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3.52  ·  Rating details ·  1,179 ratings  ·  264 reviews
Heyday is a brilliantly imagined, wildly entertaining tale of Americas boisterous coming of agea sweeping panorama of madcap rebellion and overnight fortunes, palaces and brothels, murder and revengeas 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,
Hardcover, 622 pages
Published March 28th 2007 by Random House (NY) (first published 2007)
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Average rating 3.52  · 
Rating details
 ·  1,179 ratings  ·  264 reviews

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Jan 05, 2008 rated it it was ok
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
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
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 ...more
Kurt Andersens 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 youre not as fascinated by Olde New Yorke as I am, this section might strike you as far too ...more
Steve Tannuzzo
Jan 01, 2019 rated it liked it
This book was too long. I love 19th-century historical fiction and there's some great stuff here as the group of friends travel from Paris to New York and eventually California during the Gold Rush. Unbeknownst to them, a vengeful killer is tracking them on their cross-country journey.

The year 1848 is the star here. There was so much happening during that time. In addition to the Gold Rush, there were technological and industrial advances, like photography, the telegraph, and railroads. The
Dec 17, 2008 rated it it was amazing
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 ...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.
Nov 07, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction
This is a very self-conscious book. Telling a tale that touches of the 1848 French Revolution, a young wealthy Englishman who walks away from his father's wealth to move to NYC, an eccentric writer/photographer, and an odd brother and sister who become part of their lives, this is a sprawling book.

It emulates the style of nineteenth century novels with a plot that twists and turns on unexpected coincidences, separation and reunification. Sometimes it seems so mannered that I almost put it down.
Oct 04, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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
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
Marjorie Hakala
Feb 15, 2008 rated it liked it
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
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 ...more
Jan 11, 2011 rated it it was ok
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Mar 30, 2013 rated it it was ok
Shelves: literature
I don't know how this book ended up on my 'to read' list of books. From the dust jacket, when I picked it up, I thought maybe it was going to be a western - "all four set out on a transcontinental race west" would tend to lead to that idea.

They didn't leave new york city until page 350. Not exactly racing.

So, if you're looking for a book about a dilettante British murderer who started the 1848 revolutions by accident and didn't even know what his dead friend looked like, his girlfriend the whore
Jun 18, 2012 rated it it was ok
Such a mixed bag: the things that work about it are really good, but there are huge, glaring flaws. On the plus side Andersen's prose is top-notch: he really knows how to turn a phrase. His descriptions are consistently lovely and he really knows how to set a scene. Unfortunately, this great writing is at the service of under developed characters and poorly imagined interpersonal relationships. It is never clear why this particular cast of characters is drawn to each other. The protagonist is a ...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
Apr 01, 2008 rated it it was ok
Recommends it for: historians who dream of being novelists
This book is basically a cautionary tale for any historian who wants to write a novel. The author COULD NOT RESIST jampacking in every damn notable figure and event from 1848. Somehow the main character had run-ins with every last one of them and visited every part of the country and managed to be at the revolutions in France AND the California gold rush. It was just a bit too much. I loved all the history in-jokes, of course, but really they were no substitute for a good plot and real character ...more
Jun 30, 2017 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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
Suzanne Auckerman
Jun 22, 2010 rated it did not like it
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
Jan 27, 2008 rated it did not like it
i couldn't finish it.

my reason has nothing to do with the 640 pages--i relish long, epic novels. it was the style. perhaps the writer's use overly-specific details was to offer a nod to nyc residents or to historians, but the details were too noisy, too thick to muddle through, and i found myself constantly reminded of the history, rather than the story. i just couldn't do it... page 150 was my last.
Jul 28, 2007 rated it it was ok
This was okay. The story is entertaining, but the energy peters out, and the end is hugely anti-climactic (I don't think the author does plot very well). The descriptions of old New York and California are excellent. But it suffers from being one of those historical novels that is so well-researched that it's just bursting with facts and interesting historical tidbits. Worse, apparently every person you would ever meet in 1860s America was a future famous figure, which gets mighty tiresome.
Hollis Fishelson-holstine
Nov 03, 2008 rated it did not like it
This book is set in 1848 about 4 characters whosee lives intertwine through (frankly unbelievable) coincidences. I got bored with the history. It felt like the whole purpose of the book was to pack in as many facts as he could about the time into the story itself. I found the characters too one-dimensional. I'm actually sorry I forced myself to finish this one
Feb 05, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
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!
Jul 21, 2010 rated it it was ok
Interesting from the historical novel perspective, but hard to get into the story and know the characters. Too much information connected in a not so believable chain of events. 600 pages of US history in 1948-9, follows a group of people who manage to live/witness all the major happenings of the time. slow moving and contrived.
ccccurt Heimbuck
Jun 20, 2007 rated it it was amazing
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.
Elizabeth (Alaska)
Feb 12, 2009 rated it liked it
Interesting historical novel set in 1848/1849 US. It is not riveting, so I can't recommend it as a "must read". But the characterizations are interesting and seems to be historically accurate.
Benjamin baschinsky
Oct 30, 2009 rated it really liked it
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.
Michael Alan Grapin
May 01, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Benjamin Knowles, son of Sir Archibald, is in Paris the night of a revolution in 1848. He witnesses the carnage and death of his dearest friend. He flees to England and then decides to take ship to America not knowing that he is being pursued by Drumont , a French soldier that blames Ben for the death of his younger brother. In New York, Ben falls head over heels in love with Polly Lucking, and actress and sometime prostitute. He befriends her brother Duff, an army deserter, arsonist and ...more
Feb 14, 2018 rated it really liked it
Bits of history and actual people dapple this compelling fictionalization of the 1848-49 era that moves from France to England to eventually the California Gold Rush, but what a fascinating journey.
Superb writing and clever connecting of folks like Mormon leader Joseph Smith, Abe Lincoln, Horace Greeley, John Jacob Astor. Author Kurt Andersen ties in issues of the day seamlessly, putting flesh on the bones of topics we read little about, including the war with Mexico, communes of that period,
Steve Mayer
Mar 21, 2017 rated it liked it
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
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Kurt Andersen is the author of the novels Turn of the Century, Heyday, and True Believers, and and, with Alec Baldwin of You Can't Spell America Without Me. His non-fiction books include Fantasyland, Reset and The Real Thing.

He is also host of the Peabody Award-winning weekly public radio program Studio 360,.

Previously, Kurt was a co-founder and editor-in-chief of the satirical magazine Spy,

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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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