John Boyne, the acclaimed author of The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas, celebrated the launch of his new book with a Q&A and a book signing at the University of Liverpool this week.
The Heart’s Invisible Furies focusses on the life of Irishman Cyril Avery. Born to an unmarried teen mother from West Cork, he is adopted by an eccentric couple from Dublin. From an early age, Cyril is conscious of his sexuality, and this plays an integral part in the novel when his attachment to close friend Julian alienates him from society.
The book is a compelling account of modern Irish history told from Cyril’s own perspective, containing ideas of the culture of Catholicism in Ireland and the struggle for LGBTQ+ rights; homosexuality was, after all, only decriminalised in Ireland in the late 1990s. It is not, however, an overly-politicised novel. Boyne was unwilling to portray Cyril as a victim, and instead pursues these issues with lighthearted comedy.
Sexuality is an aspect close to Boyne’s own heart as a member of the LGBTQ+ community. One of the earliest chapters of the novel displays an isolated Cyril, in both physical and mental capacities. His fascination with friend Julian and his somewhat dysfunctional relationship with his adoptive parents provide ample potential for comedy.
In the question and answer segment of the evening, Boyne revealed that his favourite character in the novel was female novelist Maude, who only appears in a single chapter. He enjoyed playing around with her dialogue, which he said became steadily more ludicrous as time went on, adding that her character provided an important feminist angle to the work.
Boyne also revealed aspects of his personal writing process: he finds he rarely plans his plots, but lets them unfold on their own in an intense first drafting period – he gave specific reference to having written the draft of The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas in only two days. The effect this particular novel has had on his career is undeniable, allowing him the freedom to devote his time entirely to writing his subsequent novels. Interestingly, Boyne himself admitted The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas is likely to be what he will be remembered for after his death – but he appeared not to mind, considering he would rather have one major success to attract readers to his work than none at all.
The Heart’s Invisible Furies was released on 9th February and can be found on Amazon in hardback, paperback, and Kindle form, or alternatively at Blackwell’s bookshop on campus.