The Given Day

by Dennis Lehane

Hardcover, 2008

Call number




William Morrow (2008), 720 pages


"Boston beat cop Danny Coughlin longs to step out of the shadow of his father, a legendary police captain. But his resolve is put to the test when he attempts to infiltrate the bands of anarchists and radicals threatening the city. Caught up in a vortex of change, Danny becomes entangles with an Irish immigrant maid and makes the acquaintance of Luther Laurence, a black man on the lam after a murder in Tulsa. Touching on such historic events as the Spanish Influenza pandemic and the Boston Police Strike of 1919, the Given Day is Lehane at his finest" -- from container.

Media reviews

The robust historical background of strike and riot and fear of revolution, combined with a corny story in which everyone gets their prescribed comeuppance or reward, turns into an odd cross between Don DeLillo and Harold Robbins.
7 more
What happens when a city's police force goes on strike? Is bloody mayhem in the streets guaranteed, or will common sense and civilised behaviour prevail? The city in question is Boston in 1919, the police strike really happened and the answers are in The Given Day, a superb new historical novel by the Boston-born writer Dennis Lehane.
The Given Day is an audacious novel, more ambitious than anything Lehane -- the author of Mystic River and Gone, Baby, Gone -- has previously attempted ... which is saying something. The 700-page book isn't perfect but its flaws are easily forgiven, especially when Lehane is going to such unusual lengths to develop his characters and his plot.
“The Given Day” may not be the ­ecstatic “yes” its scope implies — it’s too long, and peopled by too many cartoonish villains — but it does represent a huge leap forward for Lehane.
Meticulously researched and rich in period detail, it pulls the reader so rapidly through its complex and interesting story that it's easy to lose sight of its shortcomings.
Okay, Lehane's new book, The Given Day, isn't a history text. It's a novel, and a rip-roaring one, packed with vivid characters and suspenseful action. But it's a historical novel, set in Boston (Lehane's hometown) just after World War I, a meticulously researched tale that in the hands of this master storyteller jumps right off the page and hollers.
Lehane's brilliantly realized epic focuses on two personal stories set against some milestones of early 20th-century history. These include the aftermath of World War I, the Boston Police Strike, anarchist-backed terrorism, labor organizing and the deadly Spanish Flu epidemic.
“The Given Day” is a huge, impassioned, intensively researched book that brings history alive by grounding the present in the lessons of the past. When Mr. Lehane writes of “a man who wore his power like a white suit on a coal black night,” he could be writing about a distant time — or writing about his own.

User reviews

LibraryThing member BraveKelso
I think Lehane is taking some chances in attempting an important literary novel about historical events. He writes strong and mainly believable characters. He writes some good character sketches - some of his descriptions are vivid and telling. The story is important and intrinsically interesting, and he teaches a great deal about a misunderstood part of American history in a relatively painfree and interesting way. He is obviously passionate about Boston and telling the story of the roots of modern ethnic, economic and racial conflicts. He invokes Clemens, Dreiser and Steinbeck, more than Fitzgerald and more than more recent novelists. This is a strength, tempered by literary weakness.

My problems with this novel start with sprawl - it is too long, with false starts and loose ends. The historical setting requires too much explanation, too much didactic narrative. The text is out of time - the characters do not have authentic historical voices. They have transcendental and anachronistic insights into their role and place in history - which weakens the novel. I would call it a flawed success.
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LibraryThing member mdexter
This is the first historical novel by Dennis Lehane and it is grand. Set in early 20th century Boston, the novel traces events leading up to the Boston Police Strike of 1919. More than that, though, the book encompasses the time, detailing issues of race, the early labor movement, the influenza epidemic, and Bolshevism. The story revolves around two main characters, Danny Coughlin, son of a high-ranking police official and brother to a district attorney, and Luther Laurence, a black man on the run from a justifiable murder in Tulsa. Danny's undercover work with the labor unions and Bolsheviks influences him to become a leader in the efforts to unionize the police. Meanwhile, Luther finds his way in Boston while working for Danny's family and ultimately serves as Danny's guardian angel while avenging his own past. At 700 pages, the book is heavily plotted and detailed. At times it seems that Lehane has bitten off more than he can chew -- with so many details of the period some seem artificially woven into the plot. But he manages to keep the plot moving and the threads come together for the most part. Lehane's gift, more than character development and plot, is dialogue. No matter the setting of the scene, his dialogue is flawless and realistic, making the book a real page-turner.

