The Given Day: A Novel

( 235 )


Set in Boston at the end of the First World War, bestselling author Dennis Lehane's extraordinary eighth novel unflinchingly captures the political and social unrest of a nation caught at the crossroads where past meets future. Filled with a cast of richly drawn, unforgettable characters, 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 ...

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Set in Boston at the end of the First World War, bestselling author Dennis Lehane's extraordinary eighth novel unflinchingly captures the political and social unrest of a nation caught at the crossroads where past meets future. Filled with a cast of richly drawn, unforgettable characters, 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. Coursing through the pivotal events of a turbulent epoch, it explores the crippling violence and irrepressible exuberance of a country at war with, and in the thrall of, itself.

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Editorial Reviews

Washington Post Book World
“[Lehane] deserves to be included among the most interesting and accomplished American novelists of any genre or category. . . . A powerful moment in history, and Lehane makes the most of it. . . . Heartfelt and moving.”
USA Today
“One of the fall’s biggest books—and not just because it’s 704 pages. It’s Lehane’s most ambitious and literary work.”
Boston Globe
“The Given Day is a vast historical novel. . . . Spectacular details. . . . Finely thought-out. . . . . Many stunningly managed scenes.”
Seattle Times
“Steeped in history but wearing its research lightly, The Given Day is a meaty, rich, old-fashioned and satisfying tale. I’d call it Lehane’s masterpiece.”
Associated Press Staff
“Superbly written, meticulously researched. . . . A thoughtful, provocative exploration of race, fame, power, and political corruption in American culture. . . . The Given Day places [Lehane] in the first rank of modern American novelists.”
New York Times
“Gut-wrenching force. . . . A majestic, fiery epic. . . . The Given Day is a huge, impassioned, intensively researched book that brings history alive.”
Los Angeles Times Book Review
“[A] work of admirable ambition and scope. . . . Lehane is as much like contemporaries George Pelecanos and Richard Price as he is like the bygone Boston-based John P. Marquand, the Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist.”
Booklist (starred review)
“Brilliantly constructed. . . . Like E. L. Doctorow in Ragtime, Lehane captures the sense of a country coming of age, vividly dramatizing how the conflicting emotions and tortured dreams that drive individual human lives also send a nation roiling forward.”
“The problem falls to readers to find something—anything—that doesn’t pale in comparison once they’ve closed the covers on this 720-page masterpiece. Quite simply, THE GIVEN DAY is about as close to the great American novel as we’re likely to read until … well, until Lehane writes another.”
Chicago Sun-Times
“If you’re swinging for the fences, it only makes sense that your novel begin with a lengthy, and very tasty, story about Babe Ruth. That Dennis Lehane sustains that level of play . . . is what gives THE GIVEN DAY a kind of greatness. . . . Lehane dazzles.”
St. Petersburg Times
“Here’s one way to get people excited about the nation’s past: Get Dennis Lehane to write the history books. . . . A meticulously researched tale that in the hands of this master storyteller jumps right off the page and hollers.”
Orlando Sentinel
“As much a thriller as any of Lehane’s previous work. Even beyond the historical events, THE GIVEN DAY qualifies as a sprawling, sweeping epic. . . . Lehane’s masterful packing and precise prose make the story speed by.”
Entertainment Weekly
“Packed with dramatic turning points. . . . Lehane has tried to capture the zeitgeist of an era even nuttier and more tumultuous than our own, and succeeded.””
“A gripping historical novel. . . . Infused with the same dark drama that set apart his earlier books.”
Stewart O'Nan
“Rollicking, brawling, gritty, political, and always completely absorbing, THE GIVEN DAY is a rich and satisfying epic. Readers, get ready to feast. This is a big book you won’t want to put down.”
Lee Child
“A brawling, brawny, muscular epic—exactly what great mainstream novels used to be.”
“A gripping historical novel. . . . Infused with the same dark drama that set apart his earlier books.”
John Freeman
Not only is Lehane working on a larger historical scale, he has turned up the volume on his prose, setting a tone of epic exaggeration…Lehane has created a novel of such momentum we cannot help cheering Danny on in his impossible fight. On this front and others The Given Day, like John Dos Passos' U.S.A. trilogy, is a human meat-grinder of a book. Throughout men, women and children are burned, blown up, shot, punched, head-butted, run over by police cruisers, even vaporized by a tidal wave of hot molasses when an industrial tank explodes. "All you'd need would be a general strike," says one character in Dos Passos' great work. "If people only realized how…easy it would be." Here are some people who would tell you otherwise.
—The New York Times Book Review
Jonathan Yardley
Lehane has done something brave and ambitious: He has written a historical novel that unquestionably is his grab for the brass ring, an effort to establish his credentials in literary as well as commercial terms. Immense in length and scope, it is set at the end of World War I, a time when "people were angry, people were shouting, people were dying in trenches and marching outside factories," and it culminates in one of the most traumatic events in Boston's history, the policemen's strike of 1919…It's a powerful moment in history, and Lehane makes the most of it.
—The Washington Post
Janet Maslin
No more thinking of Mr. Lehane as an author of detective novels that make good movies (Gone, Baby, Gone) and tell devastatingly bleak Boston stories (Mystic River). He has written a majestic, fiery epic that moves him far beyond the confines of the crime genre…The Given Day is a huge, impassioned, intensively researched book that brings history alive by grounding the present in the lessons of the past.
—The New York Times
Publishers Weekly

