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Heyday: A Novel Paperback – December 26, 2007
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Top Customer Reviews
I won't describe the plot - plenty of others have done that, and the book's summary is sufficient. Suffice it to say that the plot itself is one of the book's weaknesses: other reviewers mentioned the coincidences that forced me to suspend disbelief over and over again, but I think, as the book progresses, you get so used to these coincidences that it doesn't matter. In the end, the book is a kind of fairy tale, and coincidence is essential for such stories.
What bothered me most, however, is the author's need to flex his historical muscles at every turn. He clearly did lots of research, and wants to make sure you know it. He almost uses Tom Swifties - bits of exposition that go overboard to explain what he's presented - when tossing around "authentic" elements from the time. Inventions, clothing, food, and anything else he can present, Andersen keeps reminding us that he did his homework. Yet this ends up more distracting than if he simply mentioned these things in passing, or, rather, _didn't_ mention them all.
I read a lot of 19th century fiction, and Heyday does fit well into that style (though clearly it is contemporary, ie 21st century, 19th century fiction.) It's a fun read, full of interesting characters, and only a few tics mar its overall effect.
This is an enjoyable tale, but not a book with a definable plot. It would be a great book to make into one of those television mini-series with a "Winning of the West" type of theme. In this story, you follow the adventures of the main characters through a period of not much more than a couple of years when the world was changing. This book takes you from one of the many revolutions (or maybe just revolts) in France through an enlightenment period in England and the growing pains of a growing immigrant population in New York City to the gold fields of California.
There are some spots in the book where the story was somewhat stretched to bring the main characters into contact with famous people or historical events. It is hard for me to fathom that four diverse people at that time in history would be personally acquainted with Abraham Lincoln, Charles Dickens, Walt Whitman, Alexis de Tocqueville and John C. Fremont. The four characters consist of the son of a wealthy, titled peer in England, an often fired reporter in New York, an "actress" and her obsessively religious, Mexican War veteran brother. I was sort of expecting the last page of the book would close with "And they lived happily ever after" since there was no real ending to the book,
(over 600 pages) turns the page of history back to that pivotal year of 1848. Steam was replacing sail in shipping; telegraph wires were buzzing; Womens' Rights activitist were meeting at Seneca Falls, New York and the California Gold Rush was pushing the new nation westward to the Pacific Ocean. Charles Darwin was challenging traditional biblical beliefs regarding creation; France and other European nations were embroiled in mass revolts in which the poor cried for justice and the Victorian world was moving into the modern industrial world as seen in the huge factories of Manchester and Birmingham. America was a big adolescent as ethnic groups fought loved and were learning to co-exist in the land of the free and home of the brave!
Giants were walking the American and world stage. In the USA there was Abraham Lincoln and Walt Whitman. Edgar Poe was a popular lecturer and author. Elizabeth Cady Stanton a champion for Womens' Rights while Frederick Douglass demanded the slaves be freed. Such men as John Charles Fremont were opening up California to statehood through their pioneering efforts. In Europe it was the time of Marx and Engles. Great English authors such as Charles Dickens were in their prime. The novel alludes to a stage work of "Dombey and Son" evincing the interest on this side of the Atlantic in Mr. Dickens works.
Andersen has read thousands of articles, books and newspapers to take the reader back to this crucial time. He has also written a popular, exciting adventure story featuring murders, prostitutes, army deserters, 49ers, theatrical folk and a vast assemblage of the average citizen of that colorful era.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
My husband bought me this book (thank you, handsome!) or this review would be a "verified purchase. Read morePublished 2 months ago by Elizabeth Cobbs
Good story with a touch of history that may do the brain some good. Don't worry the history blends with the story so it's fun.Published 11 months ago by DAVID DAY
My problem with Andersen's book began as early as page 24 when he speaks of “India rubber overshoes.” A flag goes up. Read morePublished 20 months ago by B.R. STANARD
I really wanted to like this book, but I found his writing plodding and uninspired, and he made me not care at all about the characters. Read morePublished on January 18, 2014 by Priscilla Zlotnick
Mixture of fact and fiction moves this book forward. Experience all of the important events of the late 1840's in one book: Revolutions, Gold Rush, Mexican War, Great Literature... Read morePublished on January 8, 2013 by Jon Michael Simpson
Wow! I can't actually believe I finished reading this tome. Thankfully I was able to get the CDs from the library at the same time as I got the book. 22 CDs! Read morePublished on October 26, 2012 by darswords
Heyday is the best historical novel I have ever read. The book begins in Europe during the 1848 revolutions. Read morePublished on July 31, 2012 by JimL
Kurt Andersen is a great writer, a skilled writer, a clever writer. His previous novel, Turn of the Century, was the perfect portrait of America during the late millennium (a/k/a,... Read morePublished on November 5, 2010 by Keith Otis Edwards
Any reader picking up a work of historical fiction with over 600 pages of narrative should expect close attention to detail. Kurt Andersen delivers details by the yard in Heyday. Read morePublished on April 25, 2010 by Stephen T. Hopkins