Horse Heaven Paperback – 2000
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Top Customer Reviews
I was a little overwhelmed at the beginning of the book - all these threads pulling at once, trying to keep the connections straight - even the chapter on Eileen the Jack Russell Terrier - but as time went on, those threads caught.
Characters that seemed to have nothing in common with each other came together in strange or serendipitous ways, enriching the plot and driving it forward. The breezy style of writing is fun, and each chapter moves to a new character in the list, so that you begin to see how it all overlaps. You see how much emotion is invested - not just in the animals but also in the relationships with all the other humans involved. Each plays a special role: the breeder, the trainer, the jockeys, and of course, the owners. And while I wasn't sure about the idea of the horses 'speaking', it made sense once you were on your way.
I never gave much thought to the world of racing, other than the few days before the Derby. However, I find myself contemplating a trip to the track, just so that I can watch these magnificent animals do what Horse Heaven seems to be sure of - the beauty of running.
Imagine my surprise when it turned out to be one of my favorite reads of 2002, and one of my favorite books! The world of horse racing and trading is one Smiley knows inside and out, and she doesn't insult our intelligence by overexplanation-- she immerses the reader in it.
With an unusual structure and multiple protagonist that centers more around the horses then the people, this book is Tolstoyan in its scope, warmth and humanity (and that includes the outlook on the horses)
There are lots of characters and horses, but all are memorable. Generously drawn with some passages so thought-provoking, even profound, that I underlined and dated. Smiley tells a great story, but the pleasure is as much in her prose and her revelations (a passage about happiness being something that shimmers around you brought me up short)
It's a big book-600 pages-but a real epic, and worth it. Smiley manages to do the pov of a couple of the horses without ever becoming maudlin and anthropomorphic. There's a horse psychic who describes how the horse sees the world beneath its feet as if rolling in waves-- what an arresting vision of what it must be like to move so fast on four feet. One of the characters finds herself inexplicably able to grant wishes for awhile. The book has elements of magic realism in the best tradition-- handled casually, as just another part of life.
Through the journeys of the main horses we see vignettes of owners, traders, gamblers, riders-- all handled with humanity and heart.Read more ›
Most recent customer reviews
As a rider and owner myself, I usually shy away from horse related novels because the inaccuracy annoys me. Read morePublished on June 8 2004 by Wynnie
Horse Heaven is well paced novel about the thoroughbred horse racing industry. Jane Smiley skillfully relates her intimate knowledge of the business and it's eclectic owners,... Read morePublished on Dec 4 2003
This is possibly the most boring, uneventful, horrible book that I have had the misfortune to come across. The endless parade of new characters was mind-numbing and tedious. Read morePublished on Aug. 25 2003 by JR
This is such a lovely, entertaining, fascinating, moving book that I hated to finish it. I got so fond of all the characters (including the horses) and wanted to continue to track... Read morePublished on May 8 2003 by shelley isom
This is a book you'd pick for a desert island classic. There is so much here about human nature and horse nature to ponder. Read morePublished on Aug. 5 2002 by M. Tarman
I've read other Jane Smiley works that I've loved (A Thousand Acres, Moo) but I bought this booked based on the positive reviews that I read in Amazon and I must say that this is... Read morePublished on Aug. 5 2002
and I've been a racing fan for about 25 years now. If I could've edited this book, it would only be half as long. Read morePublished on July 17 2002 by DawnStorm
"Horse Heaven" should still be on the best-seller list. The book was recommended to me by a friend this past Christmas, and am I glad I got it. Read morePublished on April 20 2002 by Joan Minor