A seasoned TV and film actor, Michael Boatman is an excellent choice for Lehane's historical fiction. Set in Boston at the time of the 1919 policemen's strike, the novel involves a range of characters including Babe Ruth and sundry African-American, Irish, Irish-American, Italian and Italian-American men and women. Boatman creates a clear and engaging persona for each and handles all the accents convincingly. His pacing helps draw listeners into the lives contorted by the social, economic and political turmoil of the era that Lehane describes so exquisitely. Fans of Mystic River will be swept into this full-bodied production. A Morrow hardcover (Reviews, July 7). (Oct.)

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Library Journal

Shamus Award winner Lehane's first historical novel is a clear winner, displaying all the virtues the author (Mystic River) has shown in his exceptional series of crime novels: narrative verve, sensitivity to setting, the interweaving of complicated story lines, an apt and emotionally satisfying denouement-and, above all, the author's abiding love for his characters and the human condition. In 1917, the Great War in Europe is still being waged, but with America's entry into the conflict, people expect it to end soon. Boston's policemen have a grievance. With their wages scaled to the cost of living in 1905, earnings lie well below the poverty level, and working conditions are appalling. The city government has reneged on its promise to readjust wages after the war. With anarchists planting bombs and social unrest in the air, there is little sympathy in Boston for the policemen's threat to strike. When the strike finally breaks in 1919, the strikers receive an object lesson in the bitter truth that "different sets of rules [apply] for different classes of people." Against this background of turmoil, an unexpected friendship develops between Irish American policeman Danny Coughlin and African American Luther Laurence, on the run from gangsters and police. Lehane's long-awaited eighth novel is as good as it gets. Enthusiastically recommended for all fiction collections. [See Prepub Alert, LJ6/15/08.]
—David Keymer

The Barnes & Noble Review
In his novels Mystic River and Gone, Baby, Gone, -- both turned into gritty, dark, and terrific films -- Dennis Lehane has used a crime-fiction framework to intimately explore the shadowy depths and hidden drama of his hometown. Lehane knows Boston like nobody else, from its Harvard-educated Brahmin elites to its ethnic working stiffs whose roots trace back to Ireland, Italy, and elsewhere. His tales map the city's twisting streets and alleyways, so often incomprehensible to outsiders, and delve beyond the surface provincialism of its anything-but-laid-back populace. Now, with The Given Day, Lehane turns his literary focus to Boston's troubled past.

