The Heart’s Invisible Furies, John Boyne

By Gillian Golborne


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 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.


One of the most enjoyable and emotional books I have read in a long time.  A powerful narrative which drew me in from the first pages.  Cyril Avery “not a real Avery” comes to terms with himself over his lifetime.

It starts in Ireland where he spends his childhood with unconventional adoptive parents, his first love, his deep friendship with Julian and the incredibly difficult life as a gay man in Ireland in the 1960s.

Bruised and battered, he moves on to Amsterdam where he meets the love of his life.  But all is not calm there and they move on to NYC where he is involved with caring for AIDS patients.  He eventually returns to Ireland which he still sees as his home, even though it was never kind to him.

The story manages to weave connections between colourful characters in his life. They stay with you, long after you leave the book.  The book manages to be funny, sad and distressing. It is an emotional giant of a roller coaster.

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