The Struggles and Joys of an Irishman’s Life Unfold in The Heart’s Invisible Furies by John Boyne

The Heart's Invisible Furies

My Review:

There some epic novels that are ideal to tackle when you can devote a big chunk of time, and this winter could be just the time to make the commitment. Sinking your teeth into a long, well written novel and feeling all the feels is a perfect way to spend a weekend, or a month… during a pandemic.

Recently I read The Heart’s Invisible Furies by John Boyne, published in 2017, and if you missed this one, now is the time to get immersed! Vastly different from his bestseller, The Boy in the Striped Pajamas (also a wonderful read about a WWII commandant’s son and his friendship with a Jewish boy in a concentration camp), in this novel, Boyne introduces us to a struggling young Irishman, Cyril Avery. We follow Cyril throughout his life, written in seven year increments, as he grapples with his identity and is faced with struggles along the way. Similar to Boyne himself, Cyril is gay and grows up in Ireland where the Catholic Church deems homosexuality a crime. Adopted by parents who adequately provide for him minus the loving relationship, Cyril longs for what he believes is a normal existence, including a wife.

Boyne’s masterful storytelling, laced with a sense of humor, is engaging as he leads us on a journey of epic proportions. Cyril Avery’s life is influenced by his unusual upbringing, the political environment, the church and its rules on sexuality and the reality of AIDs. His search for sense of self takes us all on his personal journey peppered with love, loss, violence, tragedy and joy. Combined with colorful characters, the evolution of Ireland, and some underlying commentary on being a writer, this novel is one of my favorites to date.

More Epic Novels

Along with The Heart’s Invisible Furies by John Boyne, here are a few more sweeping, intense, epic, must read novels to tackle this winter.

A Gentleman In Moscow by Amor Towles (Book Nation by Jen Review)

A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara

Pachinko by Min Jin Lee (Book Nation by Jen Review)

This Tender Land by William Kent Krueger (Book Nation by Jen Review)

Goodreads Summary

About John Boyne:

I was born in Dublin, Ireland, and studied English Literature at Trinity College, Dublin, and Creative Writing at the University of East Anglia, Norwich.

I’ve published 12 novels for adults, a short story collection and 6 novels for younger readers, including The Boy In The Striped Pyjamas which was a New York Times no.1 Bestseller and was adapted for a feature film, a play, a ballet and an opera, selling around 10 million copies worldwide. Among my most popular books are The Heart’s Invisible Furies, A Ladder to the Sky and My Brother’s Name is Jessica.

I’m also a regular book reviewer for The Irish Times.

In 2012, I was awarded the Hennessy Literary ‘Hall of Fame’ Award for my body of work. I’ve also won 3 Irish Book Awards, and many international literary awards, including the Que Leer Award for Novel of the Year in Spain and the Gustav Heinemann Peace Prize in Germany. In 2015, I was awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Letters from the University of East Anglia.

My novels are published in over 50 languages.

My latest novel, A TRAVELLER AT THE GATES OF WISDOM, was published in July 2020.


  • 2000: The Thief of Time
  • 2001: The Congress of Rough Riders
  • 2004: Crippen
  • 2006: Next of Kin
  • 2008: Mutiny on the Bounty
  • 2009: The House of Special Purpose
  • 2011: The Absolutist
  • 2013: This House is Haunted
  • 2014: A History of Loneliness
  • 2017: The Heart’s Invisible Furies
  • 2018: A Ladder to the Sky
  • 2020: A Traveller at the Gates of Wisdom

Novels for Younger Readers:

  • 2006: The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas
  • 2010: Noah Barleywater Runs Away
  • 2012: The Terrible Thing that Happened to Barnaby Brocket
  • 2013: Stay Where You Are and Then Leave
  • 2015: The Boy at the Top of the Mountain
  • 2019: My Brother’s Name is Jessica

Short Story Collections:

  • 2015: Beneath the Earth
Book Nation by Jen


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