The Given Day is Lehane's most ambitious novel to date, possessing an all-encompassing narrative scope reminiscent of George Eliot or Thomas Hardy while successfully capturing the distinct atmosphere of turbulent Boston in the early 20th century. The book opens as World War I is winding down and the city is about to combust. With the Russian Revolution on the front pages, Bolshevism (and the fear of Bolshevism) is omnipresent. Meanwhile, the Boston Police Department faces the specter of a labor stoppage among its underpaid ranks, a possibility that horrifies the police brass and City Hall. Lehane also tosses in subplots centered on Red Sox slugger Babe Ruth and an African-American fugitive named Luther, who has escaped to Boston after killing a man in Tulsa.

Perhaps inevitably, an Irish-American family is at the center of Lehane's Boston epic. Thomas Coughlin is a legendary Boston cop who's now a member of the BPD brass. His son Danny has followed his dad onto the force, but the two men have dramatically different views about the job. Lehane offers a romantic subplot, too. Danny is in love with the family's mysterious Irish housekeeper, Nora O'Shea, but so is Danny's brother Connor. Needless to say, this romantic angle heightens the drama in a way that might seem distractingly conventional if it weren't so engrossing.

Like his father, Danny seeks to do good, but his views on what that means changes over the course of the novel. At the beginning, Danny views the good in simplistic terms: "It had something to do with loyalty and...a man's honor. It was tied up in duty." Danny embraces the prejudices of his family and his profession against African Americans and other ethnic groups, especially those espousing radical, left-leaning political views. His goal is to move up the ranks of the police department, just as his father has.

The police brass, among them his father, assign Danny to infiltrate and report on radical organizations like the new police union and underground groups advocating violence against the U.S. government. And while the affable, tough-as-nails Danny succeeds in infiltrating these groups, joining them leads him to reexamine his own prejudices and his deeply held beliefs about justice. Danny learns that the dark underworld of violence and its do-whatever-it-takes ethos extends not just to these supposed "terrorist" groups but to the Boston Police Department as well.

Lehane zeroes in on the radical political fervor of this era, taking us into smoke-filled meeting halls where union members argue about tactics and boozy barrooms where fights break out between radicals and "patriotic" Americans seeking to shut them up. Lehane provides plenty of action, too, as Danny finds himself involved in shootouts with bomb-toting anarchists and battles his way out of several scenes of mob violence. If all of this sounds too melodramatic to believe, it's not. The seemingly dissonant subplots come together as a dramatic whole; Lehane builds and releases narrative tension with all his customary craft. The prose is solid and strong throughout, and if Lehane consciously eschews lyrical flights of fancy, his writing style is perfectly suited to the toughness and solidity of these characters.

Perhaps the most gripping strand in this braided narrative is the story of Luther Laurence, which begins with his murder of a crime boss in Tulsa and subsequent flight to Boston. Through Luther's backstory, readers are vouchsafed a vivid picture of Tulsa's criminal underworld. Like Danny, Luther becomes a changed man in Boston: "If a man was lucky," Luther thinks to himself, "he was moving toward something his whole life. He was building a life...working for his wife, for his children, for his dream that their life would be better because he'd been a part of it. That, Luther finally understood, was what he'd failed to remember in Tulsa." Luther decides to return to Tulsa, risking his life to be with his wife and infant son.

Lehane's imagined world is a violent one, and an undercurrent of menace, the threat of bodily harm, seems to fuel every scene. All of these characters, but especially Danny and Luther, are caught in the confusion of wanting a more peaceful world while living in a world where violence is seemingly the only means of resolving differences. Danny is disgusted by the Bolshevik radical underworld that celebrates violence as a way of achieving the worker's paradise, but he also loathes a political status quo that uses brutality and unconstitutional means to eradicate these radicals. Nobody, Lehane suggests, is truly a neutral.

