John Boyne’s latest novel, “The Heart’s Invisible Furies,” is a tale of sin and shame, sexual repression, unrequited love and unspoken truths, full of the impossible and improbable, topped with a heavy helping of Catholic guilt.
This recipe makes for a highly entertaining and moving 580-page page turner, which will also fill you, the reader, with an immense longing.
Take the book’s intro: “Long before we discovered that he fathered two children by two different women, one in Drimoleague and one in Clonakilty, Father James Monroe stood on the alter of the City of Our Lady, Star of the Sea, in the parish of Goleen, West Cork, and denounced my mother as a whore.”
Once you get past the fact that a baby in the womb of his mother seems to be narrating what’s going on, you want to know what happens next, right?
That’s how you fly through three countries and 70 years (1945 to 2015), the lifespan of an Irish lad named Cyril Avery (who isn’t really an Avery, as his adopted father constantly reminds him). Cyril (since he really isn’t an Avery) has secrets which killed a priest during confession: 1.) he likes boys, and 2.) he’s in love with his straight best friend and former roommate Julian Woodbead, who could never love him back the same way.
Since homosexuality doesn’t exist in Ireland or in the Catholic Church (no more than unmarried pregnant teenagers do), Cyril hides his existence through dark alleys, willing girlfriends (who don’t know that they’re this beard) and terrifying “doctor” visits to men who prescribe treatments from the pages of Anthony Burgess’ novel “The Clockwork Orange.” Meanwhile, Cyril’s constantly tortured by Julian (who talks a bit like Jay from the E4 TV series “The Inbetweeners,” but is better-looking, charming and more sexually active than Jay, based on Cyril’s descriptions).
You can probably guess how this relationship is likely to play out, but like Cyril, you torture yourself, devouring “The Heart’s Invisible Furies.”
It a hell of a read.