The Heart’s Invisible Furies by John Boyne

heart'sThe Heart’s Invisible Furies is a ferocious comedy of errors that documents the life and times of a gay man in Ireland from the 1940s to the near present.

In a rural community in County Cork, the local priest shames teenage Catherine Goggin before the whole church when she admits her pregnancy.  Practically penniless and headed to Dublin for her future, Catherine meets an unlikely pair of friends, endures great tragedy, and gives her baby up for adoption.  So begins the life of Cyril Avery in 1945.

Cyril’s adoptive parents provide for him well, but are blasé on the finer points of parenthood and affection.  His dad is a philandering banker, his mother a chain-smoking novelist hostile to fame of any kind, and both of them are quick to remind Cyril that he is not their real child.

It’s with a chance encounter with the son of his father’s lawyer that Cyril begins a long friendship and obsession.  Julian Woodbead is everything Cyril is not – confident, cocky, and early on a hit with the opposite sex.  Cyril, who is aware of his sexuality early on, is reluctant to reveal his feelings for Julian or anyone else, and his early adult life is a litany of furtive one nighters.

As the years go by (in increments of seven years) our hapless hero struggles with the mores of his native country.  As Cyril grows up and matures (and sometimes that takes awhile) he finds that an exile of his own from Ireland is necessary to get a sort of inner grounding, and discovers eventual love amidst some horrific episodes.    Ultimately, he returns home, the changes in Irish society set him up for a latter-life happiness, and he learns the meaning of family.

The Heart’s Invisible Furies is a sprawling chatty read that had me laughing out loud in places and close to crying in others.  When they come, the sad spots hit hard.  The chapter covering the AIDS crisis in the 1980s is particularly moving.  The author also doesn’t flinch from addressing the difficulties of growing up gay in post-war Ireland, when being such wasn’t decriminalized until 1993.

(William Hicks, Information Services)




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