On Thursday 16th, I had the privilege of going to a book launch for John Boyne’s latest book, The Heart’s Invisible Furies. John Boyne is an Irish novelist and is the guy behind the amazing book, The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas.
Essentially, The Heart’s Invisible Furies is centred on a character called Cyril Avery, born to a teen mum from rural Ireland, who spends his life finding his identity. It is a narrative of Ireland over the last few decades, from the 1940s onwards. Interestingly, it also deals with issues regarding the LGBT community, and the particular difficulty of being part of it in traditional Ireland.
Boyne had a lot of things to say about the writing of this book, many of which I found really interesting, particularly with an Irish background of my own. (I’m English, but of Irish descent.) He said that up until relatively recently in his career, he’d avoided writing about Ireland. The reason behind this he could not quite identify, previously having attributed it to a simple lack of any stories to tell about it; yet, he has since thought that he may have been avoiding the topic out of apprehension.
The church plays a part in the new book, as can only be expected in a story set in Ireland from the 1940s onwards, and Boyne said he actually grew up with a priest to one side, and nuns on the other – a likely influence on the content of the novel. As such, he also grew up terrified of admitting he himself was gay. What would it have meant for his life? he pondered. It wasn’t until the 1990s that it became somewhat more acceptable, finally being decriminalised in Ireland.
In terms of Boyne’s writing method, I was very intrigued to find out that he doesn’t plan his plots. Boyne prefers to sit for an intensive first-drafting period, letting the plot unfold on its own, and then redrafting to create a more fluent work. The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas, after all, was first drafted in only two days. I found this differs entirely from what I’ve developed as my own method, which seems far more erratic in comparison!
All in all, it was a really good experience. I even got my book signed by him, which was fun. Unfortunately I haven’t read the book yet, and likely won’t be able to for a little while yet – my degree is an intensely reading-heavy one, so sometimes there simply aren’t enough hours in the day… But I’m going to try to read it in April, when I go home for three weeks. One thing’s for sure though, it seems like a great read, and Boyne did actually read a couple of passages from the book at the launch, and it definitely sounded humorous.