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The Given Day

The Given Day

4.0 241
by Dennis Lehane

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"Gut-wrenching force...A majestic, fiery epic. The Given Day is a huge, impassioned, intensively researched book that brings history alive." - The New York Times

Dennis Lehane, the New York Times bestselling author of Live by Night—now a Warner Bros. movie starring Ben Affleck—offers an unflinching family epic that


"Gut-wrenching force...A majestic, fiery epic. The Given Day is a huge, impassioned, intensively researched book that brings history alive." - The New York Times

Dennis Lehane, the New York Times bestselling author of Live by Night—now a Warner Bros. movie starring Ben Affleck—offers an unflinching family epic that captures the political unrest of a nation caught between a well-patterned past and an unpredictable future. This beautifully written novel of American history 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 at the end of World War I.

Editorial Reviews

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
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
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
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

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.”
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.”
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.”
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.”
New York Times
“Gut-wrenching force. . . . A majestic, fiery epic. . . . The Given Day is a huge, impassioned, intensively researched book that brings history alive.”
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.”
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.””
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.”
“A gripping historical novel. . . . Infused with the same dark drama that set apart his earlier books.”
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.”
Boston Globe
“The Given Day is a vast historical novel. . . . Spectacular details. . . . Finely thought-out. . . . . Many stunningly managed scenes.”
“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.”
Associated Press
“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.”
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.”
"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."
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.”

Product Details

HarperCollins Publishers
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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.”

Meet 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 lives in California with his family.

Brief Biography

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

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Given Day 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 241 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.
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.
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Dark Shine
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I have always enjoyed Lehane's books and this is no exception. Even though the subject matter was so disturbing, the author puts you there with descriptive prose and you feel a part of the story, even if you do not want to be there. That's what I like in an author and this one delivered.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago