|The Given Day: A Novel
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Set in Boston at the end of the First World War, New York Times bestselling author Dennis Lehane’s long-awaited eighth novel unflinchingly captures the political and social unrest of a nation caught at the crossroads between past and future. Filled with a cast of unforgettable characters more richly drawn than any Lehane has ever created, The Given Day tells the story of two families--one black, one white--swept up in a maelstrom of revolutionaries and anarchists, immigrants and ward bosses, Brahmins and ordinary citizens, all engaged in a battle for survival and power. Beat cop Danny Coughlin, the son of one of the city’s most beloved and powerful police captains, joins a burgeoning union movement and the hunt for violent radicals. Luther Laurence, on the run after a deadly confrontation with a crime boss in Tulsa, works for the Coughlin family and tries desperately to find his way home to his pregnant wife.
Here, too, are some of the most influential figures of the era--Babe Ruth; Eugene O’Neill; leftist activist Jack Reed; NAACP founder W. E. B. DuBois; Mitchell Palmer, Woodrow Wilson’s ruthless Red-chasing attorney general; cunning Massachusetts governor Calvin Coolidge; and an ambitious young Department of Justice lawyer named John Hoover.
Coursing through some of the pivotal events of the time--including the Spanish Influenza pandemic--and culminating in the Boston Police Strike of 1919, The Given Day explores the crippling violence and irrepressible exuberance of a country at war with, and in the thrall of, itself. As Danny, Luther, and those around them struggle to define themselves in increasingly turbulent times, they gradually find family in one another and, together, ride a rising storm of hardship, deprivation, and hope that will change all their lives.
“[An] engrossing epic. . . . A vision of redemption and a triumph of the human spirit.”
--Publishers Weekly (starred review)
About the Author
Dennis Lehane is the author of seven novels. These include the New York Times bestsellers Gone, Baby, Gone; Mystic River; and Shutter Island, as well as Coronado, a collection of short stories and a play. He and his wife, Angie, divide their time between Boston and the Gulf Coast of Florida.
Images from The Given Day
The Boston Molasses Disaster
The Boston Molasses Disaster, also known as the Great Molasses Flood, occurred on January 15, 1919, in the North End neighborhood of Boston, Massachusetts. A large molasses tank burst and a wave of molasses rushed through the streets at an estimated 35 mph, killing 21 and injuring 150. The event has entered local folklore, and residents claim that on hot summer days the areas still smells of molasses. (From Wikipedia).
Headline from the Boston Post, September 9, 1919
Rioters clash with National Guardsmen called in by Massachusetts Governor Calvin Coolidge during a strike by Boston police officers.
"I'd rather have roses on my table than diamonds on my neck."
City officials in Boston were caught off guard when three civilians dropped dead of influenza in early September 1918. As September 1918 drew to a close, Boston had lost more than 1,000 citizens to the silent, relentless killer. The deadly influenza now posed a threat to the entire nation, and the world at large.
John Calvin Coolidge (1872 - 1933) was a Republican lawyer from Vermont who worked his way up the ladder of Massachusetts state politics, eventually becoming governor. His actions during the Boston Police Strike of 1919 thrust him into the national spotlight; he became the 30th President of the United States (1923 - 1929).
The Boston Molasses Disaster
The headline from the Boston Post, September 9, 1919
Set in Boston at the end of the First World War, New York Times bestselling author Dennis Lehane's long-awaited eighth novel unflinchingly captures the political and social unrest of a nation caught at the crossroads between past and future. Filled with a cast of unforgettable characters more richly drawn than any Lehane has ever created, The Given Day tells the story of two families—one black, one white—swept up in a maelstrom of revolutionaries and anarchists, immigrants and ward bosses, Brahmins and ordinary citizens, all engaged in a battle for survival and power. Beat cop Danny Coughlin, the son of one of the city's most beloved and powerful police captains, joins a burgeoning union movement and the hunt for violent radicals. Luther Laurence, on the run after a deadly confrontation with a crime boss in Tulsa, works for the Coughlin family and tries desperately to find his way home to his pregnant wife.
