The Heavens

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 12 Feb 2019

Member Reviews

Like so many other reviewers, I'm having a hard time sorting out my thoughts on this book. It's a cross genre piece with historical fiction type scenes set in Shakespeare's era; a time travel novel; a piece of dystopian fiction about out present day. It's a book to come to with an open mind. Every time The Heavens starts to feel as if it's falling into a familiar category, it swings off in some other direction, upending reader expectations. This isn't really a problem, but it means that reading The Heavens requires some intellectual effort. It's a book to read when you want to think about difficult things, not a book to read when you want fairly undemanding entertainment.
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I would particularly like to thank Grove Atlantic & Grove Press and the Netgalley website for this partnership.

This book was a big crush for me, I was immediately attracted by this beautiful cover.

This book is based on a love story with time travel. The story takes place in 2000 in New York and London in 1593.

It all began in 20000 when Kate and Ben fell in love with each other at a party. A new millennium is here, no war in the world, the United Nations has planted its flag on the planet Mars. Kate is happy and falls asleep.

Meanwhile in London in 1593, she woke up as Emilia, mistress of nobleman. She wants to save the world and every decision she makes will affect her relationship with Ben.

I immediately hooked on this book, being a big fan of time travel books, I was not disappointed, a captivating, moving story full of suspense and twists and turns, I love the author's pen so addictive. It would be up to me to buy the bound format right away.
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Sandra Newman
A Review of Sandra Newman’s “The Heavens”
Any World That I’m Welcome To
Go to the profile of Zachary Houle
Zachary Houle
May 11
“The Heavens” Book Cover

Some books are a chore to read. That’s a case in point for Sandra Newman’s fourth novel, The Heavens. This is the kind of book that would normally be in my wheelhouse — it purports to be a novel about both mental illness and time travel (!). However, I found this work very hard to get into. It might not necessarily be the author’s fault. I have to admit that for what I found wanting in this work, it is succulently written and it is very clever. The twentysomething characters at the centre of this bizarre love story — Kate and Ben — are likable enough. Still, this book really feels like two novels stuck into one, with neither of them given enough space to really truly breathe and be remarkable. This is a fairly short read, and what the book really calls out for is the epic treatment.

The setting(s) are quite unconventional. The book is partially set in New York City of the year 2000, but it doesn’t look like the recent past at all. There’s a female Chinese president in power, and there’s a war going on in Guatemala. Against this backdrop, Ben meets Kate at a party and immediately falls in love with her, and she likewise with Ben. However, when Kate goes to sleep, the second setting kicks in. Kate dreams that she’s a woman named Emilia living in Elizabethan England. She befriends and falls in love with a poet named William Shakespeare, who is unheard of in the New York setting of the novel. Emilia starts having visions of a city that has fallen, but when Kate — in the “real world,” if you can call it that — tries to warn people, they write off her dreamlike time travelling as mental illness and soon Kate’s life is upended by medications and hospital stays.

As you can tell, this is a daring and original book. The sections of the book set in the 1500s feel real and characters speak in a kind of poetic vernacular. Obviously, Newman has done her research into how people spoke in Old English but even the made-up bits of turn-of-the-millennium New York are inventive and astounding. Still, for some reason or another, the novel doesn’t hang together as well as it should. Part of it is because there are tons of minor characters that you have to pay attention to as they have major roles to play in the narrative. Part of it is just something I can’t quite put my finger on. It’s as though this mashup between romance, time travel and mental illness just doesn’t congeal as it should. It may just be that Newman has bitten off more than she could chew — this might have been a better novel if it stayed in the somewhat familiar world of NYC. The Elizabethan times bits didn’t really grab me. Strange characters having sex with Shakespeare didn’t really do anything for my reading enjoyment.

I think, though, that upon reflection that the main problem with this work is that there’s no thematic. It doesn’t really have anything to say about the world but to imagine that the world could become a better place if only someone could go back in time and fix things. To wit, the New York scenery starts changing once Kate/Emilia starts to go to work in the plague-ridden world of England: Al Gore, in some change that’s not really explained, suddenly becomes the President — and then, just as suddenly, George W. Bush then is. This is a world that is not stable, and while there might be a dramatic purpose behind all of this, it also makes the book hard to get into and really inhabit as a reader.

I also think that the book doesn’t really know if it wants to be serious or not. The relationship between Kate and Ben is, at first, breezy and likable before it gets bogged down with Kate’s schizophrenia diagnosis. Emilia, on the other hand, is — if I can say it without offending anybody — a bit of a whore. It’s hard to believe that the same woman is the same character, so that’s part of the reason why The Heavens seems to lack so much. It is really all over the map, and doesn’t know if it wants to be a lightweight fairy tale or something dour.

