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Review – The Given Day by Dennis Lehane

The Given Day
by Dennis Lehane
702 pages
On sale September 23, 2008

I received The Given Day by Dennis Lehane through Library Thing’s Early Reviewers. I was really excited because Dennis Lehane is the author of Mystic River, and while I didn’t read the book, I thought the movie was incredible.

Last Saturday, Dave and I rented the movie Gone Baby Gone, not knowing it was based on a book by Dennis Lehane. When I realized who had written the book, I was stoked! After watching that film, I wanted to immediately go to Borders and buy every single book Mr. Lehane has ever written. Wow. I was blown away by the dialogue (you’ll see a theme with that), the storyline, the moral dilemma…everything, really.

Getting back to The Given Day…this opens in late 1918 with a scene featuring Babe Ruth stumbling upon a group of “coloreds” playing baseball. Amazed by their abilities, he stops to watch and is soon joined by other teammates who challenge these black men to a game. When it becomes clear that the black men will beat the professional baseball players, Ruth’s teammates start cheating, intentionally calling a runner safe when he was clearly out. This game is indicative of the rest of the story…rules can be changed on the whim of one person, depending on who has the power.

I don’t even know how I’m going to tell you about this book. There is SO MUCH going on, and yet it’s easy to keep everything straight. I have NO IDEA how the author pulled this off, and even though the Cast of Characters is listed at the beginning of the book (’cause there’s a buttload of peeps in this book), I only had to reference it once. Because The Dude is THAT GOOD at telling a story.

SO, there’s this guy, Danny Coughlin, and he’s a copper with the Boston Police Department. The poor cops haven’t had a raise since 1903…it’s now 1918, and the year before saw 76% inflation. Cops were below poverty level and protecting this lame town that won’t even pay cops enough to feed their kids. And Danny…oh, Danny. He fell in love with Nora, who is Danny’s parents servant (for lack of a better word), but when he found out she still had a husband back in Ireland, he dropped her like a hot potato, ’cause being with a married woman isn’t respectable. It’s slightly more complicated and Danny’s kind of a doofus to dump her without hearing her out but oh well the damage is done. In the meantime, Danny’s attending all these meetings, some for anarchists that the police are trying to infiltrate, some for the coppers who are thinking of forming a union and he gets all caught up with the union bidness…his life is crazy complicated.

And that’s only part of the story!

Then there’s this other guy, Luther, who has a wife that’s preggers and he’s not really into THAT ’cause he’s young and dumb and still wants to have fun, and he has a friend who’s REALLY dumb and gets involved in drugs and owes this big guy lots of money and eventually this big guy comes to collect…and there’s lots of blood spilled and it ain’t pretty. Luther goes home and tells his wife and she tells him to get the hell out, which he does, and ends up in Boston. In Boston, his path intersects with Danny’s ’cause he works for Danny’s parents.

SO, in amongst all this is: the Spanish Influenza pandemic, corrupt people from very high up to regular ol’ Joes, nice decent people, Babe Ruth’s story, and real history about the Boston Police Department strike.

What kicked ass about this novel? The dialogue. The freaking dialogue. I don’t know if Dennis Lehane records himself talking or what, but he makes his dialogue so real, so gritty, that I would just like to know how he does it.

And the story! Oh, the story, in it’s amazing complicatedness, is so easy to follow and so packed. Dennis Lehane gives John Steinbeck a run for his money.

And yet there’s so much to talk about: the strike, human nature, right and wrong. What can I say other than: LOVED IT LOVED IT LOVED IT.

Rating: 98 out of 100

Has anyone else read any other books by Dennis Lehane? What did you think?

| Tags: , , , , 25 comments »

25 Responses to “Review – The Given Day by Dennis Lehane”

  1. kegsoccer

    Wow I’ve never read anything by Lehane (that I know off!), but since you’re so enthused I’ll have to check him out.

    [Reply]

  2. Sarah

    Wow! That sounds awesome! I’ve got to put that on my Must Read List.

    Lucky, lucky you getting books before they’re released. Have any Karen Harper, Anne Perry, or Philppa Gregory hanging around? 😉

    [Reply]

  3. bkclubcare

    I had another ‘new’ friend rec Lehane and knowing his Boston roots + the great movies based on his work, I need to read some of this!

    Wasn’t Gone Baby Gone incredible? I remember just sitting there dumbstruck (and sad) abt all the grit, as you might say…

    [Reply]

  4. Julie P.

    Gotta read this one after your wonderful review! Thanks!

    [Reply]

  5. Jen Forbus

    Dennis Lehane is absolutely one of my FAVORITE authors. He is nothing short of incredible, and I am so excited for the release of this book. It’s kind of a change from his normal style. Thanks for the review.

    The movies NEVER live up to his books. GONE BABY GONE in the movies was an utter disappointment to me…that’s how great the book is!