Here, too, are some of the most influential figures of the era—Babe Ruth; Eugene O'Neill; leftist activist Jack Reed; NAACP founder W. E. B. DuBois; Mitchell Palmer, Woodrow Wilson's ruthless Red-chasing attorney general; cunning Massachusetts governor Calvin Coolidge; and an ambitious young Department of Justice lawyer named John Hoover.
Coursing through some of the pivotal events of the time—including the Spanish Influenza pandemic—and culminating in the Boston Police Strike of 1919, The Given Day explores the crippling violence and irrepressible exuberance of a country at war with, and in the thrall of, itself. As Danny, Luther, and those around them struggle to define themselves in increasingly turbulent times, they gradually find family in one another and, together, ride a rising storm of hardship, deprivation, and hope that will change all their lives.
- Loved this book!
Have really enjoyed Lehane's other books - but this one was incredible.
The way the characters are woven in and out of each other's lives is very well done.
The amount of history in the writing is excellent. Several historical events have much more "meaning" thanks to this story. For example I can't wait to google molasses truck explosion.
The past books were very enjoyable and I wish to thank Dennis Lehane for creating a "home" for his readers!...more info
- There's a good book in here somewhere; it just gets lost
There's a really good book somewhere in The Given Day, but it gets lost in 700+ pages. The Given Day wants to be an ambitious epic but it comes off as over indulgent to me. I'm a huge fan of Lehane and consider Mystic River to be one of the ten best novels I've read. I appreciate the ambitiousness of this novel and have nothing but praise for Lehane's writing in general but this is a novel that is trying too hard and could have benefited from some `tough-love editing'. Lehane's efforts to merge fact and fiction & real characters with fictional ones feels a little forced and the story gets bogged down with unnecessary plot lines. The entire Babe Ruth story line could have been completely eliminated from the novel.
There are three primary story lines in The Given Day: 1. Luther, the young black man on the run who longs to return to his wife and child in Tulsa, 2. Danny the Irish American cop who becomes a union activist and plays a key role in the Boston PD strike, and 3. Babe Ruth the baseball legend who appears in the story every once in a while for no apparent reason. If I were to rate these stories separately (recognizing that they do overlap) I would give Luther's story 4 stars, Danny's story 3 stars, and Babe's story 1 star. I would have preferred the novel if Lehane had trimmed about 300 pages and focused on Luther's story.
This isn't a bad novel. It's just bloated. Lehane is the author who can't say no to himself. In the end, it feels like he's trying too hard to incorporate too many historical events, too many real life people, and too many story lines that don't propel the novel forward. It's the `everything and the kitchen sink' syndrome. At times excellent, at times meandering, this is a novel that I can't recommend with much enthusiasm, but if you're willing to wade through 700+ pages, it does have its bright spots....more info
- The Given Day
I am a fan of Dennis Lehane and thought Mystic River an unforgettable book. The Given Day is extremely long but remains informative with much education regarding Boston at the end of the First World War.
Lehane is excellent at drawing the reader into his story and developing almost touchable characters. However, I do think the book could benefit from some expert editing. Unlike Mystic River which couldn't be long enough.
The Coughlin family runs the gamut of emotions. A "cop" family emmersed in the political and biased character of the times, each of their attitudes is expertly defined. The mother is really just an aside whereas the Dad and the 3 sons are the centerpieces of the story.
The patriarch of the family, Tom Coughlin is a man who will defend his family at all costs and demands that his family think exactly as he does. His sons, Danny, Connor and Joe have very diverse personalities.
Danny is really the star of the book. He is his father's son but with the ability to see the wrongs that are being meted out to the less fortunate. His love for an Irish immigrant girl who the father dubs a "whore" causes a serious wrench in the family. Connor is much like his father in his bigoted and unforgiving attitude. He is an attorney with little or no ability to see the other side. But even his "kill them all" attitude as his solution for those unlike himself becomes hard for Dad to swallow. Joe is the baby of the family and he brings a sweetness and softer nature to this story.
Interwoven in the story is Babe Ruth. Personally I think the Babe Ruth story is much like an afterthought and is one of the parts that could be easily cut from this book.
A second and edgy story is the recognition of Luther Laurence and his struggle as a black man in a time and place where he is considered insignificant and less than human. His struggles are sad but he is not to be denied and spends a good deal of time avoiding the danger that surrounds him strictly because of his race.
