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The Heart's Invisible Furies: Book Review

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580 pages didn't seem nearly long enough to explore the depth of the blatant bigotry and homophobia of Ireland. I closed the book last night, tears streaming down my face wondering about so many of the characters. What will happen to them? Did he really change? If people can change, why hasn't society? The Heart's Invisible Furies by John Boyne allowed me to explore the dark past of a country that I have always fantasized and examine my own experiences in turn.


I heard Liberty from All The Books podcast rave about this book about a month ago, so when I found it for $15 in my local used bookstore, I knew I had to grab it. She sounded so passionate about her review, and I'm drawn to anything that takes place in Ireland. If I go back far enough down the ancestorial tree, you could say I was Irish (or a very far removed descendant). 

The Heart's Invisible Furies is an eclectic tale of Cyril Avery, who was born out of wedlock to a teenaged girl from the Irish countryside in the 1940's and was adopted into an unconventional family who made it quite clear that he was not a real Avery. Told over the course of 70 years, it depicts the struggles and prejudices Cyril faced as he tried to hide his homosexuality in a time where it was not only considered morally repulsive, but also a crime to be gay. As it weaves together the various players in his life and how their involvement shaped him, the story is one about identity, self-worth and change. 

This book. This book had me laughing out loud at times, and grabbing for the nearest tissue at others. While I knew that the Catholic Church played a very prominent role in Ireland, I don't think I had really considered the extent to which it controlled society until reading this book. 


The Role of Women 

Not only did the church dictate how homosexuals were treated, but also the role of women in society. Women were forced to stay home and work, and it was noted that legally, women were forced into retirement upon marriage. Can we talk about this for a minute? Retirement. Marriage. The fact that it was legally punishable to continue working after becoming wed, which was often quite young, would completely dictate a woman's self-worth. She would be entirely reliant on her spouse to support her, both financially and emotionally as she would be cut off from the experience and comradery that a workplace has to offer. The law was so against women that it was mentioned a husband was let off after murdering his wife because the jury believed she was unfaithful and that warranted his outrageous behaviour. 

     "He doesn't like women who read either. He told me that reading gives women ideas."

There were two very strongwilled characters in this book who I adored: Maude Avery and Catherine Goggin. Both were feminists before their time and refused to stand idly by while they allowed a man to support them, either emotionally or financially. In the cause of Maude, who was a novelist, the characters in her books were depicted as feisty, independent women. When questioned why she only wrote female protagonists, she responded that it was because men wouldn't and someone needed to. Despite her marriage to Charles, Maude continued to bury herself in her novels, and while she actively hated the idea of fame, she believed her messages were important and needed to be told. 

Similarly, after being publically shamed and expelled from the Church, Catherine did what she needed to survive--she lied, saying she was an expectant widow to secure a job to provide for herself. Had it not been for the kindness of the manageress at the tea room, Catherine would have needed to either find someone to marry or start a new life for herself once the child was born. The reoccurrence of the character throughout the book strengthened her position as a strong, independent women, in the way she treated the TD's and politicians and in her personal life. 

The Repugnant Homosexuals 

The main theme of this novel is the hatred of homosexuals in Ireland. They were referred to as "dirty queers", and their actions "disgusting" and "immoral". Men were terrified of being found out, in fear of losing their jobs, families and even their lives. But they also lived in fear of themselves--of who they had to become, however deceitful and mendacious their actions were, and hurting those they were closest too. 

           "But the more I examined the architecture of my life," Cyril said, "the more I realize how     
            fraudulent were its foundations. The belief that I would spend the rest of my time on earth
            lying to people weighed heavily on me and at such times I gave serious consideration to 
            taking my own life." 

Homosexuality was also considered an illness, one that could be cured with some potentially unethical practices. In one scene, it was explained how a doctor would yell out names of popular male figures while the patient listened with his pants down, and upon arousal, the doctor would stab his penis with a syringe to condition the patient to feel pain when he thought of men. They were also considered mentally disordered and deprived of rights (in many cases, the right to live as juries of religious, white men would decide that it was in their best interest that someone had murdered them as it put them out of their misery). 

