. You will not be disappointed! Read in 3 days!!!

  • Randolph, NJ

    An amazing journey over the protagonist’s entire life, all while knowing a secret that he doesn’t find out out until the end. Heart-wrenching ups and downs that leave you wanting to give him a big hug

  • Mokena, IL

    The Heart’s Invisble Furies” made me laugh and cry almost within paragraphs of each other. I don’t think a book has ever changed me until now. I feel that I have a new perspective on life and love.

  • Shelby Twp, MI

    This may be my favorite book..ever! The character development is unlike any other book I’ve read & the story pulls you in. I actually laughed out loud at one point. I truly enjoy John Boyne’s writing!

  • Cincinnati , OH

    A perfectly titled, profoundly accurate portrayal of the warming, aching, breaking and all other “ings” of the heart. Superb prose and captivating story; one of the best books I've ever read.

  • Columbus, OH

    One of the best of all time. I sobbed, laughed aloud, was blown away by the travels, ENDURANCE and characterization. Such detailed descriptions of places & people’s true colors. BEAUTIFUL writing ❤️

  • GRAY, ME

    The absolute best book I’ve read in a long time! I was pulled in from the very start and swept away by Cyril’s life. I laughed, I cried and cheered. The story of an Irish Era. Wow! Highly Recommend!!

  • Chula Vista, CA

    I loved, loved, LOVED this book! This book had all the right ingredients for a perfect novel-humor and sadness, missed opportunities and second chances, love and grief, and so much more! ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

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