Luther is a good addition to this book especially in our time when we have elected the first black president. The span of time to achieve the rightful place of African Americans is a testament to the failure of humans to not see everyone regardless of race, religion or way of life as important as they are.
I would like to say there is humor in these pages, but it is difficult to find much of that. This is a serious document of life during an historic time when the development and recognition of unions is attempting to rise above bias and hostility. When the police which pays for the roof over the Coughlin's heads and for food on their table, attempt to unionize all Hell breaks loose.
I would recommend this latest effort by Lehane particularly if you are a fan of his work. I think this is better than Burn Baby Burn but not as thrillng as Mystic River mainly because it lacks the intensity of a book that you simply can't put down.
- New genre, same extraordinary talent.
Lehane's latest (and largest) work may not be my favorite of his (that honor would probably go to Gone, Baby, Gone or Darkness, Take My Hand), but it's probably his most well-crafted and best-written book to date. Although I was slightly wary of the fact that Lehane departed the modern setting he's so good at, I shouldn't have been; even in stepping back to the early 20th century, his feel for establishing the details and minutiae of his setting never fails him, and he maintains that strong mix of plot, character, and social analysis that makes his work so engaging. Apart from depicting a fascinating and horrifying historical event (one that, admittedly, I knew little about), Lehane's love for Boston always shows, and the way he spans characters and times here is masterful stuff. Even at 700 pages, it never lags, never feels slow, and the characters are as rich and complex as any Lehane's created to date. Avoiding simple morality, plunging into history, and raising as many questions and issues as it can, The Given Day is superb stuff, and another reminder of what a talent the man truly is....more info
- Truly epic
While this book required some time investment, I feel like I lived one very tumultuous year alongside Danny, Luther and others found within its pages. Dennis Lehane is one of my favorite authors, knows Boston like the back of his hand and can weave an incredibly intricate story. This book is especially ambitious for him, mixing in historical events like the Boston police strike, post-war flu outbreak, the dawn of labor unions and even Babe Ruth into one striking narrative. Absolutely recommended....more info
- Pass this book on
Any Given Day is not the type of book I normally read. I came home with an armload from the library and this book was in the stack. I almost didn't open it but when I did, it was impossible to close. The writing is exceptionally smooth and the depth of character development very unusual for an "action thriller". Let me repeat, not my usual book, I dislike "action thrillers", "shoot em ups" or whatever. My husband started reading the book and is complaining that it is keeping him up at night. I am buying a copy for our son and having one sent to our daughter.
- Fun In Places But Flabby Around The Middle
There's so much to admire in Dennis Lehane's epic novel of Boston in turmoil at the close of World War One. He dramatizes the turbulence of 1918-1919 with poetic descriptions and sweeping scope, from the gun battles of black gangsters to the brutal tortures of the corrupt Boston police to the frenzied fanatacism of the anarchists and Bolsheviks at the fringes of the radical Left.
What makes the book go soft and flabby around the middle is the fact that the characters aren't as stirring as the times they live in -- and often do things that are either illogical or inexplicable or wildly out of character for the time and place.
Danny Coughlin, the idealistic policeman hero, is supposed to be a typical Irishman of his time and place. Yet his astonishing loyalty to his black friend Luther and his willingness to betray his own are shockingly arbitrary and unconvincing. A crucial villain disappears without a trace because Danny wants it to happen -- but there's no internal struggle, even though the man is a close family friend. It's clear Lehane understands the racism of the Irish in Boston, but having bitten off too much he allows his bad man (a far more reprsentative Irshman than Danny, in historical terms) to vanish into thin air.
Danny and Luther are supposed to be pals, like Huck and Jim. But where Huck and Jim come together in a plausible fashion, Danny and Luther are put together only because Lehane is looking to whitewash the ugly realities of the Irish past. Danny's whole character is a belated apology for things Lehane knows but cannot acknowledge about his own people. Eddie McKenna is the true Irish type, but instead of acknowledging the truth Lehane wishes it away, using magic to make the bad man disappear.
Luther is a much more believeable character, and Lehane invents his own version of black speech with surprising flair and style. But why would a black man on the run from the law take a job in the home of an Irish police captain? Why would a tough, seasoned man of the streets like Luther walk into an obvious trap?
