I love books and I try to be open-minded about all types and genres. However, I feel great dread whenever I approach some Literary Irish Fiction.
Modern-day Literary Irish Fiction novels are nearly all the same — a small-town hero(ine), more sensitive and liberal than the neighbours, defies community, church and state, and confronts their family’s deep, dark, hidden secret.
John Boyne’s new novel, The Heart’s Invisible Furies, ticks these boxes and adds a few of the more modern ones from recent Irish fiction— criminalised homosexuality, emigration, financial crime, World Cup mania. However, despite sporting these well-worn threads it’s an enjoyable story told with great energy, and one which kicks away the dubious comfort blanket of misery-lit. (Even the World Cup game featured is one that Ireland actually won.)
Bad stuff happens to Boyne’s central characters, Catherine and Cyril, but on occasion they’re also liable to bring bad stuff down upon themselves. Their choices and their natures can be just as calamitous as any external forces.
This insight comes quite late in the novel, though, so for the most part we’re following two nearly-heroic characters through all the adversity that mid-20th century Official Ireland can throw at them. At times the characters seem to serve the themes rather than the plot — a brief appearance by Charles Haughey and then a later one by a Minister for Finance feel contrived to make a point rather than arising from any need in the story.
Still, though, there are enough entertaining set-pieces and sincere insights throughout The Heart’s Invisible Furies to make it a satisfying read.