That all said, I wouldn’t dissuade anyone from reading this book if this seems to strike your interest and fancy. It is different, and Newman should get brownie points for turning in a book about time travel that isn’t rote or by-the-numbers. There’s enough here to satisfy the curious, even though the novel doesn’t quite come together as it should. In fact, it just ends. It’s as though Newman has painted herself into a bit of a corner, and was unsure how to bring her volume to a satisfactory conclusion. Still, even though this is a piece that you will probably read slowly — not necessarily to savour it, but to kind of make heads or tails whether or not you’re enjoying what you’re reading — I did find that things kind of picked up a little in the latter half of the book, and the novel really starts to get a sense of momentum and propulsion.

Overall, I’m not sure what to make of The Heavens. It isn’t totally unbelievable or riddled with plot holes that some works of time travel fiction offer. And the mental health angle is an unexpected and surprising one — even though it’s a bit muted and kind of gets tossed to the side towards the novel’s end. However, the book is a bit of a slog to get through. There’s nothing too exciting about the book, and you really have to be a lover of both science fiction and historical fiction to really glean any kind of breathlessness from this read. In the end, The Heavens isn’t all that heavenly and you may find yourself challenged by the work for all the wrong reasons. It took me a long time to finish, so if that tells you anything, that might be pretty much all that needs to be said.
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It took me three attempts to get into this book. I couldn't get past the first 2 chapters but on the fourth attempt, during a long flight I finally made it through.

I don't like to be defeated by a book so I'm glad I persevered but sadly, I didn't enjoy this book. I think it is a mixture of the fact that I'd tried a few times and also am not a fan of time travel novels. I love historical fiction but not when mixed with the current day, I just didn't get it. There was a bit too much going on and over such a vast time period, I couldn't keep up. I didn't realise how complex the plot was going to be and had to spend time rereading paragraphs which became a bit of a frustration.

Thank you to @netgalley for the opportunity to review.

#libraryatsevern #bookstagrammer #readersofinstagram #bookstagram #igreads #bookshelf #goodreads #theheavens #netgalley
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I had a lot of torn feelings whilst reading this novel. I loved it in parts, and in others I wanted to tear my hair out at being confused at the complexity of this novel. I hadn't realised how complex the plot was going to be when I first requested this novel on Netgalley. But am I glad I read this and didn't DNF it in the end? Definitely yes! It's definitely not the type of book I would normally read, but I'm trying to read more historical fiction novels. I probably would give this a 3.5 stars, but I ended up rounding down to a 3 stars, as I don't feel like I connected or enjoyed the novel enough to round up to 4 stars. 

I found this novel to have a complex plot line, that if you aren't full invested and not concentrating fully whilst reading, the plot can get a bit away from you. I had moments when I was reading but I wasn't fully concentrating and I ended up being so confused when I came back to reading it after putting it down. I had to often re-read paragraphs to fully understand them. The two plot lines within the book had me hooked at how different they were to each other. I loved the contrast between the current day 2000's plot versus the Elizabethan era plot. I think if the plot was set in another time period in the past, I don't think I would have enjoyed the book as much as I did in the end. I am a sucker for anything set in or related to the Elizabethan era. I remember whilst reading this and meeting the character of Will, and realising he was Shakespeare, I was so excited as I am a massive fan of Shakespeare and his works. This is what probably made the novel for me. I did thoroughly enjoy reading a novel about Shakespeare's 'Dark Lady'.

In the beginning I was confused when Emilia first came into the story as I wasn't aware that this was Kate time travelling in her dreams. The first chapter set in the past truly had me confused, but after that first chapter and understanding the plot lines, I was easily able to pick up the difference in the chapters or sections of chapters set in the past versus the parts set in the current day period. The plot lines are forever changing between the two settings and eras so it can be difficult to somewhat keep up, as I said previously, without fully concentrating. However, I do wish that both plot lines were explored more and had more depth. I think the current day plot had more depth around Kate's character, due to her thinking that her dreams were changing the history and that effecting current day events, such as war, president elections, etc. I did enjoy reading about the effect of Kate's dreams and the changing of the past due to Emilia's actions regarding Will and other areas of the past of the Elizabethan era. 

I did struggle to truly connect with the characters of this novel. I felt like they were very surface level and their characters weren't explored on a deeper level. I felt that Kate's character was the only character to have a deeper exploration. However, Kate's storyline also bugged me, with the use of mental illness due to her time travelling dreams. This is probably my major issue with the book. When Ben thought he had to get Kate diagnosed because there has to be something wrong with her, I got so mad and at that point I truly lost all interest in Ben's character and his story line. 