While Luther and Danny can do no wrong, Lehane takes all kinds of cheap shots at all kinds of characters, for reasons that are fuzzy at best. Again and again Danny's mother is flogged as heartless and artificial -- but Lehane never allows himself a direct attack on the Catholic values that have obviously warped her sexual and emotional development. Eugene O'Neill wrote the book on cold, unloving Irish mothers more than fifty years ago -- and instead of acknowledging the debt to Mary Tyrone Lehane brings O'Neill into this book and attacks him in childish ways, like having him chicken out in a bar fight. Come to think of it, Danny's girl friend Nora owes a lot to Anna Christie! Lehane knows how to steal, but not with any sense of gratitude or class.
Meanwhile, Babe Ruth wanders through the epic tale, sometimes accurately shown as warm and fun-loving, other times given to weird melancholy and uproariously inappropriate displays of Catholic guilt. Babe's best line is at the end of the novel, when he takes one look at Danny after the policemans's strike fails miserably and says, "what were you guys thinking?" But Babe's melancholy introspection (!) is sometines wildly implausible, like when he takes his wife Helen to a Broadway show and she gives the sexy showgirl a big hand. Babe thinks to himself, "it didn't seem right that a woman as pure as Helen should applaud a woman as sinful as Kat." Technically, Babe Ruth was a Catholic, like Dennis Lehane, but to put this kind of dreary woman-hating Irish queasiness into Babe's mouth is like turning Santa Claus into Scrooge.
Ultimately, there is a great novel here that Dennis Lehane didn't write, and it's all about Catholic guilt and sexual self-loathing. That's the rot that underlies everything in this novel. Danny's loathing for his mother, his contempt for Nora, his horror at the sexy anarchist Tessa who (gasp!) likes to have sex, all spring from an ugliness in the church that Lehane dares not acknowledge. He seethes with resentment, but he keeps it hidden, attacking trivial targets instead.
A great opportunity lost, but overall the book is still an entertaining read. ...more info
- Starts slow, then couldn't put it down...great read
At first i just couldn't get into what all these seemingly random stories had to do with anything. But I hung in there, and by the 3rd chapter I was hooked. I also learned a great many things about a period of our history that I had simply never given a thought. Thank God we have improved in many ways....more info
- Compelling Historical Fiction
All you really need to know is that if you enjoy historical fiction, and the idea of reading about 1919 Boston Irish, radical anarchists, police strike, governmental perfidy, all joined together by a tightly plotted tale of intriguing and absorbing characters, with the requisite amount of romance and family dysfunction, you will enjoy the heck out of this book. The rest is better saved for your own reading, rather than getting plot synopsyses like the ones that so often appear here!...more info
- In the end, a disappointment
The bane of highly successful authors is that they can create expectations that are realistically too high. Such is the case for Dennis Lehane in his first novel. With "Mystic River," "Gone Baby Gone" and "Shutter Island," Lehane has established himself as a master of the crime mystery.
"The Given Day" is his first foray into novel writing. Understandably, expectations were high. And, in the end, Lehane disappoints. I don't think I would have made it past page 200 of his 700-page novel, if he hadn't been the author. The story moves too slow. I think Lehane and the readers would have been better served with 500 pages instead of 700 pages.
"The Given Day" is the story of two families, one black and one white. They intersect in Boston during a time of unrest that culminates with the Boston police strike in 1919. It's an interesting story and it's well-written. There just isn't anything extraordinary about it.
I believe readers who aren't familiar with Lehane might actually enjoy this book more than those who are. Their expectations might be more realistic.
- An Honest and Unhappy Portrayal of Boston and America in 1919
The Given Day marks a departure for Lehane. The Given Day is historical fiction that explores the lives of ordinary working stiffs of Boston and the US circa 1919. The story centers around a tough, smart, and handsome Boston Irish copper named Danny Coughlin and Luther Laurence, a gifted black man on the run. Coughlin struggles in his relationship with his powerful father and Boston police captain, Thomas Coughlin. Luther had fled to Boston, but wants nothing more than to return to his wife and child in Tulsa. Their stories eventually come together at the Coughlin household and their mutual interest in the Irish immigrant working girl and family servant.
