This was my second reading of this book. I seldom reread a novel, and I can literally count on my one hand how many I have reread and sad to say, I have been disappointed. Yes, I loved the book initially, and yes, I was just checking out that love, keeping it safe and locked into my head and heart as a book I would NEVER forget. But, oftentimes, that second reading was not even close to what the first reading did for me. Not, this time though. My second reading of this phenomenal piece of writing was even better the second time around.
I can’t begin to express my happiness, joy, and besides gushing forth the many reasons why this book will always be counted among my top five books of all times, let me just say, if you haven’t read it, read it. If you haven’t cried tears, you will. If you haven’t laughed out loud while reading, you will. If you have ever needed a book to trigger all those wonderful human emotions, this my dear book friends is the one.
So, I am returning to my original review of this book finished on December 1, 2017.
This was absolutely positively wonderful in all ways a piece of literature can be.
I have thought and thought about this book long after I closed its back cover. It is probably one of the most powerful novels that I have read in quite some time, or maybe even forever!!!
Cyril Avery, the boy grown to manhood in this novel is a wonderful character. He epitomizes what it was like growing up a bastard in Ireland where his young unmarried mother is defamed by the parish priest, thrown out of her parents household, and cast adrift being pregnant, unloved, and unwanted. The only thing she can do is give her infant son up for adoption. So Cyril winds up the adoptive son of the Averys, a couple of non feeling, non conforming adults who while not abusing Cyril physically deny him any sort of emotional support always reminding him he is not an Avery. Yes, Cyril survives. He possess a wit and a look at life that while not carefree is certainly one in which he just seems to roll along. As a child he meets his best friend for life, Julian Woodbead, and their paths cross and converge as they grow to adulthood.
Cyril, not Cecil, knows he is different. Not understanding the how or the why he finds himself constantly drawn to Julian, who by this time is a major Lothario, never passing up a romp with anyone in a skirt and basically is unaware of the love that seems to be within Cyril for him. Holding his feelings for Julian inside for many years, finally confessing his feelings, he loses Julian. Cyril does eventually recognize his homosexuality and after countless back alley encounters he meet Bastiaan, a doctor, and they enter into a reciprocal love filled relationship.
This novel covers a large time span in Ireland from 1945 until 2015, moving through various locales, following the attitudes towards homosexuals in Dublin, Amsterdam and New York. We see the hypocrisy of the Catholic Church and its stranglehold on the people of Ireland. The book opens with the telling sentence that defines the church “Long before we had discovered he fathered two children by two different women, Father James Monroe stood on the altar of the Church of Our Lady, Star of the Sea, in the parish of Goleen, West Cork, and denounced my mother as a whore.” We follow the struggles of Cyril as he takes us through his life making us cry with him, laugh with him, share his rage, and ultimately embrace him as a character we wish we could know and befriend.
This is an ambitious novel, over six hundred pages, but it is relevant in so many ways. Forgiveness, love, acceptance, eventually move through Cyril as well as moving through his native land. Cyril follows his destiny forward through a life beset with not knowing where he fits in. We, as his companions travel the road with him. I highly recommend this book to all those who love literature that moves one through a gauntlet of emotions and makes the reader feel grateful for having read such a book as this.
So thank you John Boyne for creating this book, these characters, and a journey that I will remember always.
And thanks to my two book buddies that read this book along with me!
and here’s the author:
John Boyne is a contemporary Irish Novelist. He writes novels for both adult and young audience and is famous for writing the acclaimed children’s book, entitled The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas
John Boyne was born 30 April 1971. He is the author of eleven novels for adults and five novels for younger readers. His novels are published in over 50 languages. He has received countless awards during his writing career.
Adult novels : 2000: The Thief of Time (Weidenfeld & Nicolson) 2001: The Congress of Rough Riders (Weidenfeld & Nicolson) 2004: Crippen (Penguin) 2006: Next of Kin (Penguin) 2008: Mutiny on the Bounty (Doubleday) 2009: The House of Special Purpose (Doubleday) 2011: The Absolutist (Doubleday) 2013: This House Is Haunted (Doubleday) 2014: A History of Loneliness (Doubleday) 2017: The Heart’s Invisible Furies (Doubleday) 2018: A Ladder To The Sky (Doubleday)
- 2006: The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas (David Fickling Books)
- 2010: Noah Barleywater Runs Away (David Fickling Books)
- 2012: The Terrible Thing That Happened To Barnaby Brocket (Doubleday Children’s)
- 2013: Stay Where You Are And Then Leave (Doubleday Children’s)
- 2015: The Boy at the Top of the Mountain (Doubleday Children’s)