The Given Day

The Given Day

by Dennis Lehane


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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.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780062190949
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 09/04/2012
Pages: 736
Sales rank: 84,163
Product dimensions: 5.36(w) x 7.82(h) x 1.26(d)

About the Author

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.


Boston, Massachusetts

Date of Birth:

August 4, 1965

Place of Birth:

Dorchester, Massachusetts


B.A., Eckerd College, 1988; M.F.A., Florida International University, 1993

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.

What People are Saying About This

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.”

Customer Reviews

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Given Day 4.1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 282 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
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.
kttymoe More than 1 year ago
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.
Guest More than 1 year ago
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.
Guest More than 1 year ago
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
Lolly56 More than 1 year ago
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.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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.
kdporteus More than 1 year ago
An interesting snapshot of post WWI Boston.
ClarkP More than 1 year ago
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.
tpucin More than 1 year ago
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.
opbitty More than 1 year ago
LaurieOH More than 1 year ago
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.
KenCady More than 1 year ago
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.
Smiley on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Flawed, but good book. The Irish characters are somewhate stereotypical. Cars and phones seem too common for the class of people the action is set amongest and maybe Lehane set out to tell too many stories, but for all that the book is a good read and I cared about all the characters. I would love to see Lehane do a book about Danny's father, Thomas and maybe one about his younger brother Joe. The novel has a wonderful sense of place and makes some thoughtful and subtle comments on race. The coverage of the post WWI labor movement and radicalism are quite good and work well in the plot.
loosha on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Superbly written history of the Boston Police leading up to their strike, a black man's journey alongside the extreme attitudes of prejudice in his way, and Babe Ruth's travel through it all. My God it made me really hate some people. And to think, it was not that long ago that greed and power...what am I saying, isn't it still so? It makes me even more thankful for Barak Obama and even more hopeful that he will live up to at least some part of his promise. A sample....p. 549Maybe twenty-five thousand faces in Feenway that day, and not a one besides Luther's any darker than the ball. The teams were changing sides after Ruth's line-out to the pitcher, and the round man trotted out to left on his ballerina toes, his shoulders hunched like he was expecting a blow from behind. Luther knew Ruth had seen him, and that the seeing had rattled him. Shame had filled the man's face like it had come from a hose. Luther almost pitied him, but then he remembered the game in Ohio, the way those white boys had soiled its simple beauty and he thought: You don't want to feel shame? Don't do shameful things, white boy.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Had never read Lehane before. This doesn't make me rush to buy another.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is like the best eva!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A fine portrait of Boston in the 1915 - 1925 (roughly) era. The first part of the book deals really well with Babe Ruth getting himself in a game against some African American baseball players. I'm not a big baseball fan myself, but this was one of the best parts of the book. We get into the meat of the book, and follow two main protagonists. Danny is a Irish Boston policeman being drawn into the police forces struggles to unionize, and Luther is an African American (he's in the baseball game) who goes from Ohio, to Tulsa Oklahoma, and then has to flee to Boston, where he ends up getting a job working in Danny's father's house as a servant. The characters in this book from the main one's on down are really well portrayed. If I had a problem, it was maybe that there are too many big events / adventures. I might of liked to have a little more of the focus on the little things in the life of Bostonians of this era. Overall it's not a Classic, but it's a really good book that is worth reading.
Constitution_In_Exile More than 1 year ago
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.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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.
FootballChick More than 1 year ago
While I enjoyed the change of era, early 1900's, it was difficult to identify w/any of the characters. Also, it is a very long read and the climax comes very near the end. I did enjoy the fact that given the times there was an open and socially unacceptable relationship between a negro, a white woman and her lover, the main character. It demonstrated that not all people felt the need to keep the races seperated. I thought that was rather fascinating. This is my first read of Lehane and I would have difficulty reccomending this book due to how long the book is. So, if you have the time, give it a shot.
Anonymous 7 months ago
One of the best books I ever read
memasmb on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The Given Day by Dennis LehaneThis book was received from LibraryThing under the Early Reviewers program. As Dennis Lehane went to college in my area, I was very interested in reading his book about the early 1900¿s history in Boston, Massachusetts. This writer returns frequently to the St. Petersburg Times Festival of Reading that takes place every October.There are not enough words to description this historical saga of two families with a side story line of Babe Ruth. This country was built on the backbone of immigrants and it is very sad that the discrimination that is outlined in this book continues until this day.Why are we always so afraid of new people and why do we think we are better than the ones coming after us. So clearly does the writer lay before us the lesson that we can get more accomplished by working together and not trying to screw our neighbor? When will we ever learn that everyone can contribute?How quickly we judge our fellow man by his color, his heritage, and his political beliefs. It was eye opening to read Lehane¿s narrative about an Irish policeman Danny Coughlin just trying to make a living but ending up getting involved in the beginnings of a union. The story line of Luther Laurence, a great baseball player who is not allowed to use his talent in a sport much loved by Americans.I liked this book so much, I recommended it to my East Lake Community Library Book Club and it is the book to read for this October. This is a book that makes history alive for the reader.
reannon on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Dennis LeHane is one of those authors whose books I eagerly look forward to. He can be uneven... some of his things I've disliked, some I've liked, but two, Gone, Baby, Gone, and Mystic River, left me sitting dazed at how good the book was. The Given Day is an epic. I'm not surprised after reading it that it has been a while since he published anything else... the book is long, epic, and rich, and took a lot of research to make it real. The setting is Boston, in 1918 and 1919. It was an eventful time. World War 1 ended, the influenza epidemic happened, there was labor unrest, a red hunt, anarchist and Bolshevik agitation with some violence. The main character is Danny, a policeman and son of a policeman. He is assigned to infiltrate various radical groups, and meanwhile gets involved in a nascent policemen's union. Meanwhile a young black man, Luther, is introduced in a baseball game. Babe Ruth shows up, and some of his team mates, and they play Luther's team. It doesn't add to harmony between the races. Luther, after various unfortunate events, winds up in Boston. The events slowly lead up inexorably to a strike by the Boston police and subsequent riots.The book is about 700 pages long, yet never flags. It is an ambitious work, with a large number of characters, events, and forces. In less capable hands, it would be a mess. But LeHane slowly weaves a rich tapestry, character by character and event by event, until all collide in a cataclysmic event. The characters are astonishingly real and complex.Excellent work.
teddyballgame on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Set in post World War I Boston during the infamous Boston Police Strike, The Given Day by Dennis Lehane is a fabulous book with very rich, multi-faceted characters. Lehane is excellent at creating a setting that you feel a part of. The book deals with such important issues as labor rights, racism, and poverty in a way that adds to the overall story and doesn't take away from it. I also particularly liked the use of real historical people such as Calvin Coolidge, then Governor of Massachusetts.This was one of the best books I've read in a long time. I unequivocably recommend it to anyone interested in a good story, interesting characters, and a unique time and place within our nation's history.