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Chris High books reviewed

The Given Day - Dennis Lehane

Publisher: Doubleday
ISBN: 978-0-38561-534-1
January 29, 2009

Image: Front cover of the book 'The Given Day' by Dennis Lehane.

Breathtaking is one superlative for The Given Day, Dennis Lehane’s latest master class in crisp, clear writing. Gigantic is another and mesmerising still another. It’s possible to fill this review with such terms as the novel, Lehane’s eighth which adds to a pantheon including Mystic River and Gone, Baby, Gone, has characters and descriptions and dialogue that are all so intensely real, The Given Day is something utterly and totally compelling.



Set in Boston at the end of The Great War, beat-cop Danny Coughlin, son of one of Boston’s most influential police captains, is working undercover within a burgeoning union movement in order to uncover violent radicals in a country standing at a political crossroads. Luther Laurence, meanwhile, is on the run from Tulsa following a deadly confrontation with a crime boss, who now finds himself working for the Coughlin family but desperate to get back to his pregnant wife.

Coursing through a history that included the Spanish Influenza pandemic and culminating in the Boston police strike of 1919, The Given Day explores a country at war with itself in a manner that is never less than gripping, bringing into play figures such Babe Ruth, a young Calvin Coolidge, Eugene O’Neill and an ambitious John Hoover as though these, too, are fictional creations, so well placed are they within the narrative.

Yet it is the powerful prose that keeps the pages fluttering over. Never once does Lehane drift into unnecessary dynamic, yet manages to maintain a pace and subtlety that is an absolute joy from first to last.

If there is one novel to get your hands on this year, Dennis Lehane’s The Given Day is that one novel and as an epic, romantic intelligent work that personifies how the art of writing should be practiced, it is surely destined to be spoken of for years to come.





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“Writing gets me away for a while' from this world and into one where I, alone, can make or
break the rules as I see fit.” - Chris High 2003.
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