John Boyne takes Glass Bell Award for 'comedic odyssey'

John Boyne takes Glass Bell Award for 'comedic odyssey'

Irish author John Boyne has scooped the £2,000 Goldsboro Books Glass Bell Award for his “sweeping, poignant and comedic odyssey” of post-war Ireland, The Heart’s Invisible Furies (Transworld).

Boyne’s book, which follows 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, was hailed as “tender, dark, hilarious, heartbreaking” by the prize’s judges, with Boyne described as “a novelist at the top of his game”. It was published in the UK in February 2017 by Bill Scott-Kerr at Transworld and in the US by Molly Stern at Crown, and has been optioned for TV by Scott Free Productions. 

Boyne  was awarded the Glass Bell at a party held at Goldsboro Books in central London on Thursday (27th September), receiving £2,000 and a handmade, engraved glass bell. 

David Headley of Goldsboro Books, the award founder, said: “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.”

Boyne won over five other shortlisted titles, four debuts: Gail Honeyman for her breakout bestseller Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine (HarperCollins); Nathan Hill, for his multi-stranded mystery The Nix (Picador); Imran Mahmood, for You Don’t Know Me (Michael Joseph), in which a young man accused of murder addresses the jury directly as well as imprint stablemate Good Me Bad Me from Ali Land about the daughter of a child-killer as well as Laura Purcell for her terrifying ghost story The Silent Companions (Raven Books).

The Glass Bell award was launched last year by David Headley, with his team at the bookshop serving as prize judges. The award is said to be the only prize to reward storytelling in all genres, from romance and crime to historical and speculative, rewarding “compelling storytelling with brilliant characterisation and a distinct voice that is confidently written and assuredly realised”, according to a prize organiser,

Chris Cleave took the prize last year for Everyone Brave is Forgiven (Sceptre), offering a “moving and unflinching novel about the profound effects that the Second World War had on ordinary citizens back at home in Britain”.