The Heart’s Invisible Furies: A Novel
John Boyne’s newest novel, The Heart’s Invisible Furies, is a touching story about otherness, particularly gays living in a society that arrests, beats, and even murders homosexuals without consequence. In 1945 Ireland, 16-year-old Catherine is discovered to be pregnant outside of wedlock; in response, the Catholic priest banishes her from her village. On her journey to Dublin, Catherine befriends a sympathetic man who offers her a place to live. Minutes following a horrific event, Catherine gives birth to Cyril, the novel’s narrator, who is adopted by a wealthy Dublin couple. At boarding school, Cyril comes to realize his growing obsession with boys, a terrifying revelation since homosexuality is a criminal act. Once he leaves school, he hides his love for his friend Julian and explores his homosexuality privately while living a publicly straight life. In seven-year increments spanning 70 years, Boyne’s story follows Cyril as he grapples with his secret, which brings violence, loss, loneliness, and love.
With breathtaking honesty and feeling, Boyne perfectly weaves light humor with achingly miserable moments; however, the large sections of crude dialogue is barely tolerable. Cyril’s reflective voice is deeply real, allowing the narration to flow with exceptional power. Other than a handful of mildly annoying coincidences, the plot itself is wonderfully constructed. The Heart’s Invisible Furies is an important reminder of the inspiring, persevering heart of humanity in the midst of insufferable cruelty.