Lehane's most interesting period piece in the book is the interludes featuring Babe Ruth who played for the Boston Red Sox at the time of the police strike. The opening vignette with Babe Ruth in a pickup game of baseball with a group of black ballplayers could stand alone as a classic baseball short story.

Overall the book is a tour-de-force for Lehane and one that establishes him as a foremost American author. Highly recommended.
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LibraryThing member Joycepa
Lehane has written some chilling books in the noir detective genre. This book is equally as chilling although for different reasons.

The end of the 19th century saw the beginnings of organized labor in the US--certainly the beginnings of demands for reduced hours (the 80 hour week was pretty standard) and better pay. Labor unrest continued into the 20th century and gave rise to the labor movement and the beginnings of unions. The post-World War I era saw increased agitation, along with a new phenomenon--the rise of anarchism in the US, carried out by mostly southern and central Europeans immigrants, both legal and illegal.

Lehane sets his story in this era. There are two main protagonists: Luther Lawrence, a black man living in Cincinnati who has been laid off from his job at a munitions factory in order to make room for returning (white) veterans, and Danny Coughlin, a Boston policeman, whose immigrant father is a highly respected captain on the force. In addition, there is Babe Ruth--still with the Boston Red Sox, just before his meteoric rise to fame. The book is filled with beautifully-drawn portraits of the working class, poor, immigrants, and politicians of the time. Especially powerful are the African-Americans and their lives in various cities; at that time, there were some enclaves of prosperous, “respectable” black families. And there is the appearance of a lawyer for the Justice Department, a man by the name of John Hoover.

What was absolutely fascinating was the history of the anarchist movement in the US at that time. I had no idea it was that strong. Coming from a strong union family, I knew more about the repression of the labor movement, but Lehane goes into great detail about the use of the Boston police as strike breakers.

Until the day came--September 9, 1919--when the police themselves went on strike. The description of the days of rioting that followed is surpassed only in the account of the cynicism displayed by the then-governor of Massachusetts, Calvin Coolidge, who went on to become one of the worst Presidents the US has ever had, in a long line of bad Presidents. The consequences of that action reverberated far beyond Boston, and Lehane is brilliant in telling the story.

Many other threads are woven in, such as the expansion of the NAACP into Boston and the politically savvy of its leaders. The book is a wealth of tidbits of such historical information; clearly the time was one of tremendous ferment on the social and labor front, and the US responded typically--with repression.

Ruth as a protagonist and narration from his point of view is somewhat puzzling, except to give an alternative view of events and the time. But in my opinion, the ending of the book is weakened by his inclusion in the story line. Eliminating the last 5 pages would have strengthened the impact. But that’s a minor complaint. The book is well-written and Lehane is an outstanding story- teller. Highly recommended.
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LibraryThing member mniday
The Given Day explores post World War I America and the cultural issues that were to shape the nation for the next fifty years. Dennis Lehane intertwines the stories of Danny Coughlin, a second-generation Boston police officer, and Luther Laurence, a black man trying to survive in early white America. Their struggles provide an insight into the early racial relations of the twentieth century.

The pace of the book is perfect. There is just enough action to give you a fix offset by beautiful narrative descriptions of the period. Fans of historical fiction should be prepared to have this book stuck to their hands until the end. The characters are very real and instantly likeable or hated. Dennis Lehane shows us how times have changed in America and also how some issues sneak back in, even in today’s society.

I strongly recommend this book. This is how historical fiction should be written.
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LibraryThing member danabalcom

Surprised how violent this book was.
LibraryThing member jmeisen
“The Given Day” is a flawed but greatly enjoyable historical novel. Many of the characters, especially Luther, are fascinating, and Lehane does a good job of getting into the heads of even the most despicable characters. In these days of union decline, it is worth reminding people what conditions were like before labor organized effectively, and the author has chosen a fascinating historical even to illustrate his point. He does a fine job of depicting the horrors of the Spanish influenza epidemic and the Great Molasses Flood. Lehane is as good at evoking 1918-19 Boston as he was today’s Boston in his previous novels. Babe Ruth’s recurring appearances serve as a kind of Greek chorus.

