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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!

Repeat author

John Boyne is back at Book of the Month – other BOTMs include A Ladder to the Sky.

by John Boyne

Excellent choice

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Quick take

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

Good to know

  • Illustrated icon, Icon_400

    400+ pages

  • Illustrated icon, Icon_Inspirational

    Inspirational

  • Illustrated icon, Icon_LGBTQ

    LGBTQ+ themes

  • Illustrated icon, Icon_International

    International

Synopsis

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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The Heart's Invisible Furies

From chapter one:

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 this 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. The boys did their best to stay awake that morning; there had been a dance the night before in Skull and they'd come home moldy with the drink, sleeping only a few hours before being roused by their father for Mass.

At the end of the row, beneath a wooden carving of the tenth station of the cross, sat my mother, her stomach fluttering in terror at what was to come. She hardly looked up.

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Why I love it

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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Member ratings (22,082)

  • Suzzanne S.

    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.

  • Laura C.

    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. ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

  • Nicole Z.

    Los Angeles, CA

    Easy to love and read - An equally heart wrenching and heartwarming story, so much humanity, love, pain, longing and chaos with misses and wins -a feel good mess! Fantastically beautiful ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

  • Stephanie W.

    Hope Mills , NC

    This book was so good. One of my favorites. It was a great storyline to tell about Cyril’s life from the time he was born to when he comes to realize the end and what he went through. ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

  • Kimberly W.

    Gold Canyon, AZ

    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

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