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 (Hogarth) 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’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 his 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.

The Heart’s Invisible Furies is available for purchase.

Photo credit: Rich Gilligan

About John Boyne:

John Boyne was born in Ireland in 1971. He is the author of eleven novels for adults, five for younger readers and a collection of short stories. His 2006 novel The Boy In the Striped Pajamas sold 9 million copies worldwide and has been adapted for cinema, theatre, ballet and opera. John has won three Irish Book Awards and many other international literary awards and his novels are published in over 50 languages. He lives in Dublin.