Review published on January 21, 2018.
This is not only the best book I read in 2017, it may very well be my favourite book of this decade. Irish author John Boyne has managed to pull together absolutely everything I look for in a book and sustained this throughout its 700+ pages. Main character Cyril Avery relates how his pregnant mother was denounced as a whore by the parish priest in the midst of the Mass, leading her to flee her village and deal with Cyril’s impending arrival in a Dublin where being a single mother with child was not a good option for survival. The infant Cyril is moved on and this is the tale of his life.
Structurally it is first class, there is an epic sweep as it spans from 1945 to the present day. Characterisation is superb. Anyone, like me, looking for characters to emotionally respond to will find it here not just with the main characters but with a marvellously drawn supporting cast which creates a novel of depth and feeling. I also like a book which is going to make me laugh, as so few do, and even fewer do so consistently. I laughed throughout, even during some of the bleaker moments of Cyril’s life whilst my eyes were also misting with tears.
Central to the novel is Cyril’s struggles with his sexuality. The novel explores this life-long battle dominated by the repression of mid-twentieth century Ireland. There are few novels I have read that have ever examined such themes as well and as convincingly as this does.
I knew nothing about this book when I started it which heightened the experience and made the unpredictable turn of events throughout an absolute joy. I did spot that Rachel Joyce had enthused on the cover “Invest in this journey because it will pay you back forever” and I can’t remember agreeing with on-cover blurb more. It is a perfect reading group choice.
Phil Ramage 5/5
The Heart’s Invisible Furies by John Boyne
Black Swan 9781784161002 pbk Dec 2017
Gnomon by Nick Harkaway
SECOND OPINION: Last Christmas in Paris by Hazel Gaynor and Heather Webb
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