Reviews provided by Syndetics
Library Journal Review
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, LJ 6/15/08.]--David Keymer, Modesto, CA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Publishers Weekly Review
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.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved All rights reserved.
*Starred Review* Lehane's last novel (Shutter Island, 2004) was a historical thriller, but it only reached back to the 1950s. This time he has produced his first full-scale historical epic, a detail-rich exploration of America at the end of World War I, a country on the verge of being torn apart by civil and political unrest. Focusing on the Boston Police Strike of 1919, the novel follows multiple characters through the years before the strike, setting the stage by portraying a country in the grip of panic over all forms of labor strife from anarchist bomb-throwers to union agitators and then bringing the disparate cast together for the crippling strike itself. At the center of the story is Danny Coughlin, an Irish beat cop from a family of cops who becomes involved in the police union movement, but the strands of Lehane's brilliantly constructed and many-tentacled plot extend to all levels of society. Sharing center stage with Danny is Luther Lawrence, a young black man from Oklahoma who lands work in Boston as a servant in the Coughlin house, but swirling around Danny and Luther are other members of their families as well as such historical figures as Babe Ruth, about to be traded from Boston to New York, and Calvin Coolidge, out to prove his mettle by dealing forcefully with both anarchists and strikers. It is a robust plot, but it never becomes ungainly. Lehane masterfully blends his stories of human tragedy and hope with the larger cultural and political conflict in which the action unfolds, and while the comparisons to contemporary life are unavoidable, they arise on their own, without authorial intervention. 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.--Ott, Bill Copyright 2008 Booklist
Kirkus Book Review
No baseball player has ever enjoyed a paradigm-shifting career like Babe Ruth's. He began as a very good pitcher who could hit better than most. Then he recast himself, dominating the game as a slugger, hitting homers at a previously unimaginable clip, setting records that would stand for decades. Ruth opens, closes and makes occasional appearances throughout The Given Day, a historical epic that is easily the most ambitious work of Dennis Lehane's career. Though the Boston novelist isn't equating his achievement with Ruth's, there are some striking parallels between the two. Lehane launched his career with a series of detective novels that showed he could write better than most. Then he recast himself by leaving the detective format, making his popular breakthrough with the powerful Mystic River (2001). Now Lehane has made another leap. As big an advance beyond Mystic River as Mystic River was from his earlier books, The Given Day aspires to be nothing less than the Great American Novel, an ambition that critics began questioning just as baseball lost its position as America's National Pastime. The Given Day isn't a baseball novel. Its focus is the Boston police strike of 1919 and the bloody riots that resulted. But it's really about the American dream, the resistance to change, the subversion of a country's brightest ideals through its darkest impulses. It's a novel about, as Lehane writes, "the terrible smallness of men." It's a novel about "the fist beneath the velvet glove of democracy." The poor aren't necessarily noble; the rich aren't inherently evil. All are profoundly, humanly flawed. At the book's heart is the intertwining story of two men. Danny Coughlin, a police officer from a powerfully connected family, finds himself at various times a strike breaker, a strike leader and an undercover infiltrator. He's in love with an Irish immigrant whose past violates the morality he has inherited from his family, and he must decide if he's strong enough to follow his heart. Danny might be a tragic hero, but his heroism pales against the courage of Luther Laurence, a black man suspected of being a criminal on the run but one who forges a bond with the Boston cop. Though Luther has abandoned his family, fallen into illicit activity and killed to save his own life, he develops a moral code stronger than that of anyone else in the novel. The Given Day isn't flawless. Parts of the plot and some of the dialogue veer toward soap opera, and many of the characters aren't as fully fleshed as Danny and Luther-- or Babe Ruth. Yet the novel's larger-than-life ambitions make its missteps seem minor. It has often been said that fans found one of Ruth's prodigious strikeouts more thrilling than a slap single. If Lehane was ever a singles hitter, now he's swinging for the fences. Copyright ©Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.