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Horse Heaven (Ballantine Reader's…

Horse Heaven (Ballantine Reader's Circle) (edition 2001)

by Jane Smiley (Author)

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9981312,604 (3.83)57
Title:Horse Heaven (Ballantine Reader's Circle)
Authors:Jane Smiley (Author)
Info:Ballantine Books (2001), Edition: First Edition, 592 pages
Collections:Your library

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Horse Heaven by Jane Smiley

  1. 00
    The God of Animals by Aryn Kyle (MissUnderstood)
    MissUnderstood: I enjoyed 'Horse Heaven' altho' it was such a big sprawling book that I felt it was almost trying to do too much and would have been more involving if it were a bit shorter. So, therefore I am recommending 'The God of Animals'; I preferred it as it was more focussed, and more intimate and touching.… (more)
  2. 00
    Lord of Misrule by Jaimy Gordon (rebeccanyc)
    rebeccanyc: These books are very different, but both are sympathetic portrayals of horse racing, horses, and the people of the racetrack.
  3. 00
    12 Miles to Paradise: A People Story About Horses & Horseracing by Ted Simendinger (KAzevedo)

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» See also 57 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 13 (next | show all)
What a charming book. Lost at first with too many characters and story lines, but one of those books where you think you're grumpy that you're being taken away from a story you like, only to find that you love the new chapter just as much. Once I took the author's advice to "follow the horses", I had a much easier time following the action (though I also wrote stuff down).

Who'da thunk that one of my favorite literary characters this year will be a horse. I heart you, Justa Bob. ( )
  jjaylynny | Nov 12, 2016 |
There was nothing wrong with this book as such and I'm sure Jane Smiley is an excellent writer, but I just have no interest in horses! My own fault for choosing it! ( )
  Amzzz | Mar 20, 2016 |
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 musing & then it suddenly picked up again. I guess that was the biggest flaw, there was a very realistic unevenness to the story. Tons of crazy things happen, then life sort of drifts along & the cycle repeats.

There are a lot of characters, both horse & human, but there is a pretty good list in the front. It might be worthwhile to make some extra notes. Some of the characters were tough for me to keep separated. For instance, two trainers, Farley & Dick were similar enough that I confused them on more than one occasion, although that didn't really hurt the story at all. Most stood out wonderfully like Justa Bob & Mr. T, super horse characters.

I have enough experience to know that Smiley REALLY knows the business & her take on it, the way she describes the horses & the people, is fantastic. If you like watching any of the big flat races (e.g. the Kentucky Derby) & wonder what sort of life led up to & goes on after, I can't think of a better way to do it. ( )
  jimmaclachlan | Aug 18, 2014 |
  terrafrank | May 8, 2010 |
I loved this book! The combination of a rich knowledge of horses, horse people, and racing was impressive but what I really loved was Smiley's cast of characters (including the horses and the Jack Russell terrier). She kept surprising me with her insight, her creativity,and her humor. Terrific. ( )
  nancenwv | Apr 4, 2010 |
Showing 1-5 of 13 (next | show all)
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Jane Smileyprimary authorall editionscalculated
Kinsky, EstherTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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In no other department of human knowledge has there been such a universal and persistent habit of misrepresenting the truth of history as in matters relating to the horse. -JOHN H. WALLACE, The Horse in America
I recognized with despair that I was about to be compelled to buy a horse. -Some Experiences of an Irish R.M., SOMERVILLE AND ROSS
I never heart of a great thing done yet but it was done by a thorough-bred horse. -English steeplechase jockey DICK CHRISTIAN, 1820's
To the memory of TERSON (Ger.) by Luciano out of Templeogue, by Prodomo (fifty-two starts, seven wins, eight seconds and three thirds in France and the United States), this novel is dedicated with love and gratitude.

And to Jack Canning, likewise.

Thank you, especially, to Dr. Gregory L. Ferraro, D.V.M., of Davis, California, and to Jim Squires, of Lexington, Kentucky, for their endless patience, help, and kindness; and to Dave Hofmans, Eddie Gregson, Dr. Mike Fling, Dr. Gary Deter, Roy and Andre Forzani, Benjamin Bycel, Bea and Derek DiGrazia, John Grassi, Nana Faridany, Rick Moss, Ray Berta, Tara Baker, Stefano Cacace, Bob Armstead, and countless others who gave of their time, their expertise, and, best of all, their wit.
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Residual, by Storm Trumpet, out of Baba Yaya, by Key to the Mint, chestunt, born January 23, 1996.
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0449005410, Paperback)

It takes a great deal of faith to gear a novel this horse-besotted to the general public. Horse love is one of those things either you get or you don't, and for the vast majority of the populace, horse stories tend to read like porn written for 13-year-old girls. The good news, then, is that while a love of all things equine is not a prerequisite for enjoying Jane Smiley's Horse Heaven, a love of human perversity is. Racing, after all, is at worst a dangerous, asset-devouring folly and at best an anachronism, as one of her horse trainers notes:
The Industry Leaders had made it their personal mission to bring horse racing to the attention of the general public, with the NFL as their model and television as their medium of choice, which was fine with Farley, though his own view was that horse racing out at the track, newspaper reading, still photography, placing bets in person, and writing thank-you notes by hand were all related activities, and football, ESPN, video, on-line betting, and not writing thank-you notes at all were another set of related activities.
A crucial piece of information for Smiley fans is that, among her many novels, Horse Heaven most resembles Moo. (And there's even a pig!) In fact, with these two books it appears that this versatile author has finally found a home in which to unpack her impressive gifts: that is, the sprawling, intricately plotted satirical novel. Her target in this case is not academia but horse racing--less commonly satirized but, here at least, just as fruitfully so. Wickedly knowing, dryly comic, the result is as much fun to read as it must have been to write.

None of which means that Horse Heaven is a casual read. For starters, one practically needs a racing form to keep track of its characters, particularly when their stories begin to overlap and converge in increasingly unlikely and pleasing ways. Perhaps it says something about the novel that the easiest figures to follow are the horses themselves: loutish Epic Steam, the "monster" colt; the winsome filly Residual; supernaturally focused Limitless; and trembling little Froney's Sis. And that's not to forget Horse Heaven's single most prepossessing character, Justa Bob--a little swaybacked, a little ewe-necked, but possessed of a fine sense of humor and an abiding disdain for winning races by anything but a nose.

Then there are the humans, including but not limited to socialite Rosalind Maybrick, her husband Al (who manufactures "giant heavy metal objects" in "distant impoverished nationlike locations"), a Zen trainer, a crooked trainer, a rapper named Ho Ho Ice Chill, an animal psychic, and a futurist scholar, as well as attendant jockeys, grooms, and hangers-on. (Not to mention poor, ironically named Joy, a few years out of Moo U and still having problems relating.) It's a little frustrating to watch this cast come and go and fight for Smiley's attention; you glimpse them so vividly, and then they disappear for another hundred pages, and it breaks your heart.

But there are certainly worse problems a novel could have than characters to whom you grow overattached. A plot this convoluted would be one, if only it weren't so hard to stop reading. There are elements of magic realism, astounding coincidences, unabashed anthropomorphism. (At one point--while Justa Bob throws himself against his stall in sorrow at leaving his owner's tiny, wordless mother behind--this reviewer cried, "Shameless!" even as she began to tear up.) Improbably, it all works. Horse Heaven is a great, joyous, big-hearted entertainment, a stakes winner by any measure, and for both horse lovers and fans of Smiley's dry, character-based wit, a cause for celebration on par with winning the Triple Crown. --Mary Park

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:10:50 -0400)

(see all 5 descriptions)

A novel set in the world of thoroughbred racing follows a group of trainers, jockeys, and "track brats" on a two-year journey through the racing cycle.

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Average: (3.83)
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