Hello readers! It’s been a great reading week, if not in quantity, then in quality. I read what I think is my favorite book of the year so far! Here’s a look at what I’ve been reading:
The Heart’s Invisible Furies by John Boyne
I have to start off by saying that this is the best book I have read so far in 2017. Boyne is the author of The Boy in the Striped Pajamas, which incidentally if you haven’t read that book, you should! This one is relatively long one, at 580 pages; a book that you don’t want to rush through, and are sorry when you’re finished with it. The book tells the story of Cyril Avery’s life in Ireland, from the circumstances of his birth in 1945, to the end of his life in 2015. Each chapter jumps ahead seven years from the chapter before, which I have mixed feelings about. On one hand, as I read I wanted more details about the years in between each chapter; on the other hand, that would have made for a very, very long book!
Cyril does not have an easy life. Given up for adoption as an infant, he is raised by a strange and distant couple who constantly remind him that he’s “not a real Avery”. Realizing as a teen that he’s gay, Cyril has to navigate his young adult years in a country where being a homosexual in the 1950’s is an actual crime. Eventually forced to leave Ireland so that he can life a life as his true self, he spends decades away from a country that, in spite of its prejudices, he still loves and considers home.
As we follow Cyril’s life through the story, we see world events through his eyes as he experiences them. From the aftermath of World War II, to the AIDS epidemic, September 11th, and the legalization of gay marriage in Ireland, we see Cyril having to navigate a rapidly changing and sometimes cruel world. As I read, I found myself rooting for him to find love, to find family, and to find himself.
I have heard this book compared to The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood, and I do agree that it has the same tone and feeling to it. In both books, women narrate their experiences in a patriarchal society, sometime in the not-too-distant future. In this book, however, the point of view belongs to a group of young girls, each one narrating their story in alternating chapters.
The girls with their families live on an unnamed island, cut off from the rest of the world, which they are told is a place of suffering, constant fire, and danger. Right off the bat, you can tell that there is something wrong with the island society, many things in fact. What the girls perceive as normal family life is to the reader a perverse and horrible childhood, adolescence, and adult life for these women. Soon a few of the girls start to question what they’ve been told about the outside world, as well as the traditions of the island. As the men try to stifle the girls’ curiosity in increasingly violent ways, the book heads towards an all out revolt by the girls.
The other way that I think this book compares to The Handmaid’s tale is it’s ending. You are left with a feeling of hope, but without really knowing what’s going to happen to the characters. This is Jennifer Melamed’s debut novel and I will gladly read whatever she puts out next. Trigger warning: this book contains child abuse and sexual abuse.
That’s it for this week. Next week, I’ll be reading the latest Louise Penny mystery, Glass Houses, which comes out today, and for which I’m very excited. I can’t wait to tell you all about it next week – Happy Reading!