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Novel of the week: The Given Day by Dennis Lehane
Dennis Lehane's new novel evokes the racial and class battles in Boston in 1919 through two main characters, a white cop in Boston’s Irish police force and a black ex-ballplayer who becomes a target of Irish bigotry.
T

he Given Day
by Dennis Lehane
(Morrow, $27.95)

Give Dennis Lehane credit for ambition, said Jonathan Yardley in The Washington Post. Seven years after Mystic River established the suspense author as one of the “most interesting and accomplished American novelists” working in any genre, he’s swung for the fences with this “flawed but heartfelt” epic about 1919, a tumultuous year in U.S. history that culminated with a violent Boston police strike. The Given Day “suffers badly” from overplotting, said Richard Eder in The Boston Globe. Though Lehane has invented two compelling main characters—an ambivalent prince of Boston’s Irish police force and a black ex-ballplayer who becomes a target of Irish bigotry—he often overwhelms their quietly compelling stories with noisy set pieces about the year’s headline-making melees and disasters. Yet “the searing precision” with which the novel conjures the racial and class battles of the day is also “one of its great strengths,” said Janet Maslin in The New York Times. “A deeply felt novel of political cowardice and corruption,” The Given Day “brings history alive” by grounding our turbulent present “in the lessons of the past.”

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