    I most recently reviewed SHUTTER ISLAND on my blog. Another home run for Lehane. You can see it here:

    http://jensbookthoughts.blogspot.com/2008/06/shutter-island.html

    Happy Reading!!

    [Reply]

  6. Amanda

    How weird! Some how I stumbled upon the fact that Dennis Lehane has written all these great books that have become great movies! I haven’t read any of his work but I really want to. I know that another of his book, Shutter Island, is going to be a movie as well. I’m glad I read your review and that his books live up to the hype. Thanks!!!

    [Reply]

  7. A Soldier's Girl

    Wow! I am going to pick this book up tomorrow!!!

    Thanks for the great review 🙂

    [Reply]

  8. Florinda

    I read Mystic River (after I’d seen the movie) and was very impressed with it, but haven’t read anything else of Lehane’s – yet. Your enthusiastic review of this book was a joy to read and may just prompt me to pick up some of his other books!

    [Reply]

  9. Heather

    If I would have read the summary of this book I don’t think I’d have picked it up, but your review has me curious. I’ll definitely add it to my list so I can see what all the hype is about!

    [Reply]

  10. mellymel

    Fabulous review – I like him too. And I like books that my husband and I can both read. Also, any girl who can fit buttload and peeps into a review might be my new favorite person 🙂

    [Reply]

  11. readerville

    This sounds like a great read I probably wouldn’t have picked up on my own. Thanks for a great recommendation.

    [Reply]

  12. Alisia

    I have watched Mystic River, but haven’t read it yet. I wasn’t sure if his books were my cup of tea, but such a glowing review tempts me to add both to my TBR list!

    From ICLW

    [Reply]

  13. Dawn

    Here from ICLW, been looking for a good book review site and I think I found it! Thanks for sharing your reviews with the rest of the world.

    [Reply]

  14. Nancy, aka Bookfool

    Years ago I got a Dennis Lehane book and I couldn’t bear to read it because the title was too scary. Sigh. Big mistake, eh?

    [Reply]

  15. Lisa

    The plot doesn’t sing to me, but your review does. I’m off to add this to my paperbackswap list. This part:

    “What kicked ass about this novel? The dialogue. The freaking dialogue. I don’t know if Dennis Lehane records himself talking or what, but he makes his dialogue so real, so gritty, that I would just like to know how he does it.

    And the story! Oh, the story, in it’s amazing complicatedness, is so easy to follow and so packed. Dennis Lehane gives John Steinbeck a run for his money.

    And yet there’s so much to talk about: the strike, human nature, right and wrong. What can I say other than: LOVED IT LOVED IT LOVED IT.”

    really makes me wanna have it now!

    [Reply]

  16. charley

    I’ve never read Dennis Lehane, but I really liked the film versions of both Gone Baby Gone and Mystic River. I’m thinking I’ll have to read him one of these days, because he certainly sounds like an engaging writer and an interesting guy.

    [Reply]

  17. Amber

    I still haven’t read of his books. I thought both Mystic River and Gone Baby Gone were great so the books had to be wonderful source material. Perhaps I’m a bit afraid of reading them. After all, if I thought the books were great on-screen what will my imagination do with scenes that weren’t in the movies?

    [Reply]

  18. Andrew

    Shutter Island is one of the greatest book’s I’ve read. The Patrick Kenzie novels are all wonderful, but try to read them in order!

    [Reply]

  19. llinda

    I too am a HUGE fan of Dennis Lehane and absolutely loved his series which included Gone Baby Gone, Drink before the war etc. I am very disappointed though that he never continued on with this series. I loved the characters and wish that he would have . After I read all them I actually went out and bought the series so that I would have them to reread.
    Anyway’s I always recommend him to others he is FABULOUS!!!

    [Reply]

  20. Mike Lundin

    I have read all his books. And I’m from Boston. He’s the man!!

    [Reply]

  21. Ami

    Dennis Lehane is by far one of my FAVORITE authors. I have been hooked with his since his Patrick/Angie series and it escalates with MYSTIC RIVER (still one of the best novels ever written, I think) and SHUTTER ISLAND. It takes him 6 years to come up with this and seriously, after reading your reviews, it just reconfirms that this is going to be on my to-buy list. Even if I rarely buy books in hardcover

    [Reply]

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    […] The Given Day by Dennis Lehane. This book blew me away. It’s not for the faint of heart, seeing as how it’s a whopping 702 pages, but I thought the story was well-crafted and worth the investment. This book made me want to read everything else that Dennis Lehane has written. […]

  24. stephen leitner

    Lehane was one of the writers for The WIRE. Two other great writers, Richard Price and George Pelecanos also wrote episodes. It was the best tv series ever in large part because of the great writing.

    [Reply]

  25. Amanda

    Dear lord. Just finished reading this and it was awesome! I added your review to my post. Thanks!

    [Reply]

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