Set in Boston at the end of the First World War, New York Times bestselling author Dennis Lehane's long-awaited eighth novel unflinchingly captures the political and social unrest of a nation caught at the crossroads between past and future. Filled with a cast of unforgettable characters more richly drawn than any Lehane has ever created, The Given Day tells the story of two familiesone black, one whiteswept up in a maelstrom of revolutionaries and anarchists, immigrants and ward bosses, Brahmins and ordinary citizens, all engaged in a battle for survival and power. Beat cop Danny Coughlin, the son of one of the city's most beloved and powerful police captains, joins a burgeoning union movement and the hunt for violent radicals. Luther Laurence, on the run after a deadly confrontation with a crime boss in Tulsa, works for the Coughlin family and tries desperately to find his way home to his pregnant wife.
Here, too, are some of the most influential figures of the eraBabe Ruth; Eugene O'Neill; leftist activist Jack Reed; NAACP founder W. E. B. DuBois; Mitchell Palmer, Woodrow Wilson's ruthless Red-chasing attorney general; cunning Massachusetts governor Calvin Coolidge; and an ambitious young Department of Justice lawyer named John Hoover.
Coursing through some of the pivotal events of the timeincluding the Spanish Influenza pandemicand culminating in the Boston Police Strike of 1919, The Given Day explores the crippling violence and irrepressible exuberance of a country at war with, and in the thrall of, itself. As Danny, Luther, and those around them struggle to define themselves in increasingly turbulent times, they gradually find family in one another and, together, ride a rising storm of hardship, deprivation, and hope that will change all their lives.
On a wet summer night, Danny Coughlin, a Boston police officer, fought a four-round bout against another cop, Johnny Green, at Mechanics Hall just outside Copley Square. Coughlin-Green was the final fight on a fifteen-bout, all-police card that included flyweights, welterweights, cruiserweights, and heavyweights. Danny Coughlin, at six two, 220, was a heavyweight. A suspect left hook and foot speed that was a few steps shy of blazing kept him from fighting professionally, but his butcher-knife left jab combined with the airmail-your-jaw-to-Georgia explosion of his right cross dwarfed the abilities of just about any other semipro on the East Coast.
The all-day pugilism display was titled Boxing & Badges: Haymakers for Hope. Proceeds were split fifty-fifty between the St. Thomas Asylum for Crippled Orphans and the policemen's own fraternal organization, the Boston Social Club, which used the donations to bolster a health fund for injured coppers and to defray costs ...
This is a big, important work of literary fiction, and it is incredibly well done. There is much that is thought-provoking, and Lehane makes his views on class warfare known. The author weaves his fictional characters, real people and events into a story that captures the reader's attention from the onset and never lets up. It is perhaps the best American novel I have read this year.
(Reviewed by Diane La Rue).
Full Review (916 words).
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. ...
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