I want to do a big thoughtful post on Dennis Lehane’s newest novel, The Given Day, because hey, Lehane. Mystic River remains one of my favorite books ever. But…
I liked The Given Day a lot. It’s an easy read, it’s interesting history, and Lehane’s love for Boston shines through every page. I don’t, however, think it’s quite as significant a book as Lehane seems to think. It has to carry both the weight of Lehane’s discussion of race and class, which is great as always, and of historical information, which I think weighs the book down overly.
The book jacket makes excited note of how Babe Ruth, Calvin Coolidge, and various other historical figures are characters. That was a bad sign. While Babe Ruth in particular was used really well as a framing viewpoint character, and I’d love to read Lehane’s Babe Ruth novel, I was not so interested in the game of admiring how Lehane worked the other historical figures into the narrative. Yay for gratuitous J. Edgar Hoover.
So that’s the summary. Good book, and I liked it as a historical, but as a tutorial on Boston history in 1919 it fell flat. I’d recommend in paperback rather than hardcover.
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