The book’s main flaw is some of the characters, particularly protagonist Danny Coughlin. Clearly the author wants us to like him, and towards that end has given him social attitudes — particularly on race — more suited to the early 21st century than the early 20th. That damages his believability as a historical character, although the raising of his consciousness about labor and his realization that he is a natural leader give him an interesting trajectory. Similarly, some of the antagonists — particularly Eddie McKenna — are too unrelievedly vile, almost cartoonishly villainous. In Luther Laurence, Lehane created a flawed but likeable character who is credible as a man of his time; it is unfortunate that not all the characters are as successfully three-dimensional.

Despite these reservations, I would recommend the novel to anyone who enjoys Lehane’s work or who is interested in the history of Boston, organized labor, race relations, or baseball.
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LibraryThing member sblock
Curious as to why this book didn't get better reviews when it came out. I couldn't put it down. I knew nothing about the 1919 Boston police strike until I read this book. I'm recommending it to friends who enjoy historical fiction, particularly those with Boston/Irish roots.
LibraryThing member aplomb1
Dennis Lehane knows how to tell a gripping story, and his talents are on full display in The Given Day – it’s 720 pages of unbroken, wildly swerving plotting that’s loads of fun to navigate. His chronicle of the 1919 Boston Police Strike is constantly interesting and as immersive as the best historical novels. In addition, he writes confidently in the various voices of the early 20th century, from the black man’s to the Irish police family’s, not to mention Babe Ruth’s. I haven’t come across more believable dialogue in any other novel (that doesn’t have “Cormac McCarthy” on the cover).

But while The Given Day is fun and fascinating, it doesn’t offer much beyond the plot. The protagonist, Boston policeman Danny Coughlin, is the kind of stock conflicted hero who can never arouse much empathy in the reader. And while the events leading up to the strike and the strike itself are interesting, the story seems to transcend the mundane and become memorable at only one point—a scene of children flying kites from rooftops during the devastating Spanish flu epidemic. The rest is forgettable brawls and bombings. Which brings up another criticism—for all his skill at plotting and dialogue, his descriptive prose sucks. He simply doesn’t have the capacity for the kind of focused, hyperreal language that a book with this much action demands. Too often I was left out of seemingly exciting scenes by their clumsy execution.

None of this is to say The Given Day is a bad book, because it’s one of the better I’ve read in a while. But for all the nights it kept me up burning through its meaty length, the flaws stick out to me now more than the strengths, and it hasn’t grown in my mind the way really brilliant novels do.
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LibraryThing member e-zReader
I picked up an Advanced Readers Copy of The Given Day at Book Expo in Los Angeles last weekend (5/31/08). I''m about 150 pages into it and it is terrific. Watch for it when it comes our in September. The press has been good (rightfully so) so most bookstores and libraries will have it on order so you can reserve a copy for when it comes in. I'll give a more complete review when I finish the book but my initial reaction is: this book does for Boston what Ragtime (Doctorow) did for New York. I don't know what you thought of Ragtime but it's one of the few books I've ever read more than once. If you haven't read it take Ragtime to the beach this summer while you're waiting for The Given Day.… (more)
LibraryThing member lkernagh
Having never read any of Lehane's works before now, and having only seen the movie adaptation of Shutter Island, I wasn't sure what to expect. I was not expecting a Babe Ruth baseball story, which is what I thought I was in for while reading the first 50 pages. I am not much of a sports fan at the best of times and wouldn't gravitate towards a baseball story so I was relieved to discover that I hadn't been mislead in acquiring a copy of this one. It is not a baseball story. It is a solid historical fiction circa 1918-1919 Boston, Massachusetts kind of story, which is more in keeping with my usual reading preferences. Lehane has a writing style similar to some other authors on my 'must read' list when in the mood for a sweeping saga kind of story. He writes with an attention to detail while controlling the pacing of the somewhat melodramatic plot so the reader doesn't feel as though they are facing an onslaught of description and action. I also really like how he has taken the big picture historical items - the influenza outbreak, the Great Molasses Flood, the growing anarchist movement, race relations, and labour strikes that were all part of post WWI Boston - and worked them into his family saga-styled story. With all of these positives working in the books favor, this is still just a moderately good read for me. Why? As much as I was enjoying the story, it felt long. I kept checking to see how much more I had to read. Never a good sign with me as that means I am not enthralled with the story and hoping that it will end at some point. For those who don't know, this one is the first book in the Joe Coughlin series. It started to really bug me that Joe was such a minor character and never really took center stage in the story except for two incidents. I can appreciate how a series usually has a name and maybe Joe is the central character in the other books in the series but his lack of presence in this book probably clouded my enjoyment a bit. I kept wanting to see when it was going to become "his" story.

