Friday, July 7, 2017

Book Review: "The Heart's Invisible Furies" by John Boyne

Few authors can slay me emotionally while simultaneously making me think, the way that John Boyne does. His book The Absolutist (see my original review), is one of my favorite books of all time, and also made my list of the best books I read in 2012. Five years later, I still can't get that book out of my mind or my heart.

While not all of Boyne's books have caught my interest, his latest, The Heart's Invisible Furies, utterly knocked me out. I read the entire book in one day (thanks to two airplane trips, a delayed flight, and time to kill before an out-of-town meeting), and found myself at various times moved, angered, touched, perplexed, and devastated. (Sometimes I existed in more than one of these states simultaneously.)

I honestly don't know if there are appropriate words to express how much I love Boyne's writing, so I'll turn to Janice from the television show Friends:

Cyril Avery is born in 1945 out of wedlock to a fiercely independent teenager in Dublin, who is cast out in disgrace by her small Irish village. Adopted by Charles, a wealthy, womanizing ne'er-do-well and Maud, his novelist wife (who writes like a fiend but is horrified if her books sell or get any fanfare), whose parenting style consist mostly of forgetting he's there, forgetting he's a child, and reminding him he's adopted, Cyril is a quiet, intellectual child, mostly observing the crazy behaviors around him.

When he is seven years old he meets Julian Woodbead, the son of Charles' lawyer and childhood friend. Even at seven, Julian is infinitely more glamorous and worldly than anyone Cyril can imagine, and Cyril is utterly transfixed by him. This chance encounter begins a lifelong relationship which will bring Cyril to the greatest heights and the lowest lows, force him to understand who he is and what he wants and feels he deserves from life, and come to terms with his homeland and its domination by religion, as well as his unique upbringing.

The Heart's Invisible Furies follows Cyril from birth and then moves in seven-year intervals through his life. This is a searing look at how all too often we hide our true selves from those we care about, out of fear, self-loathing, and self-preservation, but it's also a look at how circumstances both within and beyond our control shape our lives and our chances at happiness and satisfaction. This is a story of friendship, love, bravery, pain, loss, violence, politics, religion, prejudice, and trying to find peace within ourselves, against a backdrop of some of the more tumultuous times in our world.

While my description makes this book sound more ambitious than it is, at its heart, this is a book about love of all kinds. Boyne's writing truly took my breath away at times, and even if I found Cyril's character a little too passive occasionally, I still felt for him, as well as the other characters Boyne created. There was a little too much violence in this book (not truly graphic in every case) but I know the scenes were in keeping with the world and time in which they were set.

This book didn't leave me in tears as often as The Absolutist did, but it moved me all the same. (And speaking of The Absolutist, props to Boyne for a subtle tip of the hat to that book in this one.) This is a book that needs to be read, be felt, and be pondered. I know I'll be thinking of the beauty and emotion of The Heart's Invisible Furies for some time.

NetGalley and Crown Publishing provided me an advance copy of the book in exchange for an unbiased review. Thanks for making this available!

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