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The Given Day: A Novel Hardcover – Bargain Price, September 23, 2008

4.3 out of 5 stars 723 customer reviews
Book 1 of 3 in the Coughlin Series

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Hardcover, Bargain Price, September 23, 2008
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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Set in Boston at the end of the First World War, New York Times bestselling author Dennis Lehane’s long-awaited eighth novel unflinchingly captures the political and social unrest of a nation caught at the crossroads between past and future. Filled with a cast of unforgettable characters more richly drawn than any Lehane has ever created, 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. Beat cop Danny Coughlin, the son of one of the city’s most beloved and powerful police captains, joins a burgeoning union movement and the hunt for violent radicals. Luther Laurence, on the run after a deadly confrontation with a crime boss in Tulsa, works for the Coughlin family and tries desperately to find his way home to his pregnant wife.

Here, too, are some of the most influential figures of the era--Babe Ruth; Eugene O’Neill; leftist activist Jack Reed; NAACP founder W. E. B. DuBois; Mitchell Palmer, Woodrow Wilson’s ruthless Red-chasing attorney general; cunning Massachusetts governor Calvin Coolidge; and an ambitious young Department of Justice lawyer named John Hoover.

Coursing through some of the pivotal events of the time--including the Spanish Influenza pandemic--and culminating in the Boston Police Strike of 1919, The Given Day explores the crippling violence and irrepressible exuberance of a country at war with, and in the thrall of, itself. As Danny, Luther, and those around them struggle to define themselves in increasingly turbulent times, they gradually find family in one another and, together, ride a rising storm of hardship, deprivation, and hope that will change all their lives.

“[An] engrossing epic. . . . A vision of redemption and a triumph of the human spirit.”
--Publishers Weekly (starred review)

About the Author
Dennis Lehane is the author of seven novels. These include the New York Times bestsellers Gone, Baby, Gone; Mystic River; and Shutter Island, as well as Coronado, a collection of short stories and a play. He and his wife, Angie, divide their time between Boston and the Gulf Coast of Florida.

Images from The Given Day

The Boston Molasses Disaster
The Boston Molasses Disaster, also known as the Great Molasses Flood, occurred on January 15, 1919, in the North End neighborhood of Boston, Massachusetts. A large molasses tank burst and a wave of molasses rushed through the streets at an estimated 35 mph, killing 21 and injuring 150. The event has entered local folklore, and residents claim that on hot summer days the areas still smells of molasses. (From Wikipedia).

Headline from the Boston Post, September 9, 1919
Rioters clash with National Guardsmen called in by Massachusetts Governor Calvin Coolidge during a strike by Boston police officers.

Emma Goldman
"I'd rather have roses on my table than diamonds on my neck."

City officials in Boston were caught off guard when three civilians dropped dead of influenza in early September 1918. As September 1918 drew to a close, Boston had lost more than 1,000 citizens to the silent, relentless killer. The deadly influenza now posed a threat to the entire nation, and the world at large.

Calvin Coolidge
John Calvin Coolidge (1872 - 1933) was a Republican lawyer from Vermont who worked his way up the ladder of Massachusetts state politics, eventually becoming governor. His actions during the Boston Police Strike of 1919 thrust him into the national spotlight; he became the 30th President of the United States (1923 - 1929).