The characters can be a bit thin at times, their interactions sometimes predictable and maudlin, but Lehane excels in capturing the feel of the town and the times. Labor and ethnic strife boil below the surface. Workers toil in brutal conditions for low pay with no security. The Irish workers who have managed to get one rung up the ladder fear and hate not the bosses, but rather the new Italian immigrants (not to mention the few blacks in town). The political bosses even subject the Boston police rank-and-file to low pay, unsanitary working conditions, and extremely long hours. That summer of 1919 is known today as The Red Summer. In Boston, a potent mix of much-aggrieved workers, bomb-throwing anarchists, and a tyrannical police commissioner erupted in savage street violence during the Boston police strike.
Lehane also sends Coughlin and Laurence each to take a journey of redemption. Coughlin repudiates his role as a spy in the police union and goes on to become its leader. Laurence flees Tulsa and his wife, but is taken in by leaders in the local NAACP whom he repays with courage and loyalty.
Lehane manages to interweave a number of actual historical figures into his story without it feeling contrived. A young John Hoover of the federal Bureau of Investigation is as repellent on Lehane's pages as he was in real life. Calvin Coolidge, then Governor of Massachusetts, comes off as a duplicitous, back-stabber. The much lesser know Edwin Upton Curtis is the disastrously mean-spirited Boston police commissioner who manages to provoke the police strike just when civic and union leaders had reached terms. Perhaps most surprising is Lehane's use of Babe Ruth, who is featured to good effect in several chapters. Early in the book Ruth, then with the Red Sox, and his teammates get into an unlikely pickup game against a team of black players, including Luther Laurence. The game begins as an honest and vigorous athletic contest, but when the blacks start to win, the whites start to cheat and things turn nasty.
Lehane gives us a painfully honest portrayal of the bitter racial, ethnic, and class divisions that marred America in 1919 and he wraps it up in two engaging family stories. The best historical fiction leads the reader to search out the story in more detail and Lehane particularly succeeds with his descriptions of the little known 1917 race riot in East St. Louis (when whites attacked and killed Southern blacks who had come north for work) and the 1919 molasses plant explosion in Boston (which was blamed falsely on anarchists rather than on the lack of maintenance by the plants' owners). See Dark Tide: The Great Boston Molasses Flood of 1919, A City in Terror: Calvin Coolidge and the 1919 Boston Police Strike, and Never Been a Time: The 1917 Race Riot That Sparked the Civil Rights Movement.
As a fan of Lehane's Kenzie-Gennaro series, I lament that they appear to be a thing of the past, but Lehane has clearly grown as a writer and that bodes well for the future. Highly recommended.
- More Sinclair than Doctorow
The Given Day does for the Boston Police Department what Upton Sinclair's The Jungle did for meat packers. It's unfortunate for the BPD that The Given Day was published almost 100 years after the real life Danny Coughlins endured their execrable working conditions. This book is riveting, one I resented having to leave and couldn't wait to get back to. The penultimate chapters, when the police department answers betrayal by striking, are the most compelling I've read in a long time.
No, it's not perfect. Some of the real characters enter and exit adding little to the story, and maybe Mr. Lehane did sprinkle in some head-scratching research trivia, but who cares? Nora, Luther, Tommy, Con', and especially Danny are characters to root for, cry over and wonder what happened to, and Mr. Lehane hits (please excuse this) a home run with his perfectly drawn Babe Ruth who lumbers in and out of the story making Everyman observations on its events.
This is an ambitious book, weaving together WWI, the influenza epidemic of 1918, race relations, causes of the rise of labor unions, nihilists and anarchists, a humorless young Justice Department attorney named John Hoover, immigration--legal and not--and it's not reaching too much to see certain parallels with some of today's social conditions. This is a book in a genre I thought wasn't being published any more. It's very encouraging that The Given Day is both new and wonderful. ...more info
- Lehane Is Tops In Richly Drawn Characters
I love Dennis Lehane's outstanding Boston P.I. mysteries so much that I was slightly reluctant to start something so vastly different from him. However, after diving in, I should've remembered what a sterling writer this man is, who fills his book with such exceptional character development, you get completely engrossed and invested in these people's lives. For those who say they're not historical fiction fans, I can only say, you will be after this. The book runs parallel narratives of the Coughlin's,a dynamic police family and their shining son Danny, and Luther Laurence, a young black man who ends up in Boston after fleeing a violent murder. Between the central story of the Boston Police strike, and influenza ravishing the nation, the story feels eerily current. This is a fantastic,engrossing, and hard to put down book....more info
- A Wise Historical Novel That Comments on Today through the Lens of Yesterday
The Given Day is by far the best novel I've read that was published in 2008. I highly recommend it to anyone who is interested in having a keener understanding of human nature and what our priorities should be. Those who aspire to write great fiction will learn a lot by examining the plot, characterizations, story telling, and mixture of history and fiction in the book. I was formerly convinced that E.L. Doctorow's Ragtime was the best historical novel about the early part of the twentieth century in America. Having read The Given Day, I have to move Ragtime down to number two.
