Saturday, October 18, 2008

Book Review: The Given Day

Title The Given Day: A Novel
Author: Dennis Lehane
Rating ****
Tags boston, 1919, babe ruth, police, race relations, fiction

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.

Publication William Morrow (2008), Hardcover, 720 pages
Publication date 2008
ISBN 0688163181 / 9780688163181

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