By book's end, everyone is moving away from the carnage of Boston. Danny, rejected by his dad for failing to live up to the family's strict code of honor, has married Nora and headed west. Luther goes back to Tulsa to face his past. Even Babe Ruth, Red Sox slugger extraordinaire, gets traded and faces an uncertain future with the Yankees. Lehane ends the book with Ruth arriving in New York, a dark moment in Boston history if ever there was one, and looking out at the city "in all its bustle and shine, all its light and billboards and limestone towers. What a day. What a city. What a time to be alive." Like the fabled slugger, Lehane has swung for the fences with this sprawling tale, hitting the ball on the sweet spot and watching it arc heavenward. --Chuck Leddy

Chuck Leddy is a member of the National Book Critics Circle who writes frequently about American history. He reviews books regularly for The Boston Globe, as well as Civil War Times and American History magazines. He is a contributing editor for The Writer magazine.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780062190949
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 9/4/2012
  • Pages: 736
  • Sales rank: 111,181
  • Product dimensions: 5.36 (w) x 7.82 (h) x 1.26 (d)

Meet the Author

Dennis Lehane

Dennis Lehane is the author of ten previous novels—including the New York Times bestsellers Live by Night; Moonlight Mile; Gone, Baby, Gone; Mystic River; Shutter Island; and The Given Day—as well as Coronado, a collection of short stories and a play. He and his wife, Angie, currently live in California with their children.


Dennis Lehane knows Boston like the back of his hand. Born and raised in Beantown, he left to attend college and graduate school in Florida, but -- like a homing pigeon -- he returned soon thereafter. In order to support himself while he focused on his writing, he took a number of odd jobs that included counseling mentally handicapped and abused children, loading trucks, parking cars, working in bookstores, and waiting tables.

While he was still in college, he wrote the first draft of A Drink Before the War. Published in 1994, this Shamus Award winner introduced Patrick Kenzie and Angela Gennaro, private investigators who live and work in Dorchester, the same blue-collar Boston neighborhood Lehane grew up in. Since their compelling debut, Kenzie and Gennaro have gone on to star in a gritty crime noir series acclaimed by readers and critics alike.

The idea for his breakout novel , 2001's stand-alone thriller Mystic River, came to Lehane while he was still writing the Kenzie-Genarro installment Prayers for Rain. The story of three childhood friends who share a dark past, Mystic River is a murder mystery with powerful psychological overtones. An immediate sensation, the book achieved blockbuster status when Clint Eastwood turned it into an award-winning film in 2003. Then, in his 2007 directorial debut, Ben Affleck adapted Lehane's favorite Kenzie-Gennaro novel, Gone, Baby, Gone, for the big screen.

Lehane's career shows no signs of slowing down, Since the success of his Boston-based mysteries, he has broadened his oeuvre to include television screenplays and short stories -- one of which, "Until Gwen," was adopted into a successful, limited-run play.

Good To Know

Some interesting outtakes from our interview with Lehane:

"My favorite job was parking cars."

"My favorite game is pool."

"I have an obsession with the color blue -- blue house, blue car, lots of blue shirts."

"I love good writing. Unequivocally. I think competition between writers is wonderful and healthy, but I never understood envy. When a peer writes a book that I know I couldn't have written, I feel the strangest elation because at this point I learn as much if not more from my peers as I do from the old masters."

"I unwind to Red Sox games and am a Patriots season ticket holder. The worst months of every year are February and March -- no baseball, no football, no point."

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    1. Hometown:
      Boston, Massachusetts
    1. Date of Birth:
      August 4, 1965
    2. Place of Birth:
      Dorchester, Massachusetts
    1. Education:
      B.A., Eckerd College, 1988; M.F.A., Florida International University, 1993
    2. Website:

Read an Excerpt

The Given Day

A Novel

By Dennis Lehane
HarperCollins Publishers, Inc.
Copyright © 2008

Dennis Lehane
All right reserved.

ISBN: 9780688163181

Chapter One

On a wet summer night, Danny Coughlin, a Boston police officer, fought a four-round bout against another cop, Johnny Green, at Mechanics Hall just outside Copley Square. Coughlin-Green was the final fight on a fifteen-bout, all-police card that included flyweights, welterweights, cruiserweights, and heavyweights. Danny Coughlin, at six two, 220, was a heavyweight. A suspect left hook and foot speed that was a few steps shy of blazing kept him from fighting professionally, but his butcher-knife left jab combined with the airmail-your-jaw-to-Georgia explosion of his right cross dwarfed the abilities of just about any other semipro on the East Coast.

