Monday, June 12, 2017

John Boyne's "The Heart's Invisible Furies": Book Review



Hearts Invisible Furies von John Boyne. Bücher | Orell Füssli


I liked John Boyne's depiction of two priests in the Ireland changing over the past fifty years, "The History of Loneliness." A few years later, Boyne returns to his native island, with a much longer and ambitious portrayal of another man who over the past seven decades has witnessed, and been a part of, the massive social changes there. The boy raised as Cyril Avery tells his coming-of-age saga from his mother's conception of him in 1945 up to 2015. The narrator's voice also tells part of his birth mother's predicament. The two lives intertwine and separate, in a vividly told tone.

"The Heart's Invisible Furies" in its blurbs sounds cliched: redemptive power of the human spirit, you laugh and cry, beloved author. However, I am pleased to report that beyond the boilerplate, the praise is merited. Boyne's an author aiming at the popular audience which was disdained by Cyril's "adoptive mother" (read yourself to find out why this phrase is so stressed) as a novelist herself. But he integrates period detail, character studies, and social commentary adroitly. It's clear that beneath the accessible storyline and snappy pace, that Boyne's ear and eye craft a careful fiction.

A fiction not too far from fact, certainly, in the clerically dominated Ireland that looms over this as his previous theme in his earlier novel. Boyne does not offer facile stereotypes, but he delights via some of his restive Irish men and women to challenge the dead grip over the generations. While the opening scene led me to wonder if he'd lay it on too thick, as the plot develops, and as it twists and turns, nuance enriches the telling.

Sexuality, and those seen as aberrant in this period, gains too Boyne's careful depiction in the protagonist. I will not divulge any developments. Suffice hear to say that Boyne presents a thoughtful, entertaining, and believable voice through which to tell the stories of son and mother.

And many more. One favorite scene a third of the way in features Brendan Behan in a great cameo. The conversation, or what the Irish cal the "craic" snaps, crackles and pops in this as in many chapters. Boyne does indeed make one smile and wince, and with grand figures such as his "adoptive parents," the louche Charles and the aloof Maude to set off our picaresque hero into modern Ireland, you see how his formative years go.

Finally, the prose does not call much attention to itself, as the talent Boyne has is put into the narrative in modest but well-earned application. Yet a few phrases do linger. I could "devour a small Protestant" says one friend to another after a long journey by bus from the far-off hamlets of West Cork. In their destination of Dublin, the Liffey runs "determined" to slough off its brown waste as it hastens seaward. Praise is given as convincingly by one to another akin to a Parisian lauding a meal in "Central London." This is recommended, as both engaging and provocative.

While the contexts of "unwed mothers" and their offspring have, like the clerical abuse coverage, gained much by journalists and filmmakers of late, depictions in popular fiction not of the crime genre, aimed at a wider readership, but not sensationally, gain depth by Boyne's careful efforts. (ARC review; Amazon US 6-11-17)




No comments: