The focuses on the life of Cyril Avery. From his birth in 1945 to 2016. As one can guess with a novel like this, we see historical events, chapters set in different countries, a huge cast of characters and coincidences that mingle like some huge plate of spaghetti. What makes this novel different is that Cyril is gay and is Irish so the reader sees how Irish society has changed regarding the attitudes to homosexuals.
This is a huge book and stuffed with details but the important themes that stick out is the aforementioned one about attitudes and the importance of family. Throughout his seven decades on Earth Cyril hunts longs for a family and tries his best to form one but it eventually happens through the friendships he has made through the years. This is not a spoiler as it is a common trope with this type of book.
As a novel it is wonderful. I tend to gravitate towards the bildungsroman and this was perfect. Boyne’s writing is simple and yet it flows and makes for great reading. Despite the tragic moments in the novel, Boyne manages to scatter some crumbs of humour. As a small warning, this is a novel that demands time due to the way it unfolds but it is totally worth it. I liked John Boyne’s The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas but now I know his adult fiction is on par, if not better.