How Do I Find New Books?

As I’ve said before I’m a voracious reader, and really can’t do without a good book in hand. I’m apt to read and listen to classical music at night rather than watch TV — I keep scaling back my cable package because there’s so little on that I really want to watch.

I used to find new books by browsing in the library or in bookstores, where I often spent happy hours looking on the “new fiction” and “new non-fiction” and “recommended” tables. Now, I get recommendations from friends. And, I get recommendations from the Amazon algorithm, which is often surprisingly accurate. Surely because I’ve read all of Tana French’s Dublin mysteries on Kindle, Amazon recommended The Heart’s Invisible Furies, by John Boyne. I looked up various reviews of the book, and placed my Kindle order. For anyone remotely interested in things Irish, it’s an outstanding novel.

The book traces the life of a gay Irish man born out of wedlock in  1945, an era when Irish priests ruled and meted out cruel, harsh, and abusive treatment to women — often while secretly fathering children out of wedlock themselves. Families stood in numb silence while their young pregnant daughters were denounced from the pulpit as whores and driven from their homes and villages with only the clothes on their backs. The church was equally harsh to gay men and women, again despite the frequent presence of gay men among the Irish priesthood.

If you’ve seen films like The Magdalen Sisters [2002] or the more recent Philomena [2013], you’ll not be a stranger to this era.

Cyril Avery, adopted by an oddly cold couple who remind him frequently that he is “not a real Avery” lives in Dublin, Amsterdam, New York, and finally Dublin again when he himself is an old man. He’s a well-developed character, as are the people who cycle in and out of his life. There’s violence to his story, tenderness, human vulnerability — and hilarious scenes like the one in which he confesses his homosexuality to an aging Irish priest, and the old man is so revolted he staggers out of the priest’s cubicle in the center of the confessional and drops dead in the side aisle of the church.

Boyne is a fine novelist. Sometimes long reads wander — this one doesn’t. I couldn’t put it down. Even if Irish isn’t your personal heritage, if you like a good read, you’ll like this one a lot.

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