The all-day pugilism display was titled Boxing & Badges: Haymakers for Hope. Proceeds were split fifty-fifty between the St. Thomas Asylum for Crippled Orphans and the policemen's own fraternal organization, the Boston Social Club, which used the donations to bolster a health fund for injured coppers and to defray costs for uniforms and equipment, costs the department refused to pay. While flyers advertising the event were pasted to poles and hung from storefronts in good neighborhoods and thereby elicited donations from people who never intended to actually attend the event, the flyers also saturated the worst of the Boston slums, where one was most likelyto find the core of the criminal element—the plug-uglies, the bullyboys, the knuckle-dusters, and, of course, the Gusties, the city's most powerful and fuck-out-of-their-minds street gang, who headquartered in South Boston but spread their tentacles throughout the city at large.

The logic was simple:

The only thing criminals loved almost as much as beating the shit out of coppers was watching coppers beat the shit out of each other.

Coppers beat the shit out of each other at Mechanics Hall during Boxing & Badges: Haymakers for Hope.

Ergo: criminals would gather at Mechanics Hall to watch them do so.

Danny Coughlin's godfather, Lieutenant Eddie McKenna, had decided to exploit this theory to the fullest for benefit of the BPD in general and the Special Squads Division he lorded over in particular. The men in Eddie McKenna's squad had spent the day mingling with the crowd, closing outstanding warrant after outstanding warrant with a surprisingly bloodless efficiency. They waited for a target to leave the main hall, usually to relieve himself, before they hit him over the head with a pocket billy and hauled him off to one of the paddy wagons that waited in the alley. By the time Danny stepped into the ring, most of the mugs with outstanding warrants had been scooped up or had slipped out the back, but a few—hopeless and dumb to the last—still milled about in the smoke-laden room on a floor sticky with spilt beer.

Danny's corner man was Steve Coyle. Steve was also his patrol partner at the Oh-One Station House in the North End. They walked a beat from one end of Hanover Street to the other, from Constitution Wharf to the Crawford House Hotel, and as long as they'd been doing it, Danny had boxed and Steve had been his corner and his cut man.

Danny, a survivor of the 1916 bombing of the Salutation Street Station House, had been held in high regard since his rookie year on the job. He was broad-shouldered, dark-haired and dark-eyed; more than once, women had been noted openly regarding him, and not just immigrant women or those who smoked in public. Steve, on the other hand, was squat and rotund like a church bell, with a great pink bulb of a face and a bow to his walk. Early in the year he'd joined a barbershop quartet in order to attract the fancy of the fairer sex, a decision that had served him in good stead this past spring, though prospects appeared to be dwindling as autumn neared.

Steve, it was said, talked so much he gave aspirin powder a headache. He'd lost his parents at a young age and joined the department without any connections or juice. After nine years on the job, he was still a flatfoot. Danny, on the other hand, was BPD royalty, the son of Captain Thomas Coughlin of Precinct 12 in South Boston and the godson of Special Squads Lieutenant Eddie McKenna. Danny had been on the job less than five years, but every cop in the city knew he wasn't long for uniform.

“Fuckin' taking this guy so long?” Steve scanned the back of the hall, hard to ignore in his attire of choice. He claimed he'd read somewhere that Scots were the most feared of all corner men in the fight game. And so, on fight nights, Steve came to the ring in a kilt. An authentic, red tartan kilt, red and black argyle socks, charcoal tweed jacket and matching five-button waistcoat, silver wedding tie, authentic gillie brogues on his feet, and a loose-crowned Balmoral on his head. The real surprise wasn't how at home he looked in the getup, it was that he wasn't even Scottish.

The audience, red-faced and drunk, had grown increasingly agitated the last hour or so, more and more actual fights breaking out between the scheduled ones. Danny leaned against the ropes and yawned. Mechanics Hall stank of sweat and booze. Smoke, thick and wet, curled around his arms. By all rights he should have been back in his dressing room, but he didn't really have a dressing room, just a bench in the maintenance hallway, where they'd sent Woods from the Oh-Nine looking for him five minutes ago, told him it was time to head to the ring.

So he stood there in an empty ring waiting for Johnny Green, the buzz of the crowd growing louder, buzzier. Eight rows back, one guy hit another guy with a folding chair. The hitter was so drunk he fell on top of his victim. A cop waded in, clearing a path with his domed helmet in one hand and his pocket billy in the other.


Excerpted from The Given Day by Dennis Lehane Copyright © 2008 by Dennis Lehane. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 235 )
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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 236 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted September 29, 2008

    Lehane is a master....

    Stepping away from the familiar, Lehane takes us back to 1900s Boston. Other reviewers have given loads of info. All I will say is, you won't be dissappointed. Loved it from first page to last and highly recommend it to anyone who enjoys a historical but readable novel. This one should go to the top.

    15 out of 16 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 26, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Another great one by Lehane

    I have read all the books Dennis has written and this one was no disappointment as well....interesting times and great plot....characters felt like more than one ...almost like a group of people from that time....impossible to put down and sad when I arrived at the end.

    9 out of 11 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 19, 2012


    Thanks to harriet klausner and the other long winded plot spoilers here is another book ruined. I am curious as to why these rude ppl think they have to give away every detail of a book? That is not a review, it us a book report, a dissertation, a cliff note wanna be. Bn, you r losing sales to these hateful ppl. But i guess you dont care.

    7 out of 15 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 14, 2008

    What a read!

    What a piece of work Dennis Lehane has brought us! I was taken back in time in the early 1900's when Babe Ruth was playing and the Boston policemen went on strike and the city went crazy. One of the most touching characters in the book is Luther. His team played Babe Ruth! I felt like I was there and was angry and hurt as if I had been playing myself. I hate to give too much away and ruin the book. The Given Day also deals with race relations in the 1900's. Later Luther befriends a Boston policeman and his wife. They have a wonderful and amazing friendship. The Given Day deals with power, corruption, good and evil. I loved it!! Thank you Mr. Lehane

    7 out of 9 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 17, 2008

    It flows like silk

    I've been waiting forever for this to be published. The last time I talked to Lehane, he said it was turning into a 'brick', and he didn't know when it'd be published. He is my favorite writer and I wasn't too happy with the 5 year wait. But, it was worth it, totally. The rest of his novels have been mysteries, this is not. It is historical fiction, at it's finest. Well written, well researched, The Given Day covers a turbulant time in American history, at the end of The Great War and, of course, it's set in Boston. Over 700 pages, but truly a fast read because you can't put it down, it just flows and you are swept up, as you read it.

    6 out of 7 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 6, 2009

    A new favorite book

    I loved this book! Lehane does such a great job developing the characters that I felt like I knew them each and was very attached to them. There are few twists that you don't see coming, and some predictable stuff mostly because of the period in time it takes place. He does a great job weaving the story into historical events. This is the kind of story that can go on and on.

    5 out of 8 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 16, 2009


    I had great expectations for _The Given Day_, and if Dennis Lehane had stuck to what he knew - authenticity of setting, tight-as-a-drum plotting, and unexpected denouement - the book would have succeeded in enthralling me. While his 1918 Boston is drawn impeccably, Lehane's attempts at creating involving romantic subplots among the protagonists and the objects of their affections fall flat. Perhaps this is because we never know the inner lives of the characters intimately enough to care about them. Luther is by far the most sympathetic character of the novel because we hear his conscience and his dreams; we hardly know Nora and Lila, and Danny is far too busy as the hub around which all the historical figures and happenings that Lehane feels obligated to squash into his 650+ pages must turn. The rambling plot feels like a blatant, sophomoric grab at 'the great American novel', and while the history is interesting, one can almost feel Lehane's compulsion to include every last found bit of his research on the place and the era. By the last few pages, my primary feeling about the book was "get it over with, already" - and as expected, the ending felt flat and forced. _The Given Day_, far from being a keeper, is kindling-in-waiting for my fireplace.

