The Shadow Boxer
Copyright MMXVI Steven Heighton. Web design by Peter duChemin. All rights reserved. Personal information collected through this website will be kept in strict confidence.

The Shadow Boxer

“Steven Heighton's first novel comes out of its corner with both fists swinging… Essentially the story of one man's troubled love affair with literature, The Shadow Boxer fizzes with life and energy, its prose a heated mix of lyricism and muscularity. A bravura performance… a post-beat Bildungsroman of the sort that isn't written much any more… its adhesion to the old vanities of authenticity and the primacy of experience [make it] nothing less than a full-blooded argument with postmodern trickery. Intense and poetic… has a swaggering, larger-than-life quality.”
Independent on Sunday

The Shadow Boxer, a novel published in Canada by Knopf Canada, May 2000
• in the UK and Australia by Granta Books, June 2000
• in the USA by Houghton Mifflin, March 2002
• in Italy by Edizioni e/o, May 2003
• Canadian p.b., Vintage Canada, May 2001
• Canadian p.b., second edition, Vintage Canada, Sept. 2005
• Canadian p.b., third edition, Vintage Canada, March 2010

National bestseller (very briefly)

A Best Book of 2000: The Globe & Mail
The Toronto Star

A Best Book of 2002: Publishers' Weekly (USA)

“Splendid… spine-tingling in its evocation of passions… The Shadow Boxer is symphonic, Mahler-like, in its shifting intensities as it makes segues between the sensory and the psychological… I can't think of another writer, not even Ondaatje, who can be so real while being so mannered. And musical.”
The Globe & Mail

“Terrific… a tour-de-force… one of the finest coming-of-age tales in recent years… written in beautiful long, looping, rhapsodic sentences studded with vigorous images. A splendid novelistic debut by a writer who seems to be just now entering a most impressive maturity.” —Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

“Evidently this is the start of something momentous.” —The Observer

The Shadow Boxer has a majestic expansiveness… a powerful, river-like quality: the capacity to flow through many different landscapes, geographical or psychological, with masterful strokes.” —Il Manifesto (Simone Barillari)

“[An] elegantly crafted tale of a young poet and boxer who fights his way out of the backwoods of Canada, drunk on Kerouac and the unbounded promise of his future. Heighton chronicles [his characters'] growth with impressive restraint and sensitivity… [and] ably captures the emotional costs of a young man's dream.” —Washington Post Book World

“Heighton is a heavyweight… [and] proves himself a master of realist narrative. [Here] what is old is made new again by sheer virtuosity of execution… The result is a genuine, hard-fought lyrical beauty that transcends fashion.” —The Vancouver Sun

“Vivid and powerfully drawn… The Shadow Boxer is an energetic, fluent and interesting novel by a writer who has already shown himself to be gifted, capable of exploring and experimenting with language.” —The Times Literary Supplement

“The texture, grit, and pure narrative grace of this remarkable first novel by young Canadian short story writer, essayist, and poet Heighton transform a coming-of-age story into something uncommon yet deeply familiar… this is a remarkably accomplished, potent first novel in which Heighton explores the forces that shape the lives of artists, writing in a disarmingly natural voice that shifts effortlessly in range, from near-Lawrentian lyricism to blunt, gripping simplicity.” —Publishers Weekly (starred review; a PW book of the year)

“This is a gorgeous novel, sensitively tuned to "changes of light, weather and season" in nature and human relationships… The book reminded me that what great prose does is to nourish… A banquet for the reader's senses.” —The Edmonton Journal

“Superb… an absorbing meditation on the romantic soul in the cynical modern world.” —Good Book Guide

“Deeply imagined, strongly felt, and… also deliberately unfashionable. In a good way.” —Toronto Life

“Captures the ecstasy of departure, the joy of breaking away. [The] hero's exuberance, his willingness to drink life to the lees, is marvelous.” —Montreal Gazette

“Heighton's debut novel is among the best of the year… There is a generosity and largeness of spirit to this book, an unabashed romanticism that harks back to Thomas Wolfe and Jack Kerouac.” —Ottawa X Press

“A quintessentially Canadian book… [by] one of the country's most exciting writers… Heighton's voice is distinct and his skills are unequivocal… An impressive novelistic debut.” —Kitchener-Waterloo Record

