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3.51  ·  Rating details ·  1,093 Ratings  ·  260 Reviews
Heyday is a brilliantly imagined, wildly entertaining tale of America’s boisterous coming of age–a sweeping panorama of madcap rebellion and overnight fortunes, palaces and brothels, murder and revenge–as well as the story of a handful of unforgettable characters discovering the nature of freedom, loyalty, friendship, and true love.

In the middle of the nineteenth century,
Paperback, 640 pages
Published December 26th 2007 by Random House Trade Paperbacks (first published 2007)
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Jan 05, 2008 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This book was not worth the 800+ pages and God knows how many hours I spent on reading it (I'm a masochist who has to finish a book, even if it's not enjoyable reading it). Anderson clearly hopes this is at the level of "Ragtime" or even "The Alienist," but it's neither as well written or entertaining to read as either of those books. At best it's like fan fiction written for history buffs, with his Mary Sue lead character bumping into the notable figures of that era. Also maybe it's nitpicking ...more
Apr 29, 2009 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: those who like fluffy-cute historical fan-fiction
Have you ever slogged through 600+ pages of a novel hoping that it might improve? Do you feel illogically driven to finish a book? We have a disease, you and I, possibly obsessive compulsive disorder, and as a fellow sufferer I mercifully suggest that you avoid this novel. The trouble is, the writing is not so bad as to drive a casual summer reader away. Maybe you find the protagonist, Ben Knowles, insufferably vanilla, or you can't see the appeal of his love interest Polly, but characters like ...more
Oct 19, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: recently-read
Historical fiction is compelling to me, especially the more detail-oriented ones. This one is nowhere near the scope or success of a Neal Stephenson, but some would say that's a good thing. Still, though, it's a compelling read, thick with plot, taking place during 1848-49 between France, London, New York, across the nascent U.S., and to California. It's fascinating to see a meticulous author's take on what is, as the title of the book suggests, the heyday of many things: America, revolutions ac ...more
Kurt Andersen’s Heyday is part of a subgenre that I love – a giant “Victorian” novel (with slightly more independent women and much more sex and swearing than an actual Victoria novel – “Deadwood” Lite if you will.) A good third or so of the novel is set in New York in 1848-1849, and that was my favorite part, because it was fascinating to read about what New York was like at that period. (I do think, though, if you’re not as fascinated by Olde New Yorke as I am, this section might strike you as ...more
A fresh, impeccable portrait of an era startlingly reminiscent of our own times, Heyday is by turns tragic and funny and sublime, filled with bona fide heroes and lost souls, visionaries (Walt Whitman, Charles Darwin, Alexis de Tocqueville) and monsters, expanding horizons and narrow escapes. It is also an affecting story of four people passionately chasing their American dreams at a time when America herself was still being dreamed up-an enthralling, old-fashioned yarn interwoven with a bracing ...more
at 600+ pages one wonders (pleads for) a red-penned-editor, but ntl a rolicking historical fiction of usa in 1840's-50's where gold was there to be picked up, fantastical technology was changing everything (photos, telegraphy, trains, etc) and lots of sex drugs n rock n roll. well, not rock, but rock-like. fun, but long, horse n buggy outsider lit.
Oct 04, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Oh. My. Goodness. I LOVED this book. I would even go so far as to say it was one of the best I've read this year. I am not usually a historical fiction fan. I would have never picked this book up based on a jacket or a blurb. I did pick it up because I am systematically reading through my public library alphabetically. This book had the good fortune of being written by an author whose last name began with A.

Now, on to the book. This is the saga of four young Americans, three men and one woman,
Jul 02, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: highly
I found Heyday remandered at Barnes & Noble a couple weeks ago. I read the 600+ pages in 2 1/2 days and loved it. It could have gone on.

The book takes place in that most revolutionary year, 1848, when the great houses of Europe shook and trembled, and in some cases fell--at least for awhile. And in the US gold was discovered. The revolutionary year frames the narrative that takes our heroes from Paris to New York to the Utopian communes of the midwest to San Fransisco and the gold fields--a
Carly Thompson
Lord this was a long book that definitely felt like a long book. In many ways this book reminded me of a sprawling Victorian novel like Dickens wrote--lots of characters, lots of detail, humor, romance, and the villain is defeated in the end. In other ways this was clearly a 21st Century novel--more gore, sex, and free thinking attitudes. I liked the book but reading it often felt like a chore. There was a lot of historical events/information contained in the novel including the French Revoluti ...more
Desiree Koh
Jan 11, 2008 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: eh
As a history nerd, I started off truly enjoying this fictional odyssey across late 19th century America, where the protagonists bump and interact with historical figures such as Scott Joplin and Abraham Lincoln. But when the narrative is twisted to facilitate coincidences and the good old standby deux es machina is brought in as closer, you sort of wished you had a porcelain spittoon for the bile foaming at the back of your throat.

