Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Horse Heaven” as Want to Read:
Horse Heaven
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Horse Heaven

by
3.87  ·  Rating Details ·  4,399 Ratings  ·  312 Reviews
The Barnes & Noble Review

To horse racing and baseball fans alike, spring is the season to get reacquainted with their heroes; it is the time to grab a scorecard, place a few bets, and head to the nearest dusty expanse of grass. Most of all, it's the time to dream, because on a baseball diamond or a horse track anything is possible. Judging by her magnificent new novel,
...more
Audio CD, 0 pages
Published April 4th 2000 by Random House Audio (first published 1999)
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Horse Heaven, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about Horse Heaven

This book is not yet featured on Listopia. Add this book to your favorite list »

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  Rating Details
Jim
Jul 24, 2012 Jim rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2fiction, animals, 1paper
I'm not really sure how I feel about the book overall. It was excellent in many ways, but sort of pointless overall. It's a soap opera about horses & the people working with them on the track with a sort of beginning & a kind of end, but there was a lot of history & certainly life goes on after the book ends.

The writing was good, engaging & yet there wasn't a single defined plot, so I got a bit lost at times. Toward the middle of the book, I almost gave it up due to characters m
...more
Jennifer (aka EM)
May 24, 2012 Jennifer (aka EM) rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Jennifer (aka EM) by: jo
Just loved how Smiley contrasted thoroughbred racing horses - who are born to know what they love and what they are meant to do - with a whole gaggle of self-doubting, identity-conflicted humans. Funny, "sprawling" but controlled, lotsa anthropomorphism but no saccharine sentimentality. Smiley has an insider's knowledge of her milieu, but also respects and trusts her reader enough not to bog the story down in definition or description. Even though they are frequent, her race scenes are never bor ...more
April
Feb 23, 2008 April rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Fascinating portrayal of the thoroughbred horseracing world.
How does Jane Smiley do it? Her books are all completely unique. There is no formula; no predictability (you could say she is an anti-Ian McEwan). The story is set in the thoroughbred racing world of Southern California. The story, and the human beings involved are involving. But what set this book apart for me? Two of the main characters are animals. One of the racehorses, and, a dog. A Jack Russell Terrier to be more precise. And let
...more
Judy
Aug 12, 2012 Judy rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone


Jane Smiley's novel about horse racing is one of the best books I have read this summer. It was loaned to me by my sister-in-law, a horse woman herself and daughter of a horse woman. Jane Smiley owns a race horse or two and clearly knows plenty about the subject. A big part of the book's success is the way she makes the horses characters in the story as much as she does the humans.

I knew nothing about the world of horse racing, except that people like to go to the races and bet money. I learned
...more
Lisa
Jan 01, 2009 Lisa rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I love the Dicken-esque structure of this novel. This is the first novel I have read by Smiley. I read her small bio of Dickens and thought it was a wonderful distillation of the man and his work; she had the fine sense to recognize Our Mutual Friend as perhaps his best work. With Horse Heaven she goes back her forebearers, Dickens, Fielding and Thackery and creates a novel that is worthy homage.

One of the things I loved best about her book is the sly humor. There is one episode of quiet sly hum
...more
Sarah
Dec 17, 2007 Sarah rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
an epic poem in prose . . . about horse racing.
Susan
Horse Heaven by Jane Smiley is a novel about horses and their breeders, owners, trainers, grooms, jockeys, traders, bettors and other turf-obsessed humans. It takes place over two-years and chronicles the lives of various horses and their people.

I know a little about horses - that is to say I've ridden horses, been to riding competitions, and been to the race track - but I still found this book particularly hard to get into. You see nothing ever happens, there is no real plot. The entire novel i
...more
Stefanie
Jan 22, 2009 Stefanie rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Review originally and more completely published at http://www.epinions.com/review/Horse_...

I found Horse Heaven to be entirely too disjointed, jumping from unconnected event to unconnected character every few pages. Smiley did give all her animals very human qualities, making them as integral to the story as the actual human characters. At one point, we even ride around in Eileen the scrappy terrier’s mind, hearing her thoughts.

The novel jumps from character to character. Some of these characte
...more
KateNZ
Nov 24, 2016 KateNZ rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is my favourite Jane Smiley so far. It takes place over two years, and follows several American flat racing Thoroughbreds, their trainers, owners, jockeys and associated hangers-on. There are dirty training tactics, personal trials and tribulations, affairs, distressing animal abuse, big money deals and scams, betting ... and of course the thrill and beauty of the actual races and the horses that run them.