    5 out of 11 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 5, 2008

    A terific historical

    In 1917, the Great War has expanded with the Yanks coming over there. While patriotism to support the troops remains high on the home front there is also resentment not just by those who opposed America entering the war some are irate because of conditions in the States. --------------- In Boston by 1918 most of the police force feels strongly they have twin grievances. First there was a promise made that if the cops accepted 1905 cost of living wages during the war, they would be adjusted soon after. Second with danger seemingly everywhere from anarchists setting off bombs, other social unrest in the name of all types of cause and the Spanish Flu lurking behind every door, the job has become much more dangerous without any efforts to counter the peril a cop faces constantly. A strike is expected as the Boston Social Club takes a major stronghold amongst the police officers with promises to bring wages to current cost of living and improve safety conditions. --------------- When Irish policeman Danny Coughlin meets Black Luther Laurence, they become unlikely friends. The former is the son of the most influential police captain and nephew of another ranking officer while the latter is on the run after an incident involving an organized Tulsa crime mob tied to the esteemed older Coughlin.------------- This terific historical takes a deep look at Boston just as WWI is ending through the Coughlin and Laurence families. The story line focuses on social class and social warfare as reform, anarchism, and a return to the golden days prior to the war all battle for supremacy. The ensemble cast is solid with extended family members playing key roles while real persona like Babe Ruth as a Red Sox pitching star about to be traded and W.E.B DuBois forming the NAACP set the era. Dennis Lehane provides a superb look at the situation on the ground when the city is divided between those who want to destroy the social order, those who want to change to social order into being more inclusive, and those who want to return the social order to before the democratization of WWI.--------------- Harriet Klausner

    5 out of 11 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 5, 2010

    The GIVEN Review.

    Now I'm just a high school student, but personally this was a book that compared to a movie, tv show, a song, etc.. I was actually able to focus, understand, and enjoy this book. The Given Day was about a white man, who ia an amatuer boxer, police officer, and owns two servants, his name is Danny Coughlin. I mentioned his servants because they are just as important to the story as he is. The first servant is a woman, Nora O'shea. Danny and her have had a past and had a very strong relationship thats now coming back into the light. Danny's other servant is his driver, Luther Lawrence; Luther has fled the south and left his pregnant wife behind because the policed identified him to be a shooter in a murder case. After reading this book I realized that I enjoyed the end of the book just as much as the beggining of the book. I'm not going to ruin it, if you're planning on reading this book, but I liked the end because in the end all of he characters were happier considering that their situations are worse then when we first met them. Enough about what the book is about this is just an overall good book, involving hints of Babe Ruth, the Boston Police Strike of 1919, corrupt cops, what one will do for love, and the coming of new technology. Like I said I'm just a high school student but in my opinion any adult would appreciate this book for all its worth! I would definitely recommend this book for anyone who enjoys reading!

    4 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 15, 2011


    This is like the best eva!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    3 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 30, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    And the award for favorite book of 2009 goes to, Dennis Lehane - "The Given Day"

    Before leaving to spend Christmas in London, I purchased "The Given Day" at my local Barnes & Noble. At the time, I had no idea that I had given myself the best present of all. From the beginning, the characters, plot, pace and writing style had me hooked. What a stoke of genius to include Babe Ruth in the story! I would highly recommend this book for anyone that is a fan of either history, baseball, the human condition or, just wants to read one heck of a story.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 3, 2009

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    Great historical fiction

    An interesting snapshot of post WWI Boston.

