The Heart’s Invisible Furies

John Boyne ( was born in Dublin, where he still lives. His first short story was published by the Sunday Tribune and in 1993 was shortlisted for a Hennessy Literary Award. A graduate of Trinity College Dublin, he was awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Letters from the University of East Anglia. He has chaired the jury for the 2015 Scotiabank Giller Prize.


The Heart’s Invisible Furies is Boyne’s 10th novel for adults – and a deeply personal one. The author and his protagonist Cyril Avery share the experience of growing up gay in Catholic Church-dominated Ireland, where homosexuality was a criminal offence as recently as the early 1990s, when Boyne was in university. Things have changed over Boyne’s lifetime; gay marriage was approved in an Irish referendum in 2015 (when the novel’s epilogue is set). But for Cyril, this progress comes late in life.



The story begins in tiny Goleen, where Catherine Goggin is publicly shamed by the parish priest for her condition of being pregnant and unmarried. On the bus to the big city, Catherine (Kitty) meets a nice young man, who is going to be sharing a room in Dublin with a boy from his hometown. Concerned, he invites her to crash with them until she can find a job and a place of her own.


The novel is told in seven-year increments; after the first section, we leave Kitty to focus on Cyril, now a seven-year-old adopted as a newborn into a wealthy family. He has all the creature comforts a boy could want, but is deprived of the most important comfort – loving parents. His parents always refer to him as their adopted son and insist that he call them by their first names, Charles and Maude. Cyril grows into adulthood completely closeted, relying on brisk, anonymous sexual liaisons in the night, but he desperately wants to achieve what he has been socialized to believe is a normal life – which means marriage to a woman. He will ultimately find true love, but not without consequences.


This novel’s most successful moments come when Boyne is less jokey and paints a realistic picture of tender connections and difficult circumstances. Among much else it portrays Dublin through Cyril’s eyes as ‘a city I loved at the heart of a country I loathed. A town filled with good hearted innocents, miserable bigots, adulterous husbands, conniving churchmen, paupers who received no help from the State, and millionaires who sucked the lifeblood from it’. A novel, perhaps, to cherish before your next visit to the Emerald Isle?


Check if this sprawling new contemporary novel on Ireland is in stock at your local library by consulting the online catalogue at



720 pages in Black Swan

First published 2017

ISBN  978-1784161002


John Boyne

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