The Given Day – Dennis Lehane, 2008

I’d never read any Lehane but had heard good things about him, so I wanted to like this. Maybe the contemporary ones are better–this was a very tin-eared historical novel, set in 1918-1919 with characters who don’t feel of then. A couple of nice images–a dying man “probably slipping across the river right at this moment, climbing the dark shore into another world,” a baby “warm as a kettle wrapped in a towel;” some flashes of humor–“The Bolshies? … I’m not sure they have the capacity to blow up anything outside of their own chests.” “How could you fight righteous rage if the only arms you bore were logic and sanity?” But people shocked at houses that still don’t have indoor plumbing? Getting IVs in a hospital? Citing “a six percent drop in violent crime”? And those are just the irritations I can put my finger on; overall the actions and perspectives of the characters just didn’t convince me. 700 pages too! It’s a Second Monday book group book or I wouldn’t have persevered, and I’m looking forward to hearing other people’s thoughts.

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