I haven’t read a book this good in a long time–one of those ‘I-can’t-put-it-down-even-to-watch-The-Crown’ books. This is an Irish Odyssey: Cyril Avery is born out of wedlock in a small town in Ireland in 1945, adopted at birth by aloof parents–Maude and Charles–and searching for a meaningful life. And he’s gay. In Ireland. A teenager in the late 1950s in a country that’s essentially a theocracy—in the opening scene, Cyril’s teenage mom is physically thrown out of the church, publicly shamed, and banished.
This is Cyril’s story from birth until death: from Dublin to Amsterdam to New York, and back to Dublin. I devoured these 580 pages in less than a week. Ironically, there was crossover with The Crown when the characters talk about Princess Margaret, the partier, and how they admire her rebelliousness; there is crossover with The Great Believers, a recent favorite book chronicling the AIDS crisis and the gay community in Chicago; and there is crossover with a movie I recently saw: The Dallas Buyer’s Club, also a story of the AIDS crisis, centering around a heterosexual male as the main character. I’d disclose who in this book that character is so similar to, but that would give too much away.
Cyril’s story is heartbreaking and sometimes hilarious. Beautiful and cruel. This swept me away. And in 2020-2021, we need good books to sweep up away, particularly ones as well written as this. Five stars!