Thursday, July 21, 2011

The Given Day - Book Review

Is anyone else out there getting a little sick of all the home improvement postings? Yeah, I thought so, me too. So for a little change of pace, here's a book review of the first of way too many books on my summer reading list. Yeah, I've finished just this one all summer. I am trying though.

So, _The Given Day_ is by Dennis Lehane. He has also written _Gone Baby, Gone_, _Shutter Island_ and _Mystic River_. He is a good story teller. He gets down into a character, the time period, the sights and sounds of the period and does a good job of taking you away in your imagination.

_The Given Day_ is a single story with three main characters. The paths and the lives of these characters come together at various times and/or are in the same town at the same time, even if they are not in each others' lives at that given moment. The story takes place at the end of WWI, goes through the huge influenza outbreak of 1918, follows through on the anarchist and Bolshevik uprisings of the 19teens and all the labor unions and strikes. Most of the story is set in Boston, although some parts play out in Illinois, Ohio, and Oklahoma.

The first character is Babe Ruth, the baseball player, but in this story there are only two scenes that I recall where he's actually playing baseball. Most of the time when a section of the book comes back to Babe it deals with his inner demons, his childhood, his insecurities, his traveling, his drinking and philandering and his perspective on the times he's living in.

The second character is Luther. When we first see him he is a black baseball player at a time when the game was played by all white teams. He is a factory worker, a craftsman, a numbers runner and whatever he needs to be to make money. Luther always wants more out of life, more excitement and learns some very hard lessons about life and other people. He is probably the most genuine person in the book but it is only when he really sees other people for the way that they are, that he decides to stop pretending and finally becomes his true self.

The third character is Danny Coughlin, a Boston cop. Danny comes from a successful Irish family. His father is a well respected captain on the force and as a result, there are certain expectations of Danny. Everybody always thinks of Danny as his own man, blazing his own path, yet too many times Danny makes mistakes and isn't man enough to do the right thing or the thing he wants. A lot of trouble comes of this, but in the end he also hits rock bottom, discovers his true self and finds the courage to be his own man.

All the stories are interesting, each chapter will move from one character to another, and you slowly start to see their connections. I really enjoyed all the information on the history of the time period and the author's knowledge of the various streets and neighborhoods of Boston at that time and for also looking at issues from many different perspectives. Overall I'd say the author is a good storyteller, and it only took me a month to read it because I just don't make much time for reading. I'm trying to rectify that. I'd recommend this book as a good summer read.

4 comments: said...

Sounds good. We just watched Shutter Island and it was freaky. Didnt know it was book too though.. I will have to see about this one.. I am in the middle of Dancing with the Devil. Its a true crime book..

Knock knock - it's cancer! said...

Hmmm.... Well, I for one was not tired of the home improvement posts at all.

I guess that's why HGTV is my favorite channel :)

The book doesn't sound like my cup of tea though, I am more into Danielle Steel type books (I know, gasp!) Also, I'm one of those people who if they 'think' this is what type of book/movie/whatever I like, I rarely venture out from that to a new genre.

Isn't that sad? I bet I'm missing out on lots :)


wunelle said...

I had forgotten that I read this recently (and reviewed: It's a nice re-introduction.

Vancouver Voyeur said...

Hi Wunelle, I'll go check out your review.