The Heart’s Invisible Furies is the story of Cyril Avery, a Dubliner. Cyril’s story is told in different times of his life, from his conception to his old age, and in the backdrop, we see the gradual transformation of Ireland. The back cover says this novel is John Boyne’s most ambitious novel yet, and it is easy to see why. It touches upon diverse themes, but the main focus is on the influence of the Catholic Church which was the cornerstone of the Irish culture at the time. This repressive religious influence made Ireland a very conservative nation even after the World War II, however, towards the end of the novel the attitudes of the Irish change for the better.
I will not go into the plot of The Heart’s Invisible Furies. It’s quite long, and I wouldn’t do it justice by trying to summarize it. But it is a story that truly resonated with me. Sri Lanka at the moment is trying to pass a law that would allow rape victims to terminate the pregnancy and the Catholic Church issued a statement against “abortion under any circumstance” because they believe that “all children are born according to God’s will and no one is born outside his will.” This created a public backlash because most Catholic schools in Sri Lanka refrain from enrolling children who are born outside wedlock, and it is the same kind of hypocrisy that was there in the Irish Catholic Church with pastors depicting unwed mothers as wanton women, and demonizing homosexuals instead of showing them compassion and empathy they deserved.
The Heart’s Invisible Furies is a tragic story with a peaceful ending. Cyril is one of the most realistic protagonists I’ve encountered – he makes some deplorable mistakes when he is young, even though not out of malice, but he tries his best to turn things around. His wit certainly carried me through the darkest part of the novel during the late 80s AIDS epidemic in New York and the paranoia that came with it. In the end, The Heart’s Invisible Furies didn’t leave me in tears as The Boy in the Striped Pajamas did, but it moved me all the same, so I highly recommend it.