The (lack of) Evolution of Society 

While the book explores the aforementioned problems over the course of 70 years, it was sad to see how little actually changed in not only Ireland but around the world. During Cyril's time in Amsterdam, there was wide acceptance of gays in the community, and they could walk down the streets, hand in hand, without so much as a comment or disgruntled stare. But the rent boys brought light to the fact many were still being exploited at a young age and were too ashamed to seek help. 

As you begin to think that things are finally looking up for Cyril, he inserts himself in the AIDS epidemic in the late 80's, finding himself living in New York City at the time. People still believed that only gay's could contract the disease, and spewed hatred towards the group wherever they were--having dinners with friends, in the press, and in central park, the scene of a particularly tragic but probably all too real scene in the novel. Gays were considered to be inferior and grotesque, spreading life-threatening diseases from their immoral ways. 

Another common problem in the book was the idea of victim-blaming. Years after Cyril left Ireland, when he attempted to explain his actions to friends and family after his abrupt departure, there were comments along the vain of "why weren't you just honest with me?" People seemed to think that because they lived in a more "enlightened" time now, that his actions during a different time were unwarranted. Yet throughout the book, there is mention of gays being murdered, stripped of all dignity and status for being "out". It wasn't an easy life, hiding your true identity in fear of persecution when gays were handed prison sentences for holding their partner's hand in public! That being said, Cyril did have very difficult choices to make, and the pressure and stress he felt may not have allowed him to make a level-headed decision on such matters. The book really questions whether there is ever the right time to confide in someone, or whether you need an implicit level of trust in those you care about. 

Concluding Thoughts 

The book explored so much and questioned what we as a society want for our people; how we can learn from history to ensure it doesn't repeat itself; how bigoted, old-fashioned beliefs can stifle progress; and so many more concepts that do not just apply to homosexuality, but to women's rights and to the oppression of minority groups. It addresses people's resilience in the face of adversity and the undying strength of humanity. I would 100 per cent recommend this book, and I cannot wait to pick up some others by John Boyne. 

I will leave you with this quote: 

            "I have known bigotry, I've known shame and I've known love. And somehow, I always 
             survive."

xoxo K

Stepping outside of my comfort zone: Fashion edition

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My third outfit picture in a row, and this is by far the most out of my comfort zone. Even walking along Queens Quay I was holding onto the front of this Tobi skirt for dear life hoping I wouldn't flash everyone walking by. But it's a beautiful and flattering skirt, and it was so comfortable to wear. You could easily wear this with a silk cami for a night out, or mock neck for colder days. I choose to wear it with this adorable graphic tee I found for under $10 at Zara and some heeled booties for an "edgier" look, something my lovely photographer brattyb laughed at me for. This is edgy for me, guys! 
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Top: Zara (under $10!) // Skirt: Tobi (sent for review) // Botties: Similar // Watch: Daniel Wellington // Sunnies: Quay

xoxo K

Recently Read: September

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It's time for another reading wrap-up! I read two amazing books this month and a few meh ones, to one I just really didn't like. I'm excited to share my thoughts with you! I'm just going to review the book this month instead of summarizing each book, but I will link them if you want to read more about them.

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reading wrap-up, September read, what I've read, reading, books, reading review, book review, book blogger, toronto blogger

In a Dark, Dark Wood: 4/5

This was the second Ruth Ware book I read, and although I didn't enjoy The Lying Game, I really liked this one. The story was told predominately from the past but would jump forward to her time in the hospital just after the tragedy. It was a closed circuit mystery so there were only a finite number of culprits, which in my opinion, made it more interesting to figure out who it was. I find sometimes when there are too many players involved, the ending is so out of the blue that it ruins the story. The book was fast paced through the middle, but after her brain injury and her inability to recall what happened, it really slowed down. But because of this turn of events, it was interesting to uncover the events along with the main character.

The story focused on the idea of how we second guess ourselves and how the brain can convince us that falsities are true, especially as a coping mechanism in times of trauma. It also focuses on how these ideas of truth and understanding are constantly in flex. Overall, it was a very engaging story but wasn't entirely unpredictable.

