I can't remember if I heard about Heyday on Studio 360 (Kurt Anderson, the author, is the host...it's a great podcast/show from WNYC) or if I saw it at the bookstore first. In any case the cover photos and the synopsis sucked me in. Heyday is a story of a group of people who are making their way in a world in transition...the telegraph is now in use, photography is developing (ha!), the people of France are having a revolution, the USA is at war with Mexico, gold is discovered in California...the list goes on. A lot of significant events happened at this time, and the book's characters seem to be witnessing it all. This book was pretty good...the plot itself is pretty standard...elements of romance, revenge, rebellion, adventure, etc. Otherwise the story is borderline non-fiction with it's carefully researched notes on popular culture (slang, theater, shopping, politics, communication) and the dramatic irony of all the historical things yet to come. It took awhile (100 pages?) to get used to absorbing all the information presented. And it took me a loooong time to read the book. I predicted some things in the story, but others I was wrong about. I think that the characters were a little TOO involved in major events and with major people...it got a little annoying and a little fantastical. But it was interesting to compare the changes that were happening then and now (telegraph=twitter?)...and there are great scenes to imagine in detail. I might check out Kurt Anderson's other books sometime, too.
My recommendation is that if you like historical fiction or are interested in what pop culture was like 160 years ago, you should go to the library or bookstore and read 5 pages of the book before you decide to take it home.