Boyne’s sombre 2014 novel A History of Loneliness anatomised such corruption and abuse, and he returns to track these seismic changes in Irish society with a broader, bawdier and more comedic sweep of narrative in The Heart’s Invisible Furies. Historical figures mingle with fictional ones, words are put into mouths, gossip simmers and reputations shudder crazily ... The narrative energy flags somewhat as Cyril’s story approaches the present day. Boyne’s fictional portrait of postwar Ireland and its people is nightmarish but utterly compelling. While the 21st century may be a much better place to live, it doesn’t seem to charge Boyne’s imagination with the same force. The Irish people vote in favour of gay marriage in a referendum. Some of the ghosts of the past are appeased, but it is the sorrows of those ghosts that dominate the novel and cannot be woven into a fabric of restitution or hope. Boyne’s enraged vision is his great strength in The Heart’s Invisible Furies. The appalling comedy of Cyril’s childhood and youth, the vigour, the mess, the stir and life and horror of it all form the heart of a substantial achievement.
Cyril, who narrates the book, is wry, observant and funny, and it is his voice that gets us through what are sometimes horrific events. The book’s main theme is the Catholic church — its hypocrisy and its power over people’s lives in post-World War II Ireland. That Boyne tackles such a serious issue with great storytelling and humor is to his immense credit; much of the book is very, very funny. And much of it is tragic ... After Cyril emigrates, about midway through the novel, the tone shifts. The book becomes more serious, a bit didactic, and some conversations and situations seem less integral to the story and exist more as examples of social wrongs and individual cluelessness ... Despite these missteps, the book never really flags, and Cyril’s intelligent, witty voice takes us all the way through to the end of his life. The Heart’s Invisible Furies is a brilliant, moving history of an Irishman, and of modern Ireland itself.
There are two major achievements in the book: With intricate narrative precision, The Heart’s Invisible Furies cuts to the heart of what family is, how it is chosen, and how it endures. And it is charming and funny, even as it dives down from the precipice of endearing humor into the very specific ironies and cruelties of real life ... His characters are cinematically rendered, with a deft, decadent wit that will make you laugh aloud at least once. Searing heartbreak; loneliness; a quest for internal and external redemption, solace, and contentment are all there in The Heart’s Invisible Furies ... It is the most affecting, beautiful, and memorable novel I have read in some time, transporting me into worlds as dreadful as some are delightful.
Spanning seven decades, from 1945 to 2015, the door stopper of a book checks every box when it comes to literary themes: a young protagonist’s coming of age, Great Love found and lost, hard-won triumph over prejudice, and so on … Cinematic and commercial, The Heart’s Invisible Furies makes for entertaining reading...But perhaps the most sincere and powerful emotion in the book — and what elicits the book’s truest reward — is rage. Boyne’s takedown of the church — its intolerance, hypocrisy and deceit — resonates throughout, as does his anger at his country’s hatred of ‘Nancy-boys’ and condemnation of homosexuality.
The narrative exclusively focuses on Cyril, meaning that while his interior and exterior struggles are beautifully detailed, the book doesn’t veer far from the perspective of a privileged gay man who can move to more accepting communities when necessary. And due to The Heart’s Invisible Furies’ expansive timeline, Cyril’s personal growth makes him a fascinating—if frustrating—protagonist, capable of both incredibly selfish and remarkably compassionate acts ... Boyne writes scenes that will make a reader laugh and cry—without saccharine sentiment or flippancy. Infused with heart and humor, as well as a keen sense of man’s capacity for cruelty, The Heart’s Invisible Furies pulsates with life’s complexity and progress’ slow march.
I can’t recall in recent years a more ambitious gay novel with such historical scope as John Boyne’s The Heart’s Invisible Furies … With a nod toward the greats of Irish and British literature, Boyne fashions The Heart’s Invisible Furies—which is sometimes picaresque and sometimes a novel of manners—against a panorama of gay cultural history … In essence, this is a bold, exhaustive novel which leads no stone unturned, no dramatic scenario untried, no characters unscathed, no ‘prisoners’ untaken. But Boyne is perhaps too ambitious for his own good: the novel is less certain if it is a realistic historical novel, a barbed satire, a comedy of errors or strict melodrama.
...the most inviting and completely spellbinding book this author has ever written, surpassing his bestselling The Boy in the Striped Pajamas for spear-tip pathos, surpassing his immensely powerful The Absolutist for its historical vividness, and surpassing 2014's A History of Loneliness for its X-ray-accurate Irishness. And The Heart's Invisible Furies is also funny: Despite the darkness of its various time periods and subject matters, it's shot through with a drab, cutting humor that could have stepped unchanged out of the pages of Flann O'Brien. The combination can be disorienting, and this is clearly a big part of the author's goal; there are many scenes in this book that are simultaneously hilarious and heartbreaking.
It’s dire stuff, well warranted, and in the hands of Salman Rushdie or António Lobo Antunes, it might have been a powerful book. Revenge on a nation that hurt you is best served cold, but Boyne here is a hot mess, unable to get past the lather of personal affront, and the result is a caricature, a satire without the laughs, villains without humanity, heroes whose primary quality is merely that they are the only fully drawn characters in the book.
[Ireland] has evolved from an often hateful hierocracy to a seat of social liberalism. Of this evolution, John Boyne’s new novel is an essential witness ... More than a coming-of-age story, The Heart’s Invisible Furies is one man’s journey from persecution to toleration. Punctuated with simple dialogue, its nearly 600 pages betray Maude’s dictum that 'brevity is the key.' But the novel seldom lags and often delights.
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. A vividly realized theme in the novel is the inhumane treatment of homosexuals in Ireland, largely at the behest of the Roman Catholic Church. Accordingly, the fear of being outed will cause Cyril to make some life-changing mistakes that, in context, are altogether plausible. Often quite funny, the story nevertheless has its sadness, sometimes approaching tragedy. Utterly captivating and not to be missed.
Having taken on the church’s sexual abuse of children in his previous novel, Boyne continues his crusading ways with the quiet keening of this painful, affecting novel ... A dark novel marred by occasional melodrama but lightened by often hilarious dialogue.
With evocative descriptions of each city and fateful plot turns that twist the narrative in surprising ways, Boyne adroitly captures Cyril’s shifting identity as he grapples with nationality, class, and sexuality. 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.