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Horse Heaven [Paperback]

3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (95 customer reviews)

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Most helpful customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Heavenly June 8 2004
By Wynnie
As a rider and owner myself, I usually shy away from horse related novels because the inaccuracy annoys me. This book was extensively researched, and a pleasant relief for those who actually are familiar with how the horse industry operates. At the same time, I'm sure it can be understood and enjoyed by those with just a simple interest in horses, rather than a working knowledge. Understandably, the seemingly endless parade of characters can be a little confusing, but it serves a point. In the circle of the horse industry, there is rarely a simple tale to be told of a horse, rider or owner. The dysfunctionally enmeshed lifestyle in which we lead puts us in a clique where everyone does thread to everyone else somehow, even when they don't know it. This work is not a light read, but well worth it.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Horse Heaven Dec 4 2003
By A Customer
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, trainers, and hangers-on. Unique to the genre is her talent of relating the unvarnished nuances of the industry from the equine athlete's point of view.
A wonderful adult read especially appreciated by animal lovers and horse enthusiasts.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Beyond Dick Francis� Sept. 22 2003
While Jane Smiley's Horse Heaven is no simple whodunit, it does take on the mystery of the attachment of humans to horses. There's no real answer, other than that it is a lifetime obsession. Some are inspired, some are ruined, and some are saved by the love and devotion to these animals.
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.
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1.0 out of 5 stars Enough is enough Aug. 25 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. I didn't care about any of them because Smiley gave you no time to get to know anyone, she was too busy adding someone new. Ho Ho Ice Chill indeed.
I feel like writing to Ms. Smiley myself and asking for my money back.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Horse Heaven a Heavenly Read May 8 2003
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 them and their fortunes. I haven't had such fun since I was mad about Black Beauty as a child. And it stirred up my affection for horses, their intelligence, they fortitude, their dignity and their beauty and their close relationships with people -- that there is a whole world out there in which people are fixated on horses is rendered absolutely real and compelling in Smiley's novel. It made me sorry not to be a trainer or a groom or a horse masseuse or at the very least, an owner. This book has everything -- pathos, satire, great characters, wonderful insight into horses and people abound. This novel has it all.
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5.0 out of 5 stars not just for horse lovers Jan. 27 2003
Like many women, I went through a horsey phase as a girl, but mine was mild-- I drew them incessantly for a while, and enjoyed my riding lessons at summer camp. I've never gotten into horse books, and I'd never have read this one had it not been a book club pick.
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.
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Most recent customer reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars A Good Read, but Frustrating
I have to agree with other reviewers that the sheer number of characters and story lines introduced at the beginning of the book was overwhelming and frustrating. Read more
Published on Nov. 16 2002 by "racantwell"
5.0 out of 5 stars A True Desert Island Classic
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 more
Published on Aug. 5 2002 by M. Tarman
2.0 out of 5 stars This was very boring
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 more
Published on Aug. 5 2002
2.0 out of 5 stars I only borrowed this book because it was about horse racing
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 more
Published on July 17 2002 by DawnStorm
4.0 out of 5 stars Enjoyable read, almost great
I will assume you have learned about the story from the other reviews and won't bother repeating it. Read more
Published on July 6 2002 by D. C. Palter
5.0 out of 5 stars Simply Sublime
"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 more
Published on April 20 2002 by Joan Minor
4.0 out of 5 stars Equine fun!
Jane Smiley's best book is probably A THOUSAND ACRES. I had trouble with it. I guess because of the V.C. Andrews incest theme. Read more
Published on March 18 2002 by Dave Schwinghammer
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