I have not read any of Dennis Lehane's other books so I cannot offer comparisons. I stumbled onto this one when a good friend who knows my taste in fiction recommended that I not miss The Given Day. I'm glad she persuaded me.
Normally, I'm not overjoyed to read a 700 page novel, wishing that a good editor had chopped things down to size. The Given Day is chopped down to size . . . it's just the right size for the story it tells.
There's enough material in this book for eight novels, but Mr. Lehane has brilliantly combined his powerful tale into just one double-length one. I admire that accomplishment very much.
To me, the best part of the book was Mr. Lehane's understanding that America in 1916-1919 was a lot like America in 2001-2008. By showing us a mirror of our past, we can see ourselves more clearly in the present:
--We have international terrorists who like to blow things up with plastic explosive. They had anarchists who like to dynamite symbols of authority.
--They had the influenza that killed millions. We have AIDS that kills tens of millions.
--We had runaway inflation until a few months ago that made most people poorer. They had runaway inflation that left most people below the poverty line.
--They had racism that denied opportunity to African-Americans who didn't organization. We have racism that an African-American was able to overcome by organization to become president-elect.
--Their baseball players had no security. Our baseball players who don't have a long-term contract have no security.
--Their civil servants couldn't strike. Our civil servants often cannot strike.
--Their labor movements were weak. Our labor movements are weak.
--Their politicians used public fears for personal advantage. Our politicians have done the same.
--Their immigrants disliked the newer immigrants. Our immigrants dislike the newer immigrants.
And on and on the comparisons go.
The plot is stunning in the way that Mr. Lehane is able to intertwine three characters to make his points about America in those days: Gidge "Babe" Ruth of the Boston Red Sox, Boston policeman Aiden "Danny" Coughlin, and Luther Laurence, a African-American man who would have played professional baseball if he had lived in the latter part of the 20th century or the 21st. The opening sequence involving Ruth and Lawrence is one of the inventive and interesting openings to a historical novel that I have ever read.
What's it all about? More than anything else this is a historical novel about the Boston Police Strike, an event that people still speak about in hushed tones in our fair city. With few nonstriking police and no immediately military help, Boston became a lawless and dangerous town for two days. After that, it was still touch and go in restoring order. You probably wouldn't want to read a novel about that, and Mr. Lehane has brilliantly given you a novel that also shows what it meant to be Irish in Boston, deal with the deadly influenza epidemic, track down anarchists and subversives, break strikes, form labor unions, earn a living under tough conditions, be mistreated by calculating politicians, and search for the meaning of life.
At the ultimate level, The Given Days asks the question of what our priorities should be in life . . . and the answer is to love others and to cherish our families. If there had been a Biblical element in the story, it would have been easy to see this novel as a Christian allegory with Babe Ruth as Barabbas, Danny Coughlin as John the Baptist, and Luther Lawrence as the Apostle Paul. Perhaps those references were intended to be seen by readers outside the context of religious institutions. I leave it to you to decide for yourselves on that point.
But do read this book. You'll be glad you did. It's a surprisingly fast read for a 700 page novel. ...more info
- Great read...
I always check to see what the one star reviewers have to say and I could not disagree more with them. I enjoyed this book from start to finish and hope there is more to come. I'm not a literature expert, I just liked the darn book and will pass it along and recommend it to others. I love LeHane's crime novels and hope to more of that, but I hope to see more of his historical fiction as well. Truly enjoyable. ...more info
- Part one
I found this book an entertaining, enlightening read. It is family saga set in Boston during the period at the end of WWI. It follows the Coughlin family and one of their African employees, Luther (a man with a past). Mr. Lehane , in the fashion of true historical fiction, creates the scene using the Boston Police Riots and Babe Ruth as a backdrop. My only complaint is Mr. Lehane leaves me with the impression that this is Part 1 of a multi part series....more info
I've always tried avoiding authors my dad reads just on principle. it always makes me feel like an old man. but after i saw "gone baby gone" a while back, I picked up "a drink after the war" and have loved lehane ever since.
