John Boyne describes ‘one of those long dark nights of the soul’ after break-up

Novelist reveals he ended up in hospital after taking too many pills

Writer John Boyne pictured in his Rathfarnham home in February. File photograph: Alan Betson

Writer John Boyne pictured in his Rathfarnham home in February. File photograph: Alan Betson


Novelist John Boyne has spoken of “one of those long dark nights of the soul” when he ended up in hospital having taken too many pills after the break up of his 11-year relationship.

He said it was a Friday night and he had discovered that his former husband was seeing somebody else. He told RTÉ’s Brendan O’Connor in an interview on Saturday that he felt “very worthless and very alone” and “nothing seemed to matter without him there beside me”.

“For everything that I took, within half and hour I was calling an ambulance. It was a “cry for help”, he added.

During an interview on the Marian Finucane Show on RTÉ Radio One, hosted on Saturday by O’Connor, Boyne said he remembered “just not being able to talk in the ambulance” but that the paramedic was being “helpful, supportive and funny”.

Speaking about the experience for the first time publicly he said: “It made me feel very worthless to be honest and I still feel that way. I felt that because he wasn’t there even when that happened I felt that that entire 11 years had been a lie and a total sham”.

But later in the interview Boyne said that this was possibly too harsh. “It was actually 11 years filled with a lot of happiness” and that his husband had treated him very well most of the time, he added. He conceded that he was possibly “not the easiest person to live with and I’m sure I’m a terrible monster at home most of the time”.

Boyne said he was “actively trying to move past anger towards acceptance” and joked that while not actively looking for love he hoped to “exit the single market” before the United Kingdom.

“I guess I just miss him”, he told O’Connor and said feelings were “raw at the moment” because he is currently going through a dissolution of his civil partnership.

In an interview with Sarah Gilmartin in The Irish Times earlier this month, Boyne spoke about his former partner who he said wasn’t interested in books and that “he loathed the literary world and wouldn’t go to anything. It was very hurtful at times. It felt like he wasn’t proud of me.”

“I go day to day, week to week. I’m nowhere near over it. I don’t know if I’ll ever get over it. I spent 15 years trying to find him and 11 years with him and now I’ve lost him. I’m pushing 50 and I feel like that part of my life is over. I think I would find it very hard to trust anyone again because this was a person I trusted absolutely, with every aspect of my life. For me, after 11 years, you don’t just move on tomorrow.”

Gilmartin described Boyne’s new novel, A Ladder to the Sky, as a “roman-à-clef of the literary world where real people and fictional characters collide in various tales of betrayal and backbiting. It is, much like Boyne himself, an absolute riot.”