    3 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted October 13, 2010


    This book started out great, I felt I was right there with Babe Ruth playing baseball just for the fun of it in a little town during a stopover and then it all headed down. The author must be a chain-smoker because he's goes on obsessively with all the characters being smokers and goes on endlessly, page after page, of when they're smoking, what they're smoking, how the smoke curls up etc etc. I'm part of the 80% of people that don't smoke and I just found it disgusting, that I wouldn't want to be in the same room with any of these people. I tried and tried and made it thru the halfway mark, but I just had to toss it away. A good book will draw you to the characters, not make you want to shun them and put them far enough away that you can't smell them. And the plot, endlessly boring about Bolsheviks and Marxists etc trying to start may be an important part of our country's history, but it's a snoozer for reading about. Maybe it would have been interesting if I could've read thru all the smoke?

    2 out of 11 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 15, 2010

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    I Also Recommend:

    Michael Boatman is the real star of this novel.

    Having listened to the audiobook version of this book, Michael Boatman's ability to get into audio character of each of the various characters is astounding. He voices the different accents, from thick Irish, to Bostonian, Black, Yankee, and yes, although somwhat lacking, even the female persona. The actors come alive in the story and one finds themself transformed into an era long forgotten. The issues surrounding post war America and an economy struggling to survive, while a true flu pandemic rages throughout the country, are met with various political groups bent on altering America as they knew it. It pits labor against management while focusing on issues of ethnicity, gender, religion, and national pride; all while millions of servicemen are returning to an economy incapable of handling so many white men looking for jobs where none exist. It shines a spotlight on the huge underbelly of corruption. That was the Boston Police Department, and the mob power brokers on the eve of the 1919 prohibition and woven into the fabric of nearly every societal faction, from the lowly beat cop, to the governor of Massachuchetts, to the black culture of corruption in Tulsa, Oklahoma, of all places. One could confuse the conditions of society then with the very issues facing America today. Then it was anarchists, bolshevicks, and unions. Today it is Al Queada, health care, the green movement, ACORN and an out of control government. LeHane pulls together so many seemingly disconnected issues and weaves them in such a way that one finds themself researching historical archives to verify his story. Oddly enough, the historical accounts of the riots and the Boston Police strike are quite accurate and his portrayal of the events are nothing less than amazing. Historical perspective is the biggest contribution LeHane brings to the table. Boatman simply brings his work to life. This would make a great movie on par with Mitchell's Gone With The Wind. Every time I listened to the audiobook, I came away with something new that had escaped me on a previous listening. I will listen to it a few more times before I am completely satisfied. This is a must for any library.

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 3, 2009

    I Also Recommend:


    Yet another amazing book by my favorite author, Dennis Lehane. Deatiled descriptions on the story have already been given so I won't rehash them, but I had to add my 5 stars to such an excellent book.

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 8, 2009

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    An instant classic. . .

    The Given Day by Dennis Lehane is one of my all-time favorite books. Lehane creates some of the best characters and plot-lines that I have ever read, period. Lehane incorporates many interesting historical topics throughout. . .such as civil rights, WWI, unionism, communism, as well as many others. Not only is this book historically educational, it is extremely entertaining as well. 700+ pages seems short for this masterpiece work of fiction. I hope Dennis Lehane receives all the awards and recognition that he deserves for this book. I will be recommending it to everyone that I can.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted December 12, 2008

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    Fantastic story

    This book combined fascinating characters and historical perspective to provide an unflinching portrait of Boston post WWI. Unionism, civil rights, a fear of communism, with a little Babe Ruth thrown in are combined to tell of a changing world. Dennis Lehane keeps you interested from page one.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted December 11, 2008

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    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted November 15, 2008

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    It will draw you in

    This book started a little slow for me, but be patient and allow yourself to be drawn into the world Lehane has created. The interweaving of real events with the fictional story of these families adds another point of interest. Who knew there was such a thing as a molasses flood? This great big book went all too fast as I progressed. I thought the characters and situations were believable, and I liked that the main characters were not drawn in black and white. This is the first of Lehane's books that I have read, but won't be the last.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted October 29, 2008

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    I Also Recommend:

    Several Days

    It takes several days to read The Given Day, but each day is worth it. This is just the kind of book one can sink into and get carried away with. Lehane creates the sights and sounds to involve you in the lives of the characters. I was glad that it was a long book.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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