To rant my grievances would be Spoiler City, but nothing is a wor
Suzanne Auckerman
Jun 22, 2010 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
It is supposed to convey the history of the period between 1845 - 1850.I didn't like any of the characters. The setting was London, Paris, New York and San Francisco with some mid-west thrown in. It took quite a while to get into and was hard to follow at first. I can't believe it was a bestseller. I am sure people bought it becaues of the reviews, but I would like to know how many actually read the entire thing.

I would not have except that I am so stubborn about finishing a book and this was a
Feb 05, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I really enjoyed this book. Historical fiction has never really drawn me in, but I'm starting to like it more. This book focuses on the stories of five people and how their lives intersect in a year of great change in the 19th century. The story drags a tiny bit toward the end, but overall, it's fascinating. A great read- I was glued to it!
ccccurt Heimbuck
It's everything I want from a novel: historical, sprawling, long, and very detailed. I love that Andersen goes out of his way to make note of historical details such as names of cocktails, menu items, technology, current events. Some people might think it's cheesy, but I love it. Context is cooler than character or plot.
Benjamin baschinsky
Set in the mid 19th century in Paris/London & New York tells the story of 4 people and their lives during an exciting period.
Very well written.
Flora Brophy
Jun 30, 2017 rated it did not like it
This historical novel would have benefitted from some good, sharp editing. It is way too long and there are too many wandering tangents, as if the author is showing off his extensive knowledge of the period (1848-1850). I often thought of stopping and not finishing this novel, but stuck with it and was quite disappointed.

That said, this novel did provide an excellent portrayal of the time -- the confluence of the industrial revolution; mechanization; and the discovery of gold in the American We
Steve Mayer
This picaresque romp through mid-19th century America displays a multitude of authorial research, and not always for the best. Along the way there are scenes from the French Revolution and counter-revolution in 1848, New York, a utopian community in Indiana, Salt Lake City and Gold Rush California, as well as cameo appearances from Charles Darwin, Walt Whitman, and Lincoln law partner Billy Herndon. I kept thinking that the characters were doing service to display the author's knowledge, rather ...more
Claire Barfell
If you like history, you will love this book. However, I prefer a good story with some history thrown in. There was not enough story to suit me. Also, some of it dragged for me because there are so many descriptions of places and people. I did learn a lot about history, but I read for pleasure and like a story that just grabs me and I can't put down, this was not it.
Katie Crosby
I finished it but it was hard. Maybe I don't like historical fiction...
Julie Barrett
I ended up really enjoying this book. It started off slow and I was beginning to regret starting a 650 page book but then it turned around once the story got to NYC. There were a ridiculous amount of coincidences in the book - Ben started reminding me of that Woody Allen movie Zelig. Was there any pivotal person from 1848 he didn't run across? I kind of liked the coincidences & the insertion into the story of random famous people (Darwin! Lincoln! De Tocqueville! Poe!) - it was fun.

I found t
Aug 07, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I thought this book was wonderful (if a bit cliched in places). In 1848, the West is changing, from the riots in Paris that lead to a dozen revolutions across Europe, to the San Francisco Gold Rush. And Andersen manages to capture it all, from the February Revolution in Paris, to the American frontier. In it, we follow Ben Knowles as he travels from France back to his native England, and then to New York. Ben has always dreamed of being an American, and we see New York through his eyes, in all o ...more
Oct 06, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Cheryl in cc nv
Recommended to Darlene by: Katharine
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! If it were not for the narration of Charles Leggett to help me along, I don't know if I would have been able to consume this divine story. He made the story come alive. His characters were individualized in such a way that I always knew who was speaking. Unfortunately he is a male reader so Polly didn't sound quite right, but since most of ...more
Marjorie Hakala
I wanted to read something really good, and I'd found this book on a best-of-2007 list. I kinda wish I remembered which list it was, so that I could proceed to mistrust that critic's judgment. The writing here isn't bad, and the characters are plausible. I was really into things for a one or two hundred pages. But there's not a whole lot that's remarkably good about it.

I think the writing just needed to be better to justify the scale of this book. Characters keep using words that sound perfectl
Sep 29, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: recentreads
(4 stars) Creation and destruction may be a recurring theme in Heyday, but the quest for personal freedom is what predominantly motivates the characters to detach from their past, and sometimes present, circumstances and pursue their dreams.

