John Boyne wins Goldsboro Books prize for ‘The Heart’s Invisible Furies’
£2,000 prize for ‘compelling storytelling with brilliant characterisation and a distinct voice’
John Boyne in his Rathfarnham home. Photograph: Alan Betson
John Boyne has been awarded the Goldsboro Books Glass Bell Award 2018 for The Heart’s Invisible Furies, his sweeping, poignant and comedic odyssey of postwar Ireland. Boyne won out over five other novels – of which four were debuts – for the award, which rewards “compelling storytelling with brilliant characterisation and a distinct voice that is confidently written and assuredly realised”.
The story of Cyril Avery, born out of wedlock to a teenage girl cast out from her rural Irish community and adopted by an eccentric Dublin couple, and his search for an identity, The Heart’s Invisible Furies has been hailed as “tender, dark, hilarious, heartbreaking”, with Boyne described as “a novelist at the top of his game”.
Elizabeth Day, reviewing it in The Irish Times, wrote that it “is sure to be read by the bucketload. It is commercial in tone but epic in scope, spanning three countries, two continents and the biblical three-score-years and 10 of one man’s life. If all that sounds a bit overwhelming, rest assured that the 626 pages are written with verve, humour and heart.”
Also shortlisted were Gail Honeyman, for her remarkable breakout bestseller Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine; Nathan Hill, for his multi-stranded mystery The Nix; Imran Mahmood, for You Don’t Know Me, in which a young man accused of murder addresses the jury directly; Ali Land for her chilling thriller Good Me Bad Me, about the daughter of a child-killer; and Laura Purcell for her terrifying ghost story The Silent Companions. Reflecting an extraordinary range of themes, styles and concerns, such as loneliness, religious intolerance and the flaws in our justice system, the award has showcased the extraordinary breadth of fiction being published.
Boyne was awarded the Glass Bell at a party held at Goldsboro Books in central London this evening, receiving £2,000 and a handmade, engraved glass bell. The prize was judged by Goldsboro Books founder and MD David Headley and his team at the bookshop.
Headley said: ‘I set up the Goldsboro Books Glass Bell Award to celebrate the very best storytelling, and I am proud of the shortlist we assembled – six extraordinary novels, all compellingly told, and written with distinct, perfectly realised voices. Choosing this year’s winner was an immense challenge, but John Boyne’s The Heart’s Invisible Furies really stood out to us. An odyssey exploring 70 years of Irish history, and changing attitudes to sexuality and relationships, it had me laughing aloud one minute, then on the verge of tears the next. Powerful and poignant, but also genuinely funny, it is a tour de force from a writer at the top of his game. John is a worthy winner of this year’s Glass Bell Award.”
Fellow judge and literary agent Broo Doherty said: “The Heart’s Invisible Furies was hilarious, tragic, beautifully written and ultimately the most compelling novel I have read for a while – the atmosphere was superb, the characters highly charged and the plot fiendishly topical. In essence, it tickled my Irish genes.”
Fellow judge Emily Glenister said: “I fell in love with Cyril’s story from the very first page and couldn’t put it down until I had turned the last. It is rare that a book hits me straight in the feels from the get-go and so I knew The Heart’s Invisible Furies was very, very special. Boyne is easily one of the finest writers of his generation, and I am thrilled he has received the Glass Bell Award 2018.”
Now in its second year, the Glass Bell is the only award to reward storytelling in all genres, from romance and crime to historical and speculative. The first winner was Chris Cleave for Everyone Brave is Forgiven, an unflinching account of the profound effects that the Second World War had on ordinary citizens back at home in Britain whilst the soldiers fought on the front line.
Boyne was born in Dublin in 1971. He is the author of nine novels for adults, five for young readers and a collection of short stories. Perhaps best known for The Boy In The Striped Pyjamas, his most recent book is A Ladder to the Sky, a bestselling novel about ambition and the price of success. He reviews regularly for The Irish Times.