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Norman G. (Diamond Bar, CA)
Best novel reviewed to date
I have reviewed about eight books thus far and Dennis Lehane's Live by Night stands out as my most enjoyable read. The accuracy of the time period, the originality of the characters, and the evolving plot made for a quick and suspenseful read. The New England, Florida, Cuba connection along with the somewhat atypical hero gave an excellent perspective on the prohibition years. I cannot think of how Lehane could have made it better.
Sandra H. (St. Cloud, Minnesota)
Live By Night by Dennis Lehane
Dennis Lehane’s This Given Day, set at the end of WWI during the turbulence of political and social unrest, introduced young Danny Coughlin and his family. Live by Night follows that novel but is not so much a sequel as an exploration of Danny’s younger brother Joe.
Sandy P. (Gainesville, FL)
Much more than 5 stars for this one
Early in Live by Night, Joe Coughlin’s father tells him,”…violence breeds violence…what you put out into the world will always come back for you…but it never comes back in a way you can predict.” And Joe’s story proves his father right.
Lehane picks up the story of the Coughlins in 1925. Joe’s older brothers have left Boston, his mother is dead and his father, the Deputy Police Superintendent is on the way to becoming commissioner. Joseph senior has risen to his station by compromising his values, yet he has no illusions of who he is nor what his youngest son is becoming. He and young Joe are, like many fathers and sons, at loggerheads: young Joe rebelling and his father coming down on him hard. But finally, this is young Joe Coughlin’s story--the story of a conflicted young man who believes in morals, in helping those who struggle to maintain a decent living. He flinches at being called a gangster, preferring the term outlaw, which allows him to believe that he is a respectable citizen who must make violent choices. He is definitely not Michael Corleone, yet during his short life—the story spans just nine years—Joe will struggle with the two images and realities of his life.
The title sums up his story; Joe chooses to live by night when he can’t clearly see the world—his world—as it is. He could be the main character in a 1940’s John Garfield film or perhaps an early Cagney or Bogart film where the hero takes a wrong turn and cannot go back.
I thoroughly enjoyed this wonderfully written book and loved its flawed hero.
Living in FL I found this particularly fascinating, Prohibition and the effect it had on the Cuban enclave of Tampa, Ybor City. It had the right amount of pecking order/ power struggles going on from Boston to Tampa. This, of course, led to buying off police, unions and judges. Who paid the highest price for which officials loyalty? Joe Coughlin finds love (Emma Gould), thinks she's dead, marries Graciela, has a son. Realizing he won't ever move to the top of the Mafia management ("Irish need not apply" and he's deemed 'soft') he takes his family to Cuba to establish casinos. The alternative would be getting killed in Tampa for running his own business outside of the Mafia fold. Suspense builds when he discovers in a month old photo that Emma Gould lives in Havana. Will he leave Graciela and Tomas? Towards the end it's verging on, but not too, moralistic ....."good deeds can come from bad money".
David M. (Glendale, CA)
The Rise of an American Gangster
I find Mr. Lehane's writing to be superb. I like the fact that he ties up all the loose ends. I haven't read any of his books that I didn't enjoy. Would love to see this made into a movie.
I enjoy books that don't stray too far from the 'point', and this succeeded in holding my attention. Thoroughly enjoyed it.
For the most part, Lehane's Live by Night was an enjoyable novel filled with unexpected twists and turns. Although I felt tighter editing would have further enhanced the storyline, I appreciated the way Lehane combined danger, romance, betrayal, friendship, violence, and redemption among an assortment of characters with varying degrees of morality. All in all, it was a fascinating look at organized crime from prohibition to the early 1930s.
Annie P. (Murrells Inlet, SC)
LeHane - Wow!
Live by Night gets you right in the gut. Joe is attractive in a night-prowling animal kind of way. He is the guy girls want but most listen to Mom and stay the hell away from him. You know all along he is going to have the worst end but you still want to tag along and be a vicarious part of the life. If this was life in the 1920’s, I’m amazed we haven’t come very far along the path. Now I want to read The Given Day and get the story from the beginning to end. Another movie is coming from LeHane’s pen, and it’s going to be a doozy! I can hardly wait to see if the screen is as active as my imagination while reading the book!
Hazel R. (Westwood, MA)
Historical Fiction at its Finest
This is a novel that those that typically shy away from violence in books and movies will want to read. In the context of historical fiction, Prohibition did beget gangers, and Dennis Lehane gives us a fully nuanced protagonist, flawed, yet worthy of our time and attention and yes, our hope for peace and redemption. Is justice served? There is some, but is it enough? This book will leave you with some questions to ask your self. It will also leave you with great appreciation for the fine writing that draws you in from the start, and keeps going until the end of the story. Well done!
Linda S. (Tucker, GA)
Dennis Lehane does it again!
I really enjoyed this book from one of my favorite "guilty pleasures" authors. Continuing the family saga that began with "The Given Day," Lehane gives readers a rip-roaring story of love, loss, betrayal, and redemption, featuring violent thugs, hapless immigrants, crooked cops, and good-guy gangsters that will have you pulling for the guys in the black fedoras . Although the story-line pulled me in, it is the excellent writing that kept me turning the pages. As always, Lehane's writing is well-researched and spot-on with vivid descriptions and vibrant characters. I had read the first book in the series but that is not necessary to thoroughly enjoy "Live by Night," and I much prefer this chronicle of America during the Prohibition era to Lehane's Kenzie and Gennaro series. A wonderfully enjoyable read!
Sharon A. (Tierra Verde, FL)
Lehane Strikes Gold
Lehane does it again! Having read most of his books I wanted to know if his quality was going up or if, like other multiple book authors, the writing lost some of the spark. There is a reason for the publication time span between books, his effort shows in the writing and research. The writing style was smoother, more poetic and he showed us that his research continues to be on target. The characters were very interesting and well developed; you found yourself sympathetic to Joe, the "outlaw/gangster" as he figures out who he really is. Lehane excels in describing locations, the descriptions created pictures in your mind. I can't wait for the movie, already wondering who will play Joe and Graciela.