Beyond the Book: Background information when reading The Given Day

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The Given Day

A Novel

by Dennis Lehane

The Given Day
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  • First Published:
    Sep 2008, 720 pages
    Sep 2009, 720 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Diane La Rue

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Beyond the Book

The Great Molasses Flood
Prohibition was about to become the law of the land in 1919, and the Purity Distilling Company wanted to make a last batch before their product became illegal. They had a huge tank situated in the North End of Boston, which was densely populated with Italian immigrants.

The company poured warm molasses into the tank on top of a half full tank of cold molasses. The chemical reaction formed by this caused gaseous vapors which reacted with the weakened walls of the tank, and an explosion occurred.

Witnesses described a tidal wave of over two million gallons of molasses that cascaded into the streets of the North End at an estimated 35 mph. An elevated train bridge and a firehouse were destroyed. Twenty-one people died, over 150 people were injured.

The odor of molasses lingered in the neighborhood for years, and some people claim that on a hot day, the smell is still there. The Purity Distilling Company blamed Italian ...

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