Thank you very much to Grove Atlantic for providing me with a copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review.
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This was a story that I had a very difficult time engaging with. The writing didn’t work for me as it felt disjointed and jumped around too much. My favorite reads tend to evoke strong emotional reactions through their character development or plot. The Heavens lacked that emotional impact. I couldn’t relate to the characters - Kate in particular -which made it challenging to care about her. When I first requested this book, I was expecting a different sort of read in which the main character was emotionally torn between two worlds . Instead, the book seemed to focus on an underlying theoretical theme that I didn’t find to be all that interesting. This was one of those books that really didn’t work for me although I’m sure it has its niche. I received an ARC from Grove Atlantic and Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.
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A time-travel romance that I would recommend to readers who liked Life After Life or The Time Travelers Wife. Not as engaging as I had hoped but I think this will be a popular book - I have already been asked about it a few times by readers who have seen reviews online.
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Not exactly what I thought it was going to be like. It's well written and the plot was promising but to me something fell a little short. Worth taking a shot though because everyone's reading experience is different. Am glad I read it though. Will look for more from this author. Happy reading!
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The Heavens was a strange, ambitious book, and I have no idea how to review it. Kate and Ben meet at a party in New York in 2000, and it becomes clear that they're in our world but not. We learn that Kate dreams that she is a time traveler to Elizabethan England, and that her dreams seem to have an affect on her waking world. The story moves between realities. (It sounds bonkers but Newman makes it work.) I really liked Kate and while I found reading this book slow going at first by the end I was flying through it to see what would happen. The big ideas in the book didn't all land for me, but I would recommend it to people interested in thinking about the choices we make as individuals and how the past affects the future.
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I liked this book, but not at first.  I felt the book started off a bit slow and I found it a bit frustrating as I wasn't sure where this book was going. The plot developed rather slowly. The transitions between Kate's dreams and reality were a bit confusing. I found that  Kate's dreams were vivid in comparison to the portrayal of her perceived reality.

I found this book, The Heavens, to be a difficult book to review.  Personally, I have never read a book like this before and it's hard for me to really describe how I feel about it.  It was bothersome, fascinating, captivating, sad, complicated, and a bit bizarre. My recommendation is to not read too much into this book before reading it. Which sounds odd, but it is a book that you will want to experience for yourself. 

*I received a copy of this book via NetGalley, in return for an honest review. I would like to thank Grove Atlantic, Sandra Newman and NetGalley for the opportunity to review this book.
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The third attempt finally seemed to get me going. But not for long. This book just didn't make sense to me.

Ben meets Kate at a rich girls party. They fall in love and pretty soon are living together. 
Kate has dreams that take her back to 1593 plague ridden London, where she has an important role to fulfill in her Italian family. 
Her daytime in New York is occupied by her night time dreams. Is this going anywhere other than now and then? 

I wanted to understand the story but I felt like an outsider looking in. I couldn't connect with any of the characters or get used to the odd writing. Adjectives overload!
Maybe this book is magical. I will never know. Halfway through I decided enough is enough.
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The Heavens is essentially Sandra Newman's novelized meditation on the Great Man Theory - the idea that history has been shaped by a few influential individuals. Kate, a young woman living in New York City in the early 2000s, believes she's one such person, as she has dreams which propel her into a past timeline where she lives as a mistress in Elizabethan England. When she wakes up, she begins to notice that details about her life have changed overnight, and as she becomes increasingly convinced that her dreams are affecting her reality, her boyfriend Ben becomes concerned about her mental health.

It's particularly difficult to talk about the plot of this book when it's ever-shifting. At the start of the novel Kate and Ben live in a New York that resembles our own, except that we aren't at war and we've elected a green party president named Chen, until one day she wakes up and is informed by her concerned friends that Gore is president, and has been president all along, doesn't she remember? Newman excels at playing with this inherently tenuous atmosphere; whether it's Kate's mental stability or the fabric of the universe that's really on the verge of collapse, there's a palpable fragility at play while you turn these pages, never sure which details are going to shift from one page to the next.

But despite its clever construction, this doesn't completely work from start to finish. Kate's dream narrative is noticeably weaker than that of the present, and the depiction of 1590s England feels almost caricaturish. It also plays with many different lofty ideas and doesn't always follow through with seamless execution; certain plot threads feel abandoned and under-examined, and I thought the resolution undermined a lot of what came before it. But, I haven't completely made up my mind about this book and I'm sure to be mulling it over for days to come, so I'm very curious to see how others will receive this wildly unconventional tale of love and fate and time travel.

Thank you to Netgalley and Grove Atlantic for the advanced copy provided in exchange for an honest review.
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The Heavens by Sandra Newman is a free NetGalley ebook that I read in early January.

Second-person, slightly judgmental narration, except for when it comes to the love story of Ben and Kate in 2001 during their jittery, freewheeling twenties. It's interrupted when Kate’s strange, diaphanously realistic dreams of a past life edge into her current one, which strains her waking relationship and memories. It's quite easy to get lost in the past, the present, and in people’s names.
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Are we who we think we are or are we just the same soul, living in different lifetime?