The Boston Molasses Disaster

The headline from the Boston Post, September 9, 1919

Emma Goldman

Influenza Mask

Calvin Coolidge

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. In a splendid flowering of the talent previously demonstrated in his crime fiction (Gone, Baby, Gone; Mystic River), Lehane combines 20th-century American history, a gripping story of a family torn by pride and the strictures of the Catholic Church, and the plot of a multifaceted thriller. Set in Boston during and after WWI, this engrossing epic brings alive a pivotal period in our cultural maturation through a pulsing narrative that exposes social turmoil, political chicanery and racial prejudice, and encompasses the Spanish flu pandemic, the Boston police strike of 1919 and red-baiting and anti-union violence.Danny Coughlin, son of police captain Thomas Coughlin, is a devoted young beat cop in Boston's teeming North End. Anxious to prove himself worthy of his legendary father, he agrees to go undercover to infiltrate the Bolsheviks and anarchists who are recruiting the city's poverty-stricken immigrants. He gradually finds himself sympathetic to those living in similar conditions to his fellow policemen, who earn wages well below the poverty line, work in filthy, rat-infested headquarters, are made to pay for their own uniforms and are not compensated for overtime. Danny also rebels by falling in love with the family's spunky Irish immigrant maid, a woman with a past. Danny's counterpart in alienation is Luther Laurence, a spirited black man first encountered in the prologue when Babe Ruth sees him playing softball in Ohio. After Luther kills a man in Tulsa, he flees to Boston, where he becomes intertwined with Danny's family. This story of fathers and sons, love and betrayal, idealism and injustice, prejudice and brotherly feeling is a dark vision of the brutality inherent in human nature and the dire fate of some who try to live by ethical standards. It's also a vision of redemption and a triumph of the human spirit. In short, this nail-biter carries serious moral gravity. (Sept.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 720 pages
  • Publisher: William Morrow; First Edition edition (September 23, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0688163181
  • ASIN: B002SB8P56
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.6 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (723 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,253,766 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
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. I would recommend this book to anyone with an interest in history.
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Format: Hardcover
Once it is known that 'The new Lehane' is in bookstores should be enough to make booklovers rush out to buy a copy. Their money will be well spent, as The Given Day is a work of art. It is much more than just an excellent book, it is fine literature. The Given Day, which takes place primarily in Boston just after WWI, is an epic story of family greed, love, power, hardship, lust, hope and politics. It tells the story of two families -- one white, one black -- swept up in the maelstrom of revolutionaries, anarchists, immigrants, ward bosses, Brahmnins, the Boston police department and ordinary citizens, all engaged in a battle for survival and power. As interesting and powerful as the plot is, Lehane's strongest accomplishment is the cast of unforgettable, true-to-life characters he has created. You'll meet beat-cop Danny Coughlin, Boston Police Department royalty and the son of one of the city's most beloved and powerful police captains. Luther Laurence, a black man on the run after a deadly confrontation with a crime boss who works for the Coughlin family. Nora, the Irish immigrant who was taken in by the Coughlins and is the love of Danny's life, as well as many other very credible multidimensional characters. Lehane does such an excellent job in describing these characters that I felt I was right there alongside them feeling all of their joys and sorrows. In addition, Lehane expertly weaves into the story many real-life influential people of the era -- including Babe Ruth, Eugene O'Neill, leftist Jack Reed, NAACP founder W.E.B. Du Bois, Mitchell Palmer, Massachusetts governor Calvin Coolidge and an ambitious young justice department lawyer named John Hoover. The Given Day is over 700 pages of reading pleasure and a book that I most highly recommend to you. It is a masterpiece of historical fiction!
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Format: Hardcover
The Given Day marks a departure for Lehane. The Given Day is historical fiction that explores the lives of ordinary working stiffs of Boston and the US circa 1919. The story centers around a tough, smart, and handsome Boston Irish copper named Danny Coughlin and Luther Laurence, a gifted black man on the run. Coughlin struggles in his relationship with his powerful father and Boston police captain, Thomas Coughlin. Luther had fled to Boston, but wants nothing more than to return to his wife and child in Tulsa. Their stories eventually come together at the Coughlin household and their mutual interest in the Irish immigrant working girl and family servant.

The characters can be a bit thin at times, their interactions sometimes predictable and maudlin, but Lehane excels in capturing the feel of the town and the times. Labor and ethnic strife boil below the surface. Workers toil in brutal conditions for low pay with no security. The Irish workers who have managed to get one rung up the ladder fear and hate not the bosses, but rather the new Italian immigrants (not to mention the few blacks in town). The political bosses even subject the Boston police rank-and-file to low pay, unsanitary working conditions, and extremely long hours. That summer of 1919 is known today as The Red Summer. In Boston, a potent mix of much-aggrieved workers, bomb-throwing anarchists, and a tyrannical police commissioner erupted in savage street violence during the Boston police strike.

Lehane also sends Coughlin and Laurence each to take a journey of redemption. Coughlin repudiates his role as a spy in the police union and goes on to become its leader. Laurence flees Tulsa and his wife, but is taken in by leaders in the local NAACP whom he repays with courage and loyalty.
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Format: Hardcover
When it comes to mystery novels, Dennis Lehane is one of the best. In novels like Gone, Baby, Gone (Harper Fiction) (the basis for the film) and Mystic River (also the basis of the movie) Lehane masterfully constructed twisty thrillers both compelling and unnerving, ones that stab deep into the darkest depths of human nature. Then he got bored.

In retrospect, "Mystic River" was Lehane's first departure - from the Kenzie-Gennaro series that he had made his name with, and boy was it a successful venture. Emboldened, Lehane's next work, Shutter Island, delved deeper into the realm of psychological thrillers than his previous novels, but in this reader's opinion that is where he started to slip up. The plot was predictable and the dialogue stilted, portending the bigger mess that was to come.

Five years later, Lehane is unleashing his passion project: a sweeping historical epic set in the harsh life of Boston post-World War I. Every page of this hefty tome screams of ambition and hard work. Just how sprawling is "The Given Day"? The cast of characters is mapped out after the title page to help the reader keep everyone straight.

Don't get me wrong - Lehane is an deft enough writer and a smart enough man to pull this off, and I'm sure that many readers will enjoy this book very much. But darned if it doesn't creak under the weight of all Lehane's lofty ambitions; "The Given Day" suffers from a serious case of too-muchness.
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