I’ve always wanted to visit Ireland, but definitely not the Ireland in this book. The Heart’s Invisible Furies tells the story of post-World War II Ireland, a country culturally under the thumb of an oppressive Catholic Church. Most of my understanding of the legal impact of Catholicism in Ireland was in relation to abortion rights (or lack thereof) and horrifying institutions for unwed mothers, so it makes sense that it would be an equally horrible, horrible place to be gay. And oh boy.
So this is the story of Cyril Avery. Adopted as a baby by well-to-do and very cold parents, he realizes from a fairly young age that he is gay and what that will mean for him throughout his life. The book follows him from Dublin to Amsterdam to New York and back again, each section pinning down a few weeks of his life before the timeline leaps up forward again. I don’t mind it as a story-telling device, it helped move things along. The early Dublin sections are far and away the hardest, and if you can make it through those, the rest of the book is worth it.
Cyril is a deeply flawed character in ways you, the reader, cannot help but empathize with. He was in an impossible situation. Did he royally fuck up big time? Oh yeah. Was every choice he made painful if understandable? Yup again. Did his bad situation hurt other people in ways that maybe didn’t have to happen? Also yes. Do you hate him for it? … maybe not.
I’m being deliberately vague because this book is best left to unfold on its own. There are a wealth of beautifully drawn characters inside (Alice being one of my favorites) and while I did struggle through the first half, I am ultimately very glad I read it.
Bingo Square: Dream Vacation