I was a bit skeptical of this book when i first saw it...i am definitely not a big fan of historical fiction, and like someone else said somewhere, I don't like when authors inject real life characters into their work.
But screw that...from page one i was hooked. some reviewers talk about lots of "cookie-cutter" characters. i don't buy it. someone else said "why would i be into boston politics?"
why? because it was really quite fascinating, dudes. i thought the fictional characters were great...and i ended up doing five wikipedia searches on the real life characters just to get some more background knowledge.
and to the reviewer who said lehane drops the "f-bomb" a bit too often...have you even read his previous work? I'm gonna say "no."
Really, what I'm trying to say is this...if you like Lehane's other work like I do, you'll like this one too as long as you keep an open mind and not begin the book by thinking it's gonna be a bunch or boring historical facts made into a story. Trust me. It's damn good....more info
- American racial and class injustice brought to life
Ostensibly follows three characters in 1919: an Irish American policeman, an African American and Babe Ruth. What it is really about is race relations, corporate and civil disregard for the common man, power hungry politicions and early 20th Century America in desperate need of answers. I love all Dennis Lehane but this is his most complete and engaging novel. Breathtaking writing. Similar in scope to Robert Parker's equally compelling DOUBLE PLAY, about two emotionally broken people after WWII and Jackie Robinson....more info
- Amazon Information
I canceled my order because your site did not tell me that I would not recieve the book I ordered for over 3 weeks That information should be o your site before I ordered it Very frustrating
I would not order again unless the information tells before placing the order the day that it woudl be delivered
Barbara Babin...more info
- Well worth a read
After seeing the movie Gone Baby Gone and also realizing Dennis Lehane did scripts for my favorite TV show (The Wire) I purchased all his books.
As already noted this book is (like Shutter Island and Coronado) not part of the Kenzie/Gennaro series of books, however it does share one common characteristic of the K/G books - one of the main characters gets badly beaten up within the course of the story.
Lehane's writing is top notch and as compelling as always. Though not being American I still found the story easy to follow and the historical information regarding Boston in the early 19th century interesting and informative....more info
- Overblown Given Day
The first Dennis Lehane book I have disliked. Extremely overwrought, unbelievable characters, a lot of stereotypes. A fascinating time in Boston history that deserves a better treatment. Too many story lines and too many coincidences of characters meeting historical figures (Babe Ruth, Dubois, etc.) create a level of implausibility in this novel. Perhaps the author would have been better served if he had scaled back and concentrated on certain aspects of that time, but influenza, WWI, baseball, molasses, police corruption, political anarchy, unionization all get the short shrift when spread out in one novel. ...more info
Weak plot and characters. The author is obsessed with using the "f-word" which adds nothing to the novel. The history of the rise of the labor movement in America is far richer than it's portrayed in this book....more info
As with most of Lehane's novels, I was sorry to see the story end. Truly outstanding in rich detail with vivid imagery into the early 1900's in Boston and the country as a whole. The inclusion of Geroge Herman Ruth was masterful and provided a brilliant synopsis of the intellect and commoness of the most unique ball player of all time. Lehane's ability to produce a multitude of parallel story lines that meld beautifully provides for an enjoyable read that demands your attention. Great work....more info
- A rousing novel of tumultuous 1919 Boston
Lehane's big Boston novel is about the 1919 police strike like "Anna Karenina" is about adultery.
"The Given Day" is a story of tumultuous times. It encompasses the 1918 World Series, the flu pandemic, creeping Prohibition, corruption and political machinery, racism, poverty and injustice. It teems with new immigrants competing for jobs and includes a few bomb-throwing anarchists and Bolsheviks who fan the eager flames of Red-menace paranoia. The devastating strike is the looming culmination of inevitability.
