The Heart’s Invisible Furies by John Boyne [10/10]

If John Boyne only wrote “The Heart’s Invisible Furies,” a one-person saga encompassing the Cold War until today, set in Ireland and elsewhere, I would shout happy. I don’t usually read novels four years old, nor had I really hankered to read any more Boyne after the admittedly heartrending The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas. But my dearest behaved so strangely during her read, and afterwards, that I made two attempts to fit it in among the just-released fodder around me, before sinking in and rising a few days later, wrung out and blessing the Irish master. The Heart’s Invisible Furies tracks a gay Irishman, Cyril, from birth in 1945, leaping in seven-year increments. The earlier sections are heated, befitting a child and teenager repressed in fetid Irish society, but later sections turn heartbreaking and elegiac, as sweet, barbed Cyril makes his way towards some kind of light. I loved the spoken interplay with Cyril’s teenage best friend, Julian, as scurrilously hetro as Cyril is secretly gay; some hilarious scenes reminded me of J. P. Donleavy. Peppered with real characters among an array of distinctive fictional creations, the novel builds on the sadness, joys, and laughs of the times of my life. Boyne’s writing is expansive, rarely needing to was lyrical about the various settings, relishing spoken exchanges, and his novelistic tone is unusual and perfectly maintained. The Heart’s Invisible Furies read to me like an epic history of modern Ireland, of gay rights, and of our world today, shuddering at a precipice. Unforgettable.

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