Saturday, November 15, 2008
THE GIVEN DAY
TITLE: THE GIVEN DAY
AUTHOR: DENNIS LEHANE
This is a very big book in more ways then one. Obviously, there's the number of pages, but that is the least of it. The story in this book deals with several major issues. Issues that are still big now, but where huge at the time of the stories setting. There is the race issue, and the issue of the working classes, their repression and their fight for a fair deal, versus the vested interests determination to keep their world unchanged. And there are more personal issues like love and following your heart; like facing the truth about your birth family and growing up to deal with it; like corruption, pride and paying the price for your decisions.
The story is set in Boston in 1918 where Danny Coughlin is a police officer working a demanding job under near impossible circumstances.
Luther Lawrence is a black man who has fled to Boston from Oklahoma, leaving behind his pregnant wife.
While Danny gets involved with the labour movement, one of the decisions that will cause a split with his family, Luther soon finds that his problems have followed him to Boston.
Both men face huge decisions that will affect their future happiness and their abilities to live with themselves.
What impressed me about this book was it's balance. It gave room to all points of view as they must have been at the time and most of the characters felt real, not either good or bad but bits of both, as you find them in real life.
I'm not quite sure how I feel about the sections about Babe Ruth. They've been written so as to make his real life intersect with the fictional ones in the story. I'm just not convinced that the story would have suffered if he'd been left out. But I'm willing to accept that I might have felt differently about that if I had been American and into the sport of baseball.
Still, as interesting and well written as this book was, I had a bit of a struggle reading it. While actually in the process of reading I was fine, but whenever I put the book down, picking it up again took a bit of convincing myself. And I'm not convinced that was only down to me having very few stretches where I could read for a longer time. For some reason it felt a bit like hard work, hence the mark of 4.5 for a book I had expected to be a solid 5.