Copy Cat: 3/5
I really wasn't a fan of this book. While it had an interesting concept of being stalked and having your life replicated on social media, I found it dragged on far too long and was entirely unrealistic in parts (especially the last third of the book). It questions the idea of sanity in oneself and our ability to trust others in the face of seemingly indisputable evidence. It touches on our sense of security in the age of social media, in light of how much we share, who has access to it and the ease of accessibility of other peoples information. It also brought the ideas of mental illness, including anxiety, suicide, bipolar disorder into the story in a somewhat cliched way. I found the story was too drawn out and bizarre, and wouldn't recommend it.

Today Will be Different: 2/5
I enjoyed (most of) Where'd you go, Bernadette so when I found this book at my used bookstore, I was excited to try it. I found the writing style to be very odd, though, and the characters to be incredibly unlikable. The story was quite jumpy, between the past and present, and because of the main character's bizarre and eccentric thought process, it made the story hard to follow. The character is a lot of ways was similar to Bernadette, and I've heard that all of Maria Temple's stories are very similar. There wasn't anything that I liked about this book--I wasn't compelled to keep reading, I hated the abrupt storyline and the way things came out of the blue and wouldn't recommend this book at all.

How to Stop Time: 4.5/5
I read an article about uplifting literature, and it had this book listed beside Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine, so naturally, I needed to order it. It was an interesting concept, with the main character being hundreds of years old, and it really explored the life lessons that he experienced. It dealt with ideas about choosing your own life, finding love and dealing with loss; in our ability to trust other people, find yourself and discover what you are passionate about. It talked about the enduring love between a mother and her child and between partners and centred around the idea of finding something in life that is worth living and fighting for.

The prose was beautiful in the book, and I found myself reading it well into the night (despite my 5:30 am wake up). That's not to say there weren't problems though. As with many time travel or historical fiction books, the main character seemed to befriend some of the most famous people in history, including Shakespeare and F. Scott Fitzgerald. But I didn't find that the new cliches deterred from the overall story. I think this is a beautifully written book, and I would highly recommend it if you are interested in a unique spin on a contemporary tale.

The Cottingley Secret: 5/5
One of my favourite movies growing up was Fairy Tale: A True Story, which was as the name suggests, is a true story. This book was published for the 100th year anniversary of the first fairy photograph being taken, and while it's not the same as the movie, it is based on the same real-life events and has a very similar theme. It switches perspectives between Frances's memoir of the events between 1917 and 1921, and present-day Ireland, where Olivia finds the story and puts the pieces together regarding her family connection to it.

I absolutely adored this book! There were beautiful prose, humorous elements, and tragedy that played off each other wonderfully. While the primary focus was on the photographic evidence of fairies, the lessons we learned extended far beyond that. It questioned what it means to believe in something, and how belief differs for everyone. It addresses how the idea or belief in something can be more powerful than the truth. And while we may not be able to control the situations we are placed in, we can control our response and write our own stories. It isn't a fantasy book, so don't let the concept of fairies fool you, but if you love contemporary and historical fiction, then this book is a must-read.

The Radleys: 3/5
I honestly don't think I've read a book about vampires since I read Twilight in grade 9, but as this book was the same author as How To Stop Time, I thought I would give it a try. I actually thought this was a YA book, but there were a few awkwardly described sex scenes that lead me to believe it wasn't. It was a silly book about a family of abstaining vampires who got tied up in the murder of a local boy. There were some funny parts, but it was mostly something to keep me distracted on my commute to work. I think if you want a super easy distraction type read, then this book will satisfy that, but there's nothing special about it.

What are you reading in the month of October? I've just started The Heart's Invisible Furies and am loving it so far!

xoxo K

Fall Fashion: Cord Skirts

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Look, guys! More clothes. For this post, I'm wearing an adorable button up corduroy skirt from Tobi. I've loved this style of skirt for years, and while I have a burgundy and purple, I didn't actually own a black one.  I paired it with a striped turtleneck and (mostly) opaque tights, but I would love it with bare legs, running shoes and a graphic sweatshirt as well! It's such an easy piece to wear, versatile piece! 

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Top: similar // Skirt: Tobi (sent for review) (also loving this one)  // Boots: similar here and here // Bag: similar // Sunnies: Quay

Who else is super excited for sweater and tights weather? *raises both hands* 

xoxo K