An almost tangible sense of anticipation and excitement buzzes throughout the book. The action takes place in the late 1840s, mostly in the young, ambitious, exuberant United States. Nothing about culture, society, or politics in America seems to be establi
Niki Costantini
Questo libro è la delusione letteraria con la quale ho chiuso il 2008 e iniziato il 2009. Intendiamoci, non un grossa delusione, tuttavia se le intenzioni dell'autore erano quelle di scrivere una grande epopea americana, raccontando una pagina di storia di una grande nazione, allora ci è riuscito solo a metà. Ho cominciato la lettura di "Mondo nuovo" con grande entusiasmo, l'ho praticamente divorato fino alla prima parte, un po' perché amo i romanzi storici, un po' perché molto affascinata dai p ...more
Iowa City Public Library
Heyday, one of the best historical novels of the year, has at least three things going for it.

First, strong characters. Ben Knowles, having witnessed violence at the barricades in Paris, is swept up with revolutionary ideals. Only by emigrating to America can he live those ideals. Once in New York, he’s immediately enchanted by Polly Lucking, a freethinking actress, tho she discreetly puts in one night a week at a brothel. Her brother Duff fought in the Mexican War, bearing physical and emotiona
Jan 11, 2011 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jun 07, 2007 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: history buffs
The novel is set in 1848 and aims to capture the zeitgeist of the era, which it seems to do well. Following several characters throughout the course of 1848 and into 1849, the reader is taken from revolutions in Europe to the ever Westward expanding United States right through to California during the Gold Rush.
Anderson can be an interesting writer at times but seems like one of those people who probably likes the sound of his own voice too much. He goes on and on for ages telling details about
Feb 19, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
"'And you, Ivanhoe,' Skaggs said, 'intend to find her and fetch her home?'

'I do intend to find her. If she is at the ends of the earth, I shall find her. And to stay with her forever if she'll allow me.'

Duff stared in admiration: the ends of the earth. He had never heard anyone but a priest use that phrase. He felt a wave of love for Ben, and suddenly saw his chance. 'I'll come along with you,' he said, practically shouting, he was so excited. 'West.'

Ben smiled, and clasped Duff's hand, thumb ho
Jan 21, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Despite the promise of a cross-country adventure and an eventual landing in California at the time of the Gold Rush, the clear strength of this book is its depiction of the City of New York at an explosive time in American political, cultural and military history. After the Mexican War was won, Americans (including immigrants who had arrived merely 10 minutes before) experienced the thrills of "modern" life. They drank, visited Barnum's, read "penny" newspapers, gawked at massive urban fires, ha ...more
Feb 14, 2008 rated it really liked it
Andersen's characterization of the cast of Heyday is enviable. It's amazing how he constructs such realistic characters from deftly revealed snippets of their pasts without interrupting the flow of the present-time narration.

Interestingly, he fits concerns we think of as "modern" seamlessly into the context of American life 150 years ago, especially the relationship between time and communication across distances, aided by technology.

The last quarter of the book dragged on a little for me until
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Kurt Andersen is the author of three novels -- Heyday (a New York Times bestseller and winner of the 2008 Langum Prize for historical fiction), Turn of the Century (a national bestseller and New York Times Notable Book), and the new True Believers.

He is also host of the Peabody Award-winning weekly public radio program Studio 360, and a contributing editor to Vanity Fair.

Previously, Kurt was a co
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“And you, Ivanhoe,' Skaggs said, 'intend to find her and fetch her home?'

'I do intend to find her. If she is at the ends of the earth, I shall find her. And to stay with her forever if she'll allow me.'

Duff stared in admiration: the ends of the earth. He had never heard anyone but a priest use that phrase. He felt a wave of love for Ben, and suddenly saw his chance. 'I'll come along with you,' he said, practically shouting, he was so excited. 'West.'

Ben smiled, and clasped Duff's hand, thumb hooked to thumb.

'Wait, wait, wait...' It had fallen to Skaggs, of all people, to challenge their quest on practical grounds. 'How shall you possibly find her? She has been two weeks on the road already. They might be anywheres between Ohio and the desert.'

'We shall obtain from Mr. Brisbane a copy of his little guide,' Ben said, 'and follow it like a map from east to west. The only question is our fastest route. Speed is paramount.'

Skaggs saw that his friend would not be deterred. 'Well, a steamboat to Albany, railways to Buffalo, then a steamer across Lake Erie. It sickens me even to describe the route. But you could be in Cleveland before the end of the week.'

He paused. 'I cannot believe that I am describing a speedy arrival in Cleveland as a desirable thing.”
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