It is typical of her other books that I've read in that it has a large cast of charac
...more
Denise
Jun 22, 2008 Denise rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: modernfiction
A rambling book with many evocative characters, human and equine, that will stick with me. I haven't cried over a book in a while but one particular scene was so wrenching that it had me sobbing as I read.
Linda Carroll
Mar 26, 2014 Linda Carroll rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Wonderful book. Smiley artfully made me care and worry about a character that never spoke a word - Justa Bob. She does it without ever anthropomorphizing him.
Elizabeth (Alaska)
This is a book with a HUGE cast of characters. In fact, the first 2 pages is the list of characters, from horse owners, trainers (and their assistants), breeders, jockeys, bettors, the horses themselves, and the racetracks. While the story is linear - even to the sections being dated - it does of necessity skip around to the various groups of characters, many of whom are relatively unknown to each other and who don't interact with the other groups of characters. I was not confused, although ther ...more
Harriett Milnes
Oct 15, 2012 Harriett Milnes rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 4-star-books
640 pages! Too long. I would have given it 5 stars, but for the length. It's about Thoroughbreds and owners and trainers and horses and love! Very enjoyable, but some of the characters were dropped at a point in the middle and then quickly reintroduced at the end. Some of the chapters felt like a New Yorker story. But, all in all, enjoyable.
Jack
May 08, 2008 Jack rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Fine novel by Jane Smiley, a favorite author. She gets inside the minds of the horses in a surprisingly believable way. Really enjoyed it.
Robert McKinnon
Aug 19, 2015 Robert McKinnon rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I enjoyed Horse Heaven so much that when I finished the last page, I turned back to the first.
Cat
May 24, 2007 Cat rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Part of me wants to say that this was just an interminable horse book, and that part of me is speaking with an honest voice (if a condescending and dismissive one). Smiley interweaves the tales of a central set of horses with the proliferating stories of owners, bettors, riders, trainers, breeders, etc., creating a kaleidoscopic effect as the reader glimpses the increasing patterns and events uniting them. Some parts seemed needlessly silly (a horse psychic?), others goofily erotic (not just the ...more
Janet Eshenroder
On loan from a friend. This book gives an intriguing glimpse into horse breeding, training and racing, into breeders, jockeys, veterinarians, owners, buyers & sellers, and those betting on the races. I've tried to imagine how this book could be written in another format and suppose this is the most reasonable way to approach a complex and detailed subject. Still, the book jumped from side-story to side-story and from character to character (lots of names and sub-plots that are initially hard ...more
Bronwyn Rykiert
I really enjoyed this story, though at first I was not sure what I had gotten myself into. It was 22 discs long which for me, is a big book. Half way through the book though I was really enjoying the story.

It is a story about racehorses, the horses, their owners, trainers, assistant trainers, grooms, vets and riders. Jane must really know her horses because when she became the horse and told us how they were feeling, to me, it was quite realistic.

There was Just a Bob, Epic Steam, Residual and Li
...more
Sophie
Apr 10, 2012 Sophie rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: I wouldn't recommend this book
I found the whole book a rather clinical, and extremely unenjoyable read. . .

The animal cruelty was horrific, it was dealt with in a clinical way and didn't stimulate the depth of emotion that such abuse should have.

I found the characters (both human and animal alike) lacking any feel, they seemed so emotionless, cold and lacking in depth.

Books very rarely leave me so disappointed. Horse Heaven didn't stimulate any feeling for the human characters, I would not have been even remotely sad if the
...more
Brian
Nov 26, 2008 Brian rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I think I would really give this book 3.5 stars. I enjoyed the many, many different characters, all of whose lives revolve around horses and thoroughbred racing. And I learned a lot about horses.

The only thing keeping the book from receiving a higher rating was that it was a little too long. I loved the characters and all that happened with them, but there was generally not much in the way of plot, so I did not feel the book needed to be as long as it was.

Still, I did enjoy it and ended up readi
...more
Randine
Dec 16, 2008 Randine rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Still trying to figure out how a horse lover like Smiley can be a race track enthusiast as she owns over 20 horses herself and races them. (I think racing is often cruel and is about human ego). But it's a wonderful story and she writes about people and horses equally well. Nice, big fat book to get involved with.