“Heighton constructs a convincing collection of memorable characters… Never does he take refuge in cynicism to avoid the challenge of conveying the depths of a character's pain… This book is not a property, not a tract and not a text. It is high art, pervaded by what really matters.” —The Yukon News

“Heighton's spectacularly well-written novel offers a surplus of insight and a daringly taut narrative… Almost every sentence contains some elegant, unexpected turn. The prose has the heft and density of emotion.” —Canadian Notes & Queries

“Marvellous… technically accomplished, with inventive tropes studding gleaming prose… Heighton is one to watch.” —Time Out (London)

“A weighty and symphonic novel… dense with events and characters… that recalls Joseph Conrad and Jack London. Potently lyrical… an epic emotional journey.” —Europa

“Heighton's work possesses an epic intensity; his story is as concrete and wonderful as the language in which it is told.” —La Stampa (Claudio Gorlier)

“The main character of Steven Heighton's The Shadow Boxer, Sevigne Torrins, is in the tradition of Wilhelm Meister, Stephen Dedalus and Eugene Gant—-a young man fighting to reconcile his appetite for life with his ambition to be a writer, wanting both perfection of the life and perfection of the work. The theme of this book may not be new, but Heighton has wrung more variations on it than anyone has done in a long time. One hears instantly in the first few pages the sound of a writer who in his first novel has already found his style. Fluid, rhythmical, full of force and grace, his sentences compel you to keep reading. Soon, all of the above will be common knowledge.” —Wayne Johnston

“[Heighton is] a wonderfully instinctive writer.” —National Post

“A stunner of a first novel.” —Calgary Herald

“Heighton is artful both in conveying atmosphere—-he has a sharp eye for the texture of life—-and narrating a series of engrossing adventures.” —Toronto Star

“Has a poet's love of words and imagery, making [it] a highly visual book. Heighton has captured perfectly the ups and downs, and the constant rejections, of a writer's life.” —Ottawa Citizen

“A rich, multi-layered novel… a remarkable journey of creative and spiritual self-discovery.” —eye weekly (four star review)

“Hypnotic, tense and rich… Heighton's material is authentic; the scenes are exciting and true.” —Quill & Quire

“The author combines gritty realism and a lyrical voice… to paint an admirably realistic picture of alcohol's corrosive influence.” —Hamilton Spectator

“Gorgeous… pummels something fresh out of language on almost every page.” —Halifax Daily News

“Utterly refreshing… the writing [has] a sweeping beauty… The author has a talent for getting to the heart of all matters emotional. [This is] a book to come back to.” —UT Pulse

“Heighton's descriptive powers are at their peak… [the] writing is lucid and beautiful… splendidly evocative… a pleasure to read.” —Kingston Whig-Standard

“Heighton succeeds admirably… the urgency of life and the errancy of spirit are in this novel.” —paperplates

“A multi-layered coming-of-age novel that manages to be both Canadian and cosmopolitan, deep and simple, poetic and practical, The Shadow Boxer is a big book with big ambitions—ambitions that Heighton is, fortunately, able to deliver on.” —Edmonton Sun

British reviews of The Shadow Boxer

“May be read as a satire on the literary world, or as a deeply felt protest against metropolitan life. Heighton's writing is clean and sharp, and his ear for the banalities of cocktail party dialogue, for example, is merciless.” —The Daily Telegraph

“This epic tale charts the progress of a young impassioned writer who leaves his complex and painful family history behind to follow his dreams in the city of Toronto… [In] raw, nakedly honest prose we are treated to a richly-drawn world of showbusiness and media types, and a fantastic cast of characters… A witty and moving account of what happens when a Thoreau/Hemingway/Fitzgerald-inspired writer meets with the bitter and selfish cynicism of those who have been in the business for years.” —Manchester Metro

Italian reviews of The Shadow Boxer

“Steven Heighton is one of the most important Canadian writers.” —Radio 2

American reviews of The Shadow Boxer

“Like a latter-day Holden Caulfield, [Heighton's protagonist] rejects the phoniness that surrounds him, but unlike Caulfield he manages to see deeper into human behaviour and come to uneasy terms with the broader society… [This] should be Heighton's breakthrough.” —Library Journal (a recommended book)