It’s the last Saturday of the month, which means it’s Give a Sh*t Book Club time! Our selection this month is The Heart’s Invisible Furies by Irish author John Boyne.
I loved this book so much I am more likely to slobber all over it than write anything coherent about it. It’s pretty much everything I want from a reading experience: fabulous writing, a page-turning plot, and characters you will love more than ice cream. With good books, you get one out of three, great books maybe two out of three. All three of those things in one book is like hitting a literary grand slam.
Not only have I never read such a long book so quickly, I’ve rarely if ever wished a book were longer. I am the type who wants to read every book as fast as I can and move on to the next. When I got to the end, I wished Cyril had lived longer so I could have read more about him. Really, I would have been fine spending more time with many of the characters in his orbit, not least his indomitable mother, Catherine Goggin, who after a humiliating experience at the hands of a priest as a pregnant teenager goes on to become the modern, self-assured woman we all aspire towards.
There are a lot of coincidences in Cyril’s life, people and themes that circle around him, popping up with either very good or very bad timing. I can see how some readers would find all these coincidences unbelievable and therefore not enjoy the story as much, but for me, the slightly fantastic aspect suited just fine. The comedic elements really worked for me too, as they brought relief from the many sad and infuriating experiences the characters suffered. If I hadn’t read reviews ahead of time and therefore anticipated the humor, I likely would have been taken aback by the occasional stroke of whimsy the novel offers, but instead I was just delighted. I also loved the hopeful note that persists throughout. Because the story covers such a long time period, we get the pleasure of seeing both Cyril’s growth (stuttering though it may be at times) and the growth of Ireland as a country, though of course neither ever approaches perfection. Flawed but lovable characters like Cyril are such a joy to me.
One thing that struck me was Cyril’s long journey to being his true self. It makes me so sad that so many people have been and continue to be prevented from being who they are and finding love in their own way. Also, it’s clear Boyne has a bone to pick with the Catholic church, and as I have a number of issues with it myself (although fortunate enough not to be raised in the faith), I rather enjoyed the takedown.
So what did you think of The Heart’s Invisible Furies? Comments are open below. I can’t wait to hear your thoughts on this one!