READ IT AGAIN! 2 years later. Such a good read, although I couldn't bring myself to read the last few chapters again. My memory remembered enough to know I would be crying like a baby s
...more
Helen
Aug 20, 2012 Helen rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Even though I found Horse Heaven to be disjointed and too long, I enjoyed it. I would probably give it 3.5 stars. The animal characters were the most engaging. Some of the chapters felt like short stories, not necessarily integral to the book, but interesting nevertheless. An example of this would be the chapters about a father and son, Leo and Jesse. Once again, a writer trying to write a book in the spirit of Dickens, but not quite making it.

Overall, a pleasant read.
Hazel Dehn
Mar 28, 2009 Hazel Dehn rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Terrible book....i hated every single person in this book....every single one! Even the horses couldn't make this story good!
Lois Tucker
Sep 13, 2012 Lois Tucker rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Gone with the Wind for horses. FUN.
Mary Taitt
I liked it quite a bit, but it seemed a little disjointed at times.
Claire
Oct 23, 2016 Claire rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Not totally sure how to feel about this book. Overall, there were some parts I liked and some I truly didn't. For example, I expected this book to be all about horses and their racing careers and the owners relationships with them. Instead, I got to read about the owners love affairs which in some ways were entirely pointless to the book. However, when Jane Smiley was writing about the horses and their lives, it was good. I just wish she had written about them the whole time instead of the owner ...more
Brittany
Nov 30, 2010 Brittany rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a lovely fat book, populated with well-drawn characters both human and equine. (And in one glorious case, canine.) What it is not, is a plot-driven book. There isn’t much of what one would call “action.” However, that is fine with me. I much prefer story to plot, and there’s more than enough of that to keep the book moving forward. This is a very organic book. It chronicles the lives of a handful of people as they intersect, weave, meander, and move through one another. It’s also an hone ...more
Mindy
Jan 13, 2017 Mindy rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-in-2017
3-1/2 stars
Ron Charles
A dangerous trend continues. At almost 600 pages, "Horse Heaven," Jane Smiley's latest novel, is even longer than her last one, "The All-True Travels and Adventures of Lidie Newton." (Even its title was too long.)

Without apparent irony, the advance publicity for "Horse Heaven" boasts that this new novel is paced like "Moo," Smiley's satire of a Midwestern agricultural university. That's no bull. "Moo" had some nice features, but its lame pacing certainly wasn't one of them. In chapters named for
...more
Rena Sherwood
It’s very difficult to find a novel about horses meant for adults and not kids. Jane Smiley’s Horse Heaven (Ballantine Books; 1999) fills this gap. This is an epic-sized novel where the horses’ characters are gone into as much detail as the humans’. Although not all of the loose ends are tied up, this is still a satisfying read for the adult horse-lover.

If the name Jane Smiley sounds familiar, it’s because she won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction back in 1992 for A Thousand Acres (Alfred A. Knopf;
...more
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • Beautiful Jim Key: The Lost History of a Horse and a Man Who Changed the World
  • Crazy Good: The True Story of Dan Patch, the Most Famous Horse in America
  • Equus: The Creation of a Horse
  • The Horses of Proud Spirit
  • For Love of a Horse (Jinny, #1)
  • Ruffian: Burning From the Start
  • Mustang: The Saga of the Wild Horse in the American West
  • Horse People: Scenes from the Riding Life
  • Funny Cide
  • Horseplay
  • Shy Boy: The Horse That Came in from the Wild
  • Horses Never Lie: The Heart of Passive Leadership
  • Stud: Adventures in Breeding
  • The White Family
  • Chosen by a Horse
  • Man o' War: A Legend Like Lightning
  • Beyond the Homestretch: What I've Learned from Saving Racehorses
  • The Soul of a Horse: Life Lessons from the Herd
1339
Jane Smiley is a Pulitzer Prize-winning American novelist.

Born in Los Angeles, California, Smiley grew up in Webster Groves, Missouri, a suburb of St. Louis, and graduated from John Burroughs School. She obtained a A.B. at Vassar College, then earned a M.F.A. and Ph.D. from the University of Iowa. While working towards her doctorate, she also spent a year studying in Iceland as a Fulbright Scholar
...more
More about Jane Smiley...

Share This Book



“I’ve experienced having you in the house. It’s like living with a loud motor running all the time. Up, down, into this room and that room, eating supper, jumping from the table, cursing all the time, yelling over the telephone about things, laughing, making deals all the time. You take up a lot of space and make a lot of noise.” She” 0 likes
More quotes…