Overall, a solid historical fiction period piece packed with enough historical material to captivate some readers of the genre and in particular readers with an interest in 1918-1919 Boston. Well written but not the page-turner I was hoping it would be.
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LibraryThing member pstotts
A great historical novel not only should maintain a verisimilitude to the era it is set in, but craft a greater story that transcends its setting, making social and political observations that are utterly relevant to the current world. It is a story that instructs by unfolding the mistakes of the past and laying them out in front of us. It is history as a teacher and social critic.

Following this criteria, Dennis Lehane’s new novel “The Given Day” is undeniably great, since it is a reflection on the past that also speaks quite loudly about the social and political events of the current day. In fact, “The Given Day” is an astute political and social commentary, which is not surprising considering Lehane has spent the last few years writing for the brilliant HBO show, “The Wire”. Just as “The Wire” shined a light on the political and social implications of the inner city drug trade in Baltimore, “The Given Day” focuses on these same implications in the immigrant communities of Boston in 1918-1919. Terrorism in the Boston immigrant community has a foremost role in the novel, and it is in these parts that most readers will most readily grasp the similarities to current American events. Furthermore, other issues tackled in the novel like racism, class division and exploitation of labour are still pertinent to the American social structure.

Danny Coughlin is a patrolman in the Boston Police Department. He comes from a well-respected family where his father is the powerful and tough Police Captain Tommy Coughlin, a self-made man and survivor. Various immigrant groups in the Boston community are organizing at the time, spouting rhetoric that runs from unionism to progressivism to communism. Eventually, Danny finds himself involved against his families’ wishes in the Boston Social Club, a group of Boston police, who are striving to unionize. Danny must overcome harsh political resistance to the Boston Social Club’s newfound activism, treachery and estrangement from his family and the woman he loves, Nora.

Luther Lawrence is an incredibly gifted baseball player, a man that leaves Babe Ruth, who stumbles across Luther playing, stunned by his athletic prowess. But Luther is a black man, and not only baseball, but the world, is still a white man’s game. Luther is starting to build a life in Tulsa with his pregnant wife, Lila, when an unexpected confrontation forces him to flee Tulsa, leaving behind Lila and his unborn child. He eventually finds his way to Boston where Isaiah and Yvette Giddreaux take him in. Isaiah Giddreaux also gets Luther a job as a houseman for the Coughlin family. While working for the Coughlins, Luther befriends both Nora and Danny, who are instrumental in helping him navigate the racism and violence he encounters in Boston.

Lehane has written a powerhouse of a novel, vast and Dickensian in scope and filled with intelligent social commentary without any cloying melodrama. The pace is astonishingly brisk which makes the novel a real page-turner, which is quite a surprise considering “The Given Day” clocks in at around 700 pages. The main characters have tremendous depth, evolving beautifully along with the story. They sincerely breathe, filled with life and ambition, doubt and deceit, love and hate. I cared about the plights of Danny, Nora and Luther and their seemingly futile struggle against an unfair world.

