I found out almost three fourth into this book, that the title of the book is from a line that German-American political theorist said about the poet Auden,
That life had manifested the heart’s invisible furies on his face
So, a friend I made via Goodreads, who has now become a dear friend, reached out to me for a book exchange idea. We decided to send each other a copy of one of the best book we had read this year. I sent her A Gentleman in Moscow and she sent me, The Heart’s Invisible Furies. I received the book almost around my Birthday last month, and now that I have finally read it, I think this was one of my best birthday presents! Thank you so much, Kim!!
The book is 575 pages long, but don’t let that deter you. Because it reads like a biography. Oh, but what a story. What a heart warming, heart wrenching, funny, tragic, story John Boyne writes. This is the story of Cyril Avery, who is adopted and then the trial and tribulations of his life starting from when he is an eleven year old boy, to nearly the end of his life. This is the story about love and hate, about fears and strengths, about what family really is.
John Boyne’s style of writing was quite refreshing to me, since I haven’t read any of his other books. He was talking about all this tragedy, and yet, I felt there was this sense of underlying humour in the way he narrates what the protagonist feels through all his hardships and tragedies. The tragedies are profound, like death. And yet, I was smiling while reading about it. I was appalled at myself, that I was smiling at this awful moment in Cyril’s life. I felt like I was reading a diary entry that I would’ve written, because that is the way I deal with the tragedies or the difficulties in my life. I make fun of them. I talk about them so lightly, that to a third person listening to me, it gets confusing whether they should be feeling sorry for me, or laughing with me, at this unfortunate turn of events.
It is only towards the last few chapters, that you find a sort of a happy ending for our Cyril. The banter and the conversations are really funny, especially the ones between Cyril and his wife Alice, and Cyril and his mother Catherine. I was laughing out loud at all those conversations. My favourite character in the whole book however was Catherine Goggin- I just loved her spirit and steadfastness throughout the book, although she makes small and fleeting appearances in the storyline.
I liked this one statement, that I felt summarised the message behind the way the author made Cyril deal with his heart’s invisible furies, which is said by Bastiaan’s father in the one scene that he has in the book,
We all fall in the shit many times during our lives. The trick is pulling ourselves out again.
The story also makes us think at how we are changing or evolving with respect to our prejudices and ignorance, and oh there are so many. Ranging from caste, race, colour, social status, gender, homophobia, ignorance about diseases such as AIDS- the list is long but shows our fear and dislike of anything that is in the minority, or that is different from what the herd follows or does. From what Cyril has to endure to the positive changes that give the freedom of choice to his grandchildren, that he didn’t get a chance to have, the author shows that it took Ireland almost seven decades to come to that turning point. I know India also just recently made some changes in its legislations. But I also know we still have a long way to go, especially when it comes to educating people about the differences. Differences should be embraced, not rejected or condemned or be feared. Differences are what have made us survive this long as a species.
I absolutely loved this book and would highly recommend it. This book will teach you about history, Ireland, family, values. It will make you smile at the wrong moments, cry at the right moments and laugh out loud. It will make you think and that is the best thing about any book- if it has the power to make you stop, and think.