Book Review: The Given Day by Dennis Lehane

Author: Dennis Lehane
Title: The Given Day
Publication Info: HarperAudio (2008)
ISBN: 0061661511


This sprawling historical novel is in many ways seemingly targeted towards the demographic of me.  It is set in Boston circa 1918-1920 among the working class and immigrant communities with the labor movement central to the narrative.  Events in the novel include the 1918 World Series, the great influenza, the Salutation Street Bombing, the Red Scare, the Great Molasses Flood, and the Boston Police Strike.   Historical details like that appeal to me but the story and interesting characters also make it worthwhile.  The novel focuses on two main characters: Danny Coughlin, a police officer who finds himself drawn into the labor movement and Luther Laurence, a black man on the run from a criminal gang in Tulsa.  Dozens of characters both fictional and historical circulate around the parallel stories of these two men including recurring appearances by Babe Ruth.  There are many flaws in this novel including a penchant for melodrama,  two-dimensional characters (especially the women), and ahistorical progressive behavior in the friendship that arises between Danny and Luther.  Still, it’s an enjoyable read and a treat for anyone interested in a fictional take on the social history of Boston.

Recommended books: Empire Rising: A Novel by Thomas Kelly and Paradise Alley by Kevin Baker.
Rating: ***

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