Wednesday, January 3, 2018
The Heart’s Invisible Furies by John Boyne- Book Review
I am going to give a tiny, itty, bitty spoiler warning in that I need to spoil one portion because this one portion leads to the second half of the book and it is difficult to review without that tiny spoiler.
This was my last book of 2017 and I had put off reading it because it is a giant book and I wasn’t sure if I wanted to read a book where I know a certain part of the book will go, but enough people said “I had to read it!” So I did.
This book is the life of Cyril, a gay man from Ireland, beginning from his birth to his death moving through all the decades of his life. In Ireland, it was a crime to be a gay man, so much of the first half of the book is Cyril trying to live his life as a closeted gay man even going as far as getting married to his best friend’s sister.
(Here comes the minor spoiler)
On his wedding day, Cyril reveals to his best friend his true feelings and is forced to go through with the wedding, but runs away during the reception.
It is here where the second half of the book begins. Now far from Ireland, Cyril begins the rest of his life journey in locations where being a gay man is more accepted. He finds a partner, moves to NYC with him, after they take in and “adopt” a young man who was a former prostitute.
In NYC, Cyril becomes a volunteer in an AIDS clinic where his partner is the head doctor. This is during the 80s when AIDS is a new disease and is not completely understood by the rest of the community. It is still looked at as a “gay” disease. A major tragedy happens and a big reveal happens which brings Cyril back to Ireland where he must confront his life left behind as he lives out his later years.
This is a big, epic book, but so worth the journey! I know some who have stopped when Cyril was still in Ireland and I have told them to keep going or to jump to the 70s or 80s because it is during those years where his fuller story takes place. Even within my small summary, I am leaving out massive parts of the book. I keep stating, go through the journey!
The reason I didn’t want to read the book is I knew it would journey through the 80s and I heard it took place in NYC. I lived there at the time and saw some of the reactions and knew what AIDS did to the gay community and reading about it touches some old nerves. Even though I was a kid during that time, my church was one of the few churches helping AIDS patients and I saw firsthand how people discussed patients and how people were treated. The book does a very accurate portrayal of that time.
With all my gushing, I will state there is a very neat bow ultimately on this book, which comes off as believable, but just at the threashhold of believable. I could imagine some readers getting really turned off by the ending, but I thought it fit pretty nicely. I also use the happy ending as a way of getting people to read the book- his life will get better.
The final wonderful part of this book is Boyne dedicates the book to John Irving and has stated in interviews that Cyril has some Garp within his character and that is so true. It made me want to go back and read The World According to Garp because there are so many parallels. This is definitely Boyne’s love letter to Garp.
This was my last book of 2017 and my last 5 star book. It isn’t without problems, but this is simply great storytelling and character development.