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The Given Day by Dennis Lehane
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Feb 27, 09

bookshelves: fiction-mainstream
Read in February, 2009

Lehane, Dennis. THE GIVEN DAY. (2008). *****. Be prepared to spend a few nights with this novel from Lehane. It is a long, long book. When you have finished it, however, you will realize that you have just read Lehane’s best bool. It is the story of an Irish policeman in Boston in the year 1919. It is also the story of a black man on the run from the law who ends up in Boston as a servant to the policeman’s family on Beacon Hill. 1919 was a turbulent year, and Lehane uses all of the history to support and drive his story. Troops were coming back home from the war in Europe. The influenza plague was at its peak, The organization of labor into unions was starting to rear its head, along with cries of anarchy from business leaders. There were any number of groups that wanted to change the worker/employer relationship and seek better treatment for workers. Most of them were peaceful. It didn’t matter. They were all branded as anarchists and became the target of police across the country. Race riots occurred across the country, most notably in Chicago, Detroit, and East St. Louis. Now they threatened in Boston. Our policeman becomes involved in setting up a policeman’s union, affiliated with AFL under Samuel Gompers. This puts him at odds with the city administration and with his family; his father is a police Captain of the old school. The novel culminates in the Boston riots of that year, when the police went on strike and the mobs took to the streets. Lots of history here, and lots of sub-plots to carry the reader along. Lehand does an excellent job of providing depth for his characters and giving the reader a feel for the times through his research and use of telling incidents. Highly recommended.
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