Heart's Invisible Furies (Boyne)

The Heart's Invisible Furies 
John Boyne, 2017
592 pp.

A sweeping, heartfelt saga about the course of one man's life, beginning and ending in post-war Ireland

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 many years, will struggle to discover an identity, a home, a country, and much more.

In this, Boyne's most transcendent work to date, we are shown the story of Ireland from the 1940s to today through the eyes of one ordinary man. The Heart's Invisible Furies is a novel to make you laugh and cry while reminding us all of the redemptive power of the human spirit. (From the publisher.)

Author Bio
Birth—April 30, 1971
Where—Dublin, Ireland
Education—Trinity College
Awards—Curtis Brown Award; Irish Book Awards: People's
  Choice of the Year
Currently—Dublin, Ireland

John Boyne is an Irish novelist, the author of 10 adult novels and five for younger readers. He is best known for his 2006 YA novel, The Boy in the Striped Pajamas, which sold 9 million copies and catapulted him to international fame. The book became a 2008 feature film. His novels are published in over 50 languages.

Born in Dublin, Ireland, where he still lives, Boyne studied English literature at Trinity College and later creative writing at the University of East Anglia in Norwich, England. While at UEA, he won the Curtis Brown Prize and years later, in 2015, received a UEA Honary Doctorate of Letters.

In 1993 the Sunday Tribune published Boyne's first short story; the story was subsequently shortlisted for a Hennessy Award. In addition to his novels, Boyne regularly reviews for The Irish Times. He has also served as judge for a number of literary awards: Hennessy Literary Awards, International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award, Green Carnation Prize, and Scotiabank Giller Prize, for which he served as the 2015 jury chair.

Boyne's own list of awards list is impressive: Hennessy Literary Hall of Fame Award for the body of his work; three Irish Book Awards (Children's Book of the Year, People's Choice Book of the Year, and Short Story of the Year); Que Leer Award Novel of the Year (Spain); and Gustave Heineman Peace Prize (Germany). (Adapted from Wikipedia and the author's website. Retrieved 8/14/2017.)

Book Reviews
A picaresque, lolloping odyssey for the individual characters and for the nation that confines them.… The book blazes with anger as it commemorates lives wrecked by social contempt and self‑loathing.… [A] substantial achievement.
Guardian (UK)

This is nothing less than the story of Ireland over the past 70 years, expressed in the life of one man… highly entertaining and often very funny…Big and clever.
Times Sunday Review (UK)

An epic full of verve, humour and heart… sure to be read by the bucketload.… [D]eeply cinematic [and] extremely funny.
Irish Times (UK)

By turns savvy, witty, and achingly sad.… This is a novelist at the top of his game.
Mail on Sunday (UK)

An epic novel.… The Heart’s Invisible Furies proves that John is not just one of Ireland’s best living novelists but also one of the best novelists of Ireland.
Express (UK)

Boyne creates lightness out of doom, humour out of desperately sad situations.… [A] terrific read.
Press Association (UK)

The book becomes both an examination of Cyril’s life and a catalogue of Western society’s evolution from post-war to present day, with all its failings, triumphs, complexities, and certainties. The story falters slightly near the end, but the life of Cyril Avery is one to be relished. (Aug.)
Publishers Weekly

Readers will fall in love with Boyne's characters, especially Mrs. Goggin and Cyril's adoptive mother, Maude Avery, in this heartbreaking and hilarious story.  —John G. Matthews, Washington State Univ. Libs., Pullman
Library Journal

(Starred review.) Boyne, who has a wonderful gift for characterization, does a splendid job of weaving these various lives together in ways that are richly dramatic, sometimes surprising, and always compelling… Often quite funny, the story nevertheless has its sadness, sometimes approaching tragedy. Utterly captivating and not to be missed.

(Starred review.) [Cyril's] later years in Ireland seem to bring the promise of reconciliation on several fronts, but there is still penance and pain until the book's last word. A dark novel marred by occasional melodrama but lightened by often hilarious dialogue.
Kirkus Reviews

Discussion Questions
We'll add publisher questions if and when they're available; in the meantime, use these LitLovers talking points to help start a discussion for The Heart's Invisible Furies … then take off on your own:

1. It's 1945. Father James Monroe. Care to comment?

2. Point to some of the book's humor — what do you find funny? Is Cyril's voice, or some of his observations, from the womb funny, for instance?

3. Describe the Church's position in the young republic of Ireland and talk about how its power changes by 2015.

4. Cyril knows he is gay; how does he deal with this knowledge, especially in the middle years of the 20th century?

5. What do you make of Cyril's adoptive family, especially his father Charles who insists that Cyril is "not really an Avery" and that he should consider his growing up years with the family as a "tenancy." What does he mean by that, and how do those words affect Cyril?l

6. Why does Maude Avery disdain popularity as a writer? Why does she bother to write and sell books?

7. How would you delineate Cyril's interior monologues from his outward behavior. How do those two modes differ?

8. John Boyne's book is very much about self-transformation. "Even at that tender age I knew that there was something about me that was different and that it would be impossible ever to put right." Is change possible after a certain age, after the brain becomes less malleable?

9. Boyne peppers his writing with coincidence. Why might he do so: what is he suggesting by its frequent use?

10. Talk about post-war Ireland in the 1950s. In what way might you describe it as nightmarish?

11. Consider the book's title. What are the furies, and why invisible? Boyne reserves much of his ire not only for the clergy, but also politicians. What makes him angry?

12. Which section of The Heart's Invisible Furies engage you more than the others … and why?

(Questions by LitLovers. Please feel free to use them, online or off, with attribution. Thanks.)

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