Summer 2000. New York. Ben meets Kate at a party and they fall in love. Ben feels that that there is something special about Kate, something other worldly - but it is the blind eye of love or it is, in fact, exactly the truth. Kate, via her dreams, travels to  a life in the 16th Century where she lives as a mistress. 

As Kate struggles as she falls deeper and deeper into her dream world, Ben worries that Kate's grip on reality of lessening. 

This is a book that straddles the life between general fiction and historical fiction. Sandra Newman does a masterful job at this exploration of who we are and what our dreams mean.
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Interesting to read and hard to review. This is a challenging novel that doesn't really settle in a genre and which was at times very confusing to me.  It starts in 2000= but not the 2000 we remember.  Things are already a little different.  Kate confides in Ben that she dreams, regularly, that she is Emilia, a woman in Elizabethan England.  The vantage point shifts between Kate and Emilia, with each section written in the style of the time.  Is this time travel?  Is Kate trying to change something in the past to switch her future?  I honestly don't know what to tell you without spoilers and without putting my own POV into it.  My one quibble is that there are a lot of adverbs.  Thanks to the publisher for the ARC.  For fans of literary fiction willing to take a leap.
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Reading Sandra Newman’s “The Heavens” felt like reading the first draft of a novel with a very bold premise, which is what kept me going when I knew I should have stopped. I’m not talking about the editing, because the writer couldn’t help adverbising every freaking verb and poorly-chosen adjective, or couldn’t decide what kind of information and from whose PoV goes into those brackets. Although, seriously: “Ben thought as he torpidly watched,” “the cat meowed peevishly,” “the cat meowed again protestingly” (sic.), “the company equably laughed,” “stores with dirty plastic signs that were bullyingly ugly,” “Kate said fatalistically.” 

But that’s not my main issue… 

I should have stopped when I realized who Kate/Emilia was trying to save by dreaming/going back in the past, again when the historical part felt like a parody of Elizabethan era, yet again when mental illness is used to make sense of a weak plot, and finally when talk of time travel was being introduced. It became too much! 

I’m an English and literary theory major and this novel contained as many storytelling "NO, NOs" as I could think of. I’m not saying that writers should follow every rule in the book, only have a clear idea where the story is going. Or a story, beginning, middle, and end, in whichever order they prefer. Even though I was intrigued by its premise, I can’t ignore the fact that I didn’t enjoy the way the story was delivered. 

*Thanks to NetGalley & Grove Press for the opportunity to read a digital ARC in exchange for an honest review.*
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~ I was given an advance reader copy of this title in exchange for an honest review, I'm not associated with the author or publisher in any way and the views expressed are completely unbiased and entirely my own. ~


I'll preface this by saying that I know this novel is going to divide opinion given that it's written in a style that may be jarrring to some. It reads as a sort of stream of conciousness and requires the reader to suspend their disbelief in order to lose themselves in the plot. My perspective is that I absolutely love time-slippy, time-travelly, alternate reality, butterfly effect, magical realism type fiction. And 'The Heavens' by Sandra Newman ticks quite a few of those boxes. 
Is is an account of a young woman named Kate's experience of slipping from her reality in early 2000's New York when she falls asleep, and waking up in 16th century England as somebody else. The book explores the impact that this has on her reality and her relationships with other people, mainly her partner Ben.

As I mentioned, some of my favourite books deal with themes of this sort;
Life After Life, The Time Traveler's Wife, The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, Tender Morsels, as well as anything written by Neil Gaiman. I'm not saying that this title is exactly like those, however, if you are comfortable with and enjoy stories which play with reality as those titles do, then 'The Heavens' will be something you may enjoy as much as I have. It was simply unputdownable and impossible not to be swept along by the weird and wonderful imaginings of the author. 

~ Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for the opportunity to review this title ~
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The Heavens is a unique story. It's like a time travel reincarnation concept along with a romance. Kate travels to Elizabethan England in her dreams and lives another life as a woman of the time period. She wakes to find the present day, but it's a little different each time, pictures on the wall that she doesn't recognize, building in the city, etc. Ben, her boyfriend, finds this hard to believe. In this situation, would you believe her? Probably not, so what would you do then? Big questions in the story to answer. It's well written and engaging. The characters are likeable and complex. It's confusing at times because of the time travel aspect. Overall a good read.
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This is a strange book. A well written tale that moves from present to past in time travel and involves Kate and Ben, who meet at a party and whose lives become intertwined. I found it a confusing read, although, beautifully written.

Thanks to NetGalley and the publishers for the opportunity to preview.
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Hate to say it, but this was one of two books I did not finish in 2018.  I found the premise very interesting, but the characters extremely unlikable in their pompousness.  The "historical" section taking place in dreams moved much too slowly to hold my interest.  Alas, I cannot recommend it.
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