• Gemma

The Heart's Invisible Furies by John Boyne

Updated: Mar 10, 2019

Our Score:★★★★★★★★✩✩

GENRE: Cultural, Historical Fiction

Selected by Donna - November 2018


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.

(Synopsis taken from Goodreads)




I decided to select this book because John Boyne is one of my favourite authors. The reviews I read were fantastic and it said there was an element of autobiography to the novel which intrigued me. I was looking for a page-turner and this book promised to be one.


THE DISCUSSION: (Contains spoilers)

We jumped straight into finding out what everybody thought of the novel. Most of us were suitably impressed with the book and really enjoyed it. The opening section 'The Cuckoo in the Nest' really drew us in and we were both horrified and shocked by the events. Although, the year was 1945 we couldn't believe the power of the Catholic Church at that time. To disown and banish a child (16 year old) like that was appalling and the fact that no-one, including her own parents and family protested this decision is hard to comprehend. Nevertheless, Catherine boarded a bus for Dublin, managed to befriend Sean and secured herself accommodation - all in the same day. The next section leaves Catherine (for now) and moves forward seven years where we meet the main character Cyril Avery. Here the book follows the next seventy years of Cyril's life where it explores his friendship with Julian, his unconventional upbringing, the prejudices he faces with regards to his sexual orientation and all the sadness he encounters along the way.

The book really opened our eyes to society at that period in time as although it was only fifty years ago there was a lot of prejudices. The main focus was prejudice against women, children born out of wedlock, and homosexuality. The Catholic Church was stripped bare in this novel and exposed in a negative light. It discusses how influential they were to the Irish society in creating power and control, and how hypocritical some of the Priests were. The bigotry wasn't only present in Ireland at that time but adopted by the rest of the world as well. Obviously, John Boyne wasn't saying that everyone shared these views but it was more frowned upon then than it is now to be homosexual, a single mum or having a child out of wedlock. The novel presented the changes in society too with the legality of gay weddings and the changes in attitude of most of society.

The novel also explored the AIDS epidemic in the 1980s and the 'blame' that was placed on the homosexual community. It did have examples of heterosexual males contracting the disease but the thoughts of society at that time were that only gay men could catch the disease.

At the end of the novel there is a note from the author, this really sealed our enjoyment of the book. Not only does John Boyne strip himself bare (metaphorically speaking) with discussing his own connection to the main character but he also outlines what it was like for him growing up as a gay man in Ireland.



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REVIEW: (Contains Spoilers)

Gemma's Thoughts:

I really enjoyed this book, it gripped me by the first sentence and held my attention throughout the 600+ pages. I did find that it was dominated by sex far too much (for my liking) but saying that it didn't distract my enjoyment of the book. The characters all felt very real and I was drawn to both Catherine and Cyril right at the start. Cyril not only took you on a journey of his life but also reflected a side of society of that time. For me the book was honest, raw, shocking and saddening. Everyone Cyril loved and lost made me emotional. I'm not sure how I feel about the ending. I liked the fact that finally Catherine and Cyril's got to know the truth about one another and to build a relationship together. But I'm not sure I liked the fact that Cyril knew he was going to die and had conversations with the 'ghosts' of his past. I would definitely recommend this to others.



Donna: 10

Gemma: 8

Kim: 9

Nic: 7

Pamela: 8

Sandra: 8


Average 8

Let us know your thoughts about this book. We would love to read your reviews and hear what you would score it.

If you enjoyed reading this book why not try:

  • The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh

  • The Secret by Kathryn Hughes

  • The Sunrise by Victoria Hislop

  • A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles

Happy reading!

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