The Given Day offers a glimpse into America’s past

the given dayI’ve said it in my reviews of Boston-based movies like The Fighