I read ‘Heyday’ for my MFA, and while I was skeptical in the first few chapters due to the distinct lack of plot, I fell in love with this book by the last chapters.
It’s 1847 and the heyday of America, and the whole 19th Century really. The story follows 5 characters: Duff and his sister Polly, their journalist friend Skaggs, an aristocratic British immigrant, Ben Knowles, and the one character that I guess was suppose to provide the plot, Inspector Javert , I mean, ex-French soldier, Gabriel Drumont.
The writing in this book was masterful, bringing the 1840s to life better than any historical novel I’ve ever read (and I’ve read a lot of them). Anderson has done his research so well, it was hard to come back to reality when I put the book down to go about my daily business.
His characters are lovable and multi-faceted, human to the point of fault and easily relatable even though they live in a time period almost 200 years removed.
But let’s take a moment to talk about Monsignor Drumont, or as I like to refer to him, “Javert,” because he is the only character in the book that is so single-mindedly obsessed.
I won’t give too much of the plot away here, but let’s suffice it to say that Ben Knowles and Drumont get into a he-said/she-said situation on Ben’s trip to Paris that ends in the 1847 Paris riots. Drumont is convinced that Ben is not just there on a nice aristocratic vacation and launches into a Les Miserables worthy journey to follow Ben from France to England, then England to America, and across all of the unchartered American territories in a quest for murder justice.
I think my favorite part was watching Javert Drumont figure his way around America as the only character who wasn’t looking to get anything out of the new-fangled country.
This book is a glorious romp through America’s teenage years that encompasses the grand scope of a new and changing nation, but also hits the very important and often lost daily lives and opinions of the people living through it.
If you like historical novels, and 600 pages don’t scare you, definitely add “Heyday” to your to-read list!