But mostly it's about the people. Lehane gives us big, flawed heroes and heroines and makes us unabashedly root for them. Ambitious Irish-American beat cop Danny Coughlin, son of a powerful police captain, yearns to be the youngest detective ever. Meanwhile he steers clear of union talk, shuns the woman he loves because of her secret past, and keeps his nose to the grindstone 80 hours a week for below-poverty wages. (Why cops are paid less than streetcar conductors, however, is never quite clear.)
Luther Laurence, a fun-loving, baseball-playing black man and father-to-be, sobers up in a hurry when he has to flee Tulsa after a fatal falling-out with a crime boss. Landing in Boston, he gets a job with the Coughlin family, pines for his wife, and befriends Danny's ex-lover, Nora, the Coughlin's Irish immigrant maid.
Neither Danny nor Luther is the least political, wanting only to get on with their lives. Luther, of course, lives in a volatile miasma of racism, which he copes with mostly by avoidance. In Boston he's taken in by a family active in the burgeoning NAACP and nurtures his self-respect by renovating their new headquarters and absorbing some of their thinking. But exposure nips at his heels, leaving him vulnerable to blackmail and betrayal.
After working through the unpredictable tragedy of the flu, Danny embarks on undercover work infiltrating "terrorists," various labor and political organizations, in cooperation with a sweaty-palmed young man from the antiradical department at Justice - John Hoover. At first eager, Danny finds most of the Bolsheviks more tedious than dangerous and begins sympathizing with the unionizers. Disgruntled he complains to his boss:
" `You've got me checking out plumbers unions, carpenters, every toothless socialist knitting group you can find. For what? Names? I don't understand.'
`Are we to wait until they do blow us up before we decide to take them seriously?'
`Who? The plumbers?' "
In response, his boss gestures at the Boston skyline. " `We're protecting this, Dan. This right here. That's what we're doing.' He took a pull of his cigar. `Home and hearth. And nothing less than that indeed.' "
While Lehane traces the parallels between Red-baiting then and Muslim-baiting now, Anarchists and Jihadists and assaults on civil liberties in the name of security, he also explores the stark differences. This was an era before any notion of social responsibility for injured workers, before discrimination was considered a bad thing, before capitalism knew any rules.
Life buffets his characters. He pulls on our heartstrings by reminding us that anyone can be felled by unexpected disaster and inflames our sense of justice by displaying the corrosive effect of the commonplace hatred that small minds use to power themselves through life.
Lehane, best known as one of our finest and most literate crime writers ("Mystic River," "Gone, Baby, Gone"), has produced a masterpiece of urban historical fiction. His complex plot is perfectly constructed, illuminating class structure and political strife and societal upheaval while immersing us in the lives of his characters and keeping those 700 pages turning. You won't want them to end....more info
- Boston re-visited
After visiting Boston this past summer I came to the conclusion it was a city that I have overlooked. Yes, it is steeped in history and that's what I love about bean town but I needed more. Ah, The Given Day combining fact and fiction bringing Boston to life in the early 1900's. Twists and turns, plots and subplots the Boston version of the film Gangs of New York. Well written page turner (even on my Kindle). The characters are larger than life and just pop off the pages. Visit turn of the last century Boston in The Given Day and you'll swear you were there too....more info
- An Exciting, Intimate American History
Here is a terrific, intricately woven, well-researched story that will bring you into the lives of first generation Americans and the sons of slaves, the first union organizers and the first civil rights activitists, the rebellious and the complacent, the rich and the poor, the honorable and the criminal, and make you care deeply about every character. The cities of Tulsa and Boston are characters on their own, living and breathing. Lehane reveals life in American the way your history books never did....more info
- Where was I when they taught this in history class?
I just finished listening to this book. At first, hearing about Babe Ruth - I thought I'd received the wrong set of CDs. As I listened about the many amazing events of the time - I kept running back to my computer to see if the things in the story really happened. Amazing. They did! Who would have guessed that a major part of Boston was engulfed in 2.3 million gallons of molasses? Who would have guessed that police in the 1919s made less than coach drivers and worked 80-90 hours? Who would have guessed that Babe Ruth didn't really care how much money he made?
I do now. Like the other reviewer above, I've ordered other books with more information on a number of the events that Lehane discusses. I expected a Mystic River - but got an excellently told history lesson....more info
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