If you, like me were brought up in Ireland, then this novel will resonate. As a convent girl for all of my education, the Catholic church has played an often deeply flawed part in many lives.
John Boyne’s brilliant novel begins in a church where Catherine Goggins is being cast out for being pregnant and unmarried, by a priest who, it transpires, has fathered two children himself. She flees from Cork to Dublin to begin a new life and thus this picaresque odyssey begins. Our hero, Cyril, is the result of Catherine’s pregnancy and it’s his story that we follow from post war Ireland to Amsterdam and through the sixties, seventies and eighties to 2015 when the the power of the church dissolves in scandal and shame.
Historical figures mingle with fictional ones, words are put into mouths, and politicians and authors from Charlie Haughey and Eamonn de Valera to Brendan Behan make appearances. Cyril knows he is gay in a society that hates his sexuality and through the pages of this book will take decades to unlearn a history of crippling guilt and shame.
The Heart’s Invisible Furies is funny, tragic and deeply upsetting in places and Boyne’s rage against the church is evident throughout but it’s an absolute winner – give it a go.