Review: The Heart’s Invisible Furies by John Boyne

Synopsis: 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 three score years and ten, will struggle to discover an identity, a home, a country and much more.

Hi all! I took a vacation these past few weeks in order to help myself rest up for the upcoming school year, and boy am I glad that I did. As I was home for a bit, it really helped to have some distance from my work, and I feel ready to dive back into everything (including my reviewing!). And so without further ado, lets get into the Hearts Invisible Furies! Also please be aware that there will be spoilers.

So this book was a loan from my good friend Doug, who has loaned me books like Sing, Unbried, Sing, Galore and The Story of Jane. So I was fairly certain that this book would also be great. I will say that I didn’t love this book as much as his other recs, but there was still a lot of love throughout the rest of the book. The first chapter, which focused on Cyril’s mother and her teenage pregnancy, was SO BEAUTIFUL that I was hooked. I loved the surprises that were present, and the found family motif. However, this chapter definitely set the tone for the rest of the book, as the end of the chapter features extreme violence against the two gay men that she is staying with. This could be triggering for many people, so I feel that it is important to mention. Unfortunately there are many instances of homophobia and violence against gay men in this book, which also accurately reflects the views of Ireland the the States at the time that the story is set in. But again, important to know going into this so that you can prepare yourself for it.

After that first chapter I admit that I wasn’t as into the book for a while. Basically for the chapters where Cyril is pining over Julian I didn’t enjoy the book. There were some parts that were more enjoyable, and I did love the beginning of his relationship with Alice. But the part of the story where I really became invested was when Cyril moves to the Netherlands. His growth as a gay man and as a person becomes possible once he leaves Ireland, and both through his relationships with Bastiaan and Ignac we see that Cyril is becoming a compassionate, sarcastic, and witty man. I love the found family that is created with Cyril, Bastiaan and Ignac. From the introduction of Ignac to his staying with Bastiaan and Cyril intermittently to becoming their adoptive son, it was a beautiful journey throughout the chapters.

One plot point that I was sure the book would feature was a discussion of the HIV/AIDS epidemic. However, I feel like the book really turned the discussion of the disease on it’s head. For example, the majority of people who we meet with AIDS are not gay men, and when they are, they have only had sex once. Challenging the stigma around the disease and the assumption that only gay men get AIDS is done very well in this novel, and it is truly heartbreaking to see the neglect that these patients suffer throughout the novel. The whole chapter dealing with the epidemic is heartbreaking, but also helps Cyril realize that he has to move back to Ireland.

I don’t want to get too far into the details, because I feel like it would be a disservice to those of you who want to read the book. However, I will say that from the chapter where Cyril moves to Holland onward I loved the book and couldn’t put the down. The creation of found family in the novel was so beautiful, and it was lovely to see Cyril go from a lonely child to someone with a huge family. Other than the pining chapters, I really did love the book, and definitely recommend it. It’s important to learn about the experiences of gay men throughout history, and Boyne does it beautifully, drawing on both personal experience and historical accounts.

I rated this book 4/5 (maybe closer to 4.5)! I hope you enjoyed my review, and I encourage everyone to take a break from work and school this summer – self care for a week or two to refresh yourself for the new year! I’ll see you soon ducks!

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