Review/ by Sabina Clarke
This book is my first introduction to the supremely gifted comic novelist John Boyne. Boyne is expert at delineating his characters and exposing the pretensions of the Irish with his biting wit, incisive perceptions and glittering dialogue while illuminating the rank hypocrisy of the Catholic Church during a certain period from 1945 through the 1970’s.
This is also a very personal novel for an openly gay writer who seems to mine his own feelings about coming to terms with his homosexuality through the voice of his precocious adolescent narrator Cyril--- a thoroughly witty, perceptive and likeable lad without an ounce of self-pity—who is constantly reminded by his adoptive parents that he is “not a real Avery.”
There are many instances in the book that are hilarious and laugh-out-loud funny –but for me, the book should have ended two-hundred and sixty-nine pages sooner.
Beginning with the year 1980, the chapter titled “1980 Into The Annex”—I lost interest. The book became silly and more like a polemic for the Aids Crisis as we follow Cyril on his journey of awakening and self-acceptance as he ruminates on his life and an unrequited homosexual love affair gone sour.
For those who want to follow Cyril’s journey to the end where he is transformed from someone frightened of his burgeoning sexuality to someone who embraces it—may feel differently.
Cyril’s personal journey coincides with the great strides Ireland has made in embracing those once shunned and being the first country to pass the Equal Rights Marriage Referendum of 2015—a landmark achievement for a Church that needed its own redemption.