Last Word:
“The Given Day” is an incredible achievement, an immensely engaging, brilliant and entertaining novel infused with a well-crafted historical milieu, an astute world-view, radiant and believable characters and tight plotting. The social and political aspects of the story will reverberate with today’s reader, provoking further thought and awareness of American society. It is one of the very best novels of 2008.
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LibraryThing member ealaindraoi
I’m a big Lehane fan, so it really wasn’t a surprise that Early Reviewers choose me to read and review this book. I love the way Lehane writes, so this was a huge love-in for me with 700+ pages of story.

Someone is bound to call it “sweeping” because it feels sweeping, but it’s not. It’s a microcosm of two men set in 1918-1919 Boston. I grew up outside of Boston 50 years after this novel was set, but I can speak to it’s authority, change came slow to New England in those days and much was still the same 50 years later.

This book was a real change and gamble for Lehane, with the exception of Shutter Island (set in 1954) all of his novels have been set in a present, yet undefined, time. This gamble pays off in spades, as it is apparent even without looking at his acknowledged source material, that he’s done extensive homework. Yet his writing stays true and the turns of phase that I love are still present now regarding the beginnings of unions, baseball, anarchists, Massachusetts political twists and turns, race, love, family, particularly Irish family, and changing attitudes towards all of the above.

“This country,” his father said, with one of the many smiles in his collection, this time the wry one. “Everyone thinks it’s okay to hire on for work but then sit down when that work turns out to be hard.”

The primary focus is on Luther, a black man who comes to Boston on the run from Elsewhere, and Danny Coughlin and the rest of his family. The characterization is masterful, but most successful in the Irish characters. The plot moves right along with just the right amount of twists and turns. It’s an absorbing page-turner even at 700 pages.

I almost completely and wholeheartedly loved this book I re-read Mystic River once a year, and now I’ll be re-reading both Mystic River and The Given Day once a year. I only have two nit picks and they’re small ones. There are people who are blessed with an ability to “read” other people with an ease that awes the rest of us, but they’re rare. You’re lucky to find one of these people in a lifetime, but there are easily 3, maybe 4 of these people in this book. It stretches the credibly a bit. Also, I could have done without the Babe Ruth bits, but I guess if you’re talking about Boston at that time, you HAVE to mention Babe Ruth. I don’t find them particularly interesting or successful and they slow the pace down a little.
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LibraryThing member readingrebecca
The Given Day by Dennis Lehane
All readers should have the opportunity to give one book more than the standard five stars. The Given Day would be my choice. The writing in this book is excellent and the research is obviously extensive. I would deem this to be the best book I’ve read in a long time.
This is the story of Danny Coughlin, a Boston police officer, and Luther Laurence, a black man who is running from some trouble in Tulsa, Oklahoma. These are characters you will come to know and care about a great deal. The story begins in 1918 in Boston, a time of unrest with the end of the First World War and the influenza plague. Police worked long hours for very little pay in terrible conditions. The reaction to Bolsheviks and anarchists, who were labeled terrorists, is relevant to today’s world. Dennis Lehane paints a picture of racism, hatred and distrust.
Mr. Lehane has worked historic people, such as Babe Ruth and Massachusetts Governor Calvin Coolidge, into the story. The stories about Babe Ruth sparked many interesting conversations as half my family are Boston Red Sox fans and the other half New York Yankee fans. I learned quite a bit of history from reading The Given Day. It is so captivating that I wanted to find corroborating material on the Internet as I was reading. For instance, I had never read about the East St. Louis race riots.
This is a stay up late, can’t put down book. When it is published in September I believe that it will fast become a bestseller. I would recommend this book to anyone with an interest in history. I greatly appreciate the opportunity to read this book.
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LibraryThing member Miccosukee
As always, Lehane's skill with dialogue lifts this tale of Boston's working class from melodrama to a high stakes story of good vs evil. Nora's undoing is worthy of Henry James.
LibraryThing member HenryKrinkle
A focused, well written historical drama about two families-one black, one white-set during the Boston police strike of 1919. Lehane brings together the themes of race relations, roots of terrorism, and the origin of the American labor movement into an entertaining and moving novel. A very good book disguised as a summer beach read.… (more)
LibraryThing member eppish
Enjoyable read and well-paced despite its unwieldy length. Unfortunately, it tends to revel in the sentimentality so prevalent in the subgenre of historical fiction... but I think that's chiefly a personal complaint. Recommended more for fans of Caleb Carr than for fans of Dennis Lehane.
LibraryThing member LisaCurcio
Danny Coughlin is the oldest son of Irish immigrant Boston Police Captain Tommy Coughlin. Danny is also a Boston police officer. Luther Laurence is a black man from Ohio whose mother died young and whose father gave him nothing. Luther learned to love tools and learned to work from his uncle. For some reason I cannot fathom, Babe Ruth is also part of this book. The bits about Ruth do not add anything; fortunately, those bits do not really detract from the tale of Danny and Luther, how their lives converge and intertwine in post WWI Boston, and how they develop a firm friendship.

Danny's and Luther's story is set in an America undergoing upheaval as the war ends. Blacks who had been working were fired to give jobs to the returning white soldiers. Big Business reigned. Workers' unions were only beginning to develop, and were viewed as the tools of Anarchists and Communists. The NAACP was in its infancy and had not yet become a true force.

Lehane has done a masterful job of portraying social, political and family life of the time, and developing characters who grow and whose personalities and actions ring true. As the narrative culminates in the failed Boston Police strike of September, 1919, Danny's involvement in the union organizing and the strike has repercussions that ripple through his family and affects the lives of his friends. Yet, the work ends on a note of hope, and this reader hopes that Lehane will see fit to write a sequel to his engaging historical novel.
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LibraryThing member memasmb
The Given Day by Dennis Lehane

This 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.
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LibraryThing member stevesmits
This is a good story, not high literature, but interesting. It tells of the events surrounding the Boston police strike of 1919 using fictional and real-life characters. Danny Coughlin is a patrolman on the force, the son of a police captain. Nora is the housemaid of the Coughlin's who emigrated from Ireland with a troubled past that will play into the story. Luther Laurence is a black man who flees from Tulsa to Boston after a violent episode. Luther takes employment in the Coughlin household and with the nascent NAACP chapter in the city.

The city and country is beset with labor unrest and political upheaval. Although the labor movement is gaining steam, many associate it with the "Reds", i.e. anarchists and Bolshevik-leaning radicals. The police are unhappy with their wages and working conditions and have formed a quasi-union that is clamoring for the city of honor pledges made before the war to improve their situation. Danny's father is opposed to the idea of a "union" and tries to enlist Danny to spy on the meetings. Danny had encountered a couple living in his apartment who he finds out are anarchists bent on violence; his interactions with them form a strand of the story. Danny does some undercover work for the police against several leftist groups.

Danny and Nora have a past which is keeping them from a lover's relationship. This, too, plays out during the book. Luther is befriended by Danny and Nora and his story shows the difficulties faced by black men in white society in Tulsa, Boston and in the nation. There is mention of race riots in East St. Louis and Chicago in which white mobs victimized black residents. Luther lived in the Greenwood district of Tulsa, a highly segregated part of the city. This is interesting because Tulsa had one of the most violent and bloody attacks on a black community in American history. This occured in 1921, after the novel's time period was over.

Danny begins to sympathize with his fellow officers over their grievances and becomes a leader in the union movement. The ultimate decision to strike turns out (as history has recorded) to be disastrous for the city and the striking officers.

The novel is populated with historical figures. A young "John" Hoover is from the US Bureau of Investigation. Hoover, as was true throughout his actual career, is obsessed with rooting out the "reds" who he believes are bent on destroying the American way of life. US Attorney General Mitchell Palmer also appears in the narrative; Palmer was infamous for his persecution of leftists following WWI. Calvin Cooledge was governor of Massachusetts and the national acclaim he attained from breaking the strikes, leading to his nomination as Harding's vice-president, is true history. Babe Ruth also shows up, not as a participant in the labor strife, but is used as a witness to the events unfolding in Boston. The depiction of the "Babe" is a nice touch.

The story captures the early 20th century unrest in the working class and the beginnings of the growing power of the labor movement. The push back of the capitalist power elite against left-leaning entities was aimed at thwarting the attraction of socialism to the working classes. In the view of the capitalist elite, there was a close connection between the "reds" and the labor movement that was challenging the hegemony of the monied barons of the era. I am somewhat familiar with the history of public sector unions. Many labor historians conclude that the Boston police strike retarded the establishment of public sector unions for decades after.

The novel is a bit longer than it needed to be, but it's a fast read.
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LibraryThing member connlibrary
The Given Day is a work of historical fiction based on the events that led to the Boston Police Strike of 1919. Lehane’s fast-moving novel follows the parallel story lines of Danny Coughlin, a young Boston policeman from a family of policemen, and Luther Lawrence a young African-American man on the run who eventually moves to Boston and becomes the Coughlin family’s servant, and later Danny’s friend. The end of World War 1, the Spanish Influenza outbreak, the great “Red Scare”, Prohibition, and the baseball exploits of Babe Ruth are all incorporated into the story line. Important historical figures such as J. Edgar Hoover, John Reed, and Calvin Coolidge all make cameo appearances. Themes of racial prejudice, urban poverty, family honor, and idealism are all explored.
Even for non-historians, I believe this would be a highly enjoyable book. Lehane’s writing style makes this a difficult book to turn down, and the story line is filled with drama and suspense.
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LibraryThing member joshberg
Highly engaging historical fiction focusing on the surprising volatility, and fragility, of 1919 America, The Given Day follows the converging paths of charismatic-Boston-cop Danny, plucky-black-man-on-the-lam Luther, and various historical personages from Babe Ruth to Calvin Coolidge. Though Lehane writes well, he is occasionally unsubtle; his scenes become florid at times, particularly towards the end of the novel. I'm too much of a snob to consider this book literature, but it is a fun and eye-opening read that manages the difficult feat of not seeming too long at 700 pages.… (more)
LibraryThing member porchsitter55
A richly multi-layered, substantial story about Boston in 1919. Police unrest, unions, racial tension, murder...this book has it all.

When I opened the book, it was daunting...700+ pages seemed overwhelming and I wasn't sure I would get through it all. Next thing I knew, I was halfway through and totally absorbed in the story. I finished in a much shorter time period than I thought possible.

Dennis Lehane is one of my favorite authors. This is not his normal genre (historical fiction), but it was better than I expected. The book was simply outstanding. A finely crafted story with wonderful characters that I will not soon forget.

This book is a must-read. Don't worry about the length of the book. After the first 25 pages, you'll be hooked. I hated for it to end.
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LibraryThing member kelawrence
Fantastic! It's not all about baseball, so give it a try. So, . . . Mystic River with Sean Penn, Shutter Island with DiCaprio, Gone Baby, Gone with Morgan Freeman . . . and now this . . . would love to see Brian Dennehy as Tom . . . so when will it hit film??? : )
LibraryThing member LiteraryFeline
As a fan of Dennis Lehane's Mystic River, I was quite excited to read this novel. It is definitely a departure from what he has written in the past in that there is much focus on historical events surrounding the post WWI era, and yet it is shares some similarities. I enjoyed this book quite a bit overall. Lehane paid close attention to detail and his hard work in researching the book comes through.… (more)
LibraryThing member etrainer
After I saw the movie Mystic River I read everything I could find by Dennis Lehane (Well, except for Mystic River itself - I already knew what was gong to happen). Shutter Island wasn't my favorite, but the Kenzie and Gennaro novels were terrific. The stories were compelling and I turned the pages to see how Patrick and Angie would solve the mysteries and untangle the plots.

The Given Day is a historical novel set in Boston prior to and during the Boston Police Strike of 1919. It is a story of two families of the time, with curious appearances by Babe Ruth throughout the novel, on the periphery of the action. I found this distracting, since I could not understand the relevance of Ruth to Lehane's story.

Danny Coughlin, a Boston cop from a powerful family, and Luther Laurence, a black man fleeing the law, move the plot forward towards the Police Strike. Their independent struggles and connections with each other make an interesting story. I learned about a historical period and event that I know little about. But ultimately I was disappointed. I want Lehane to supply mysteries and solutions, preferably by Kenzie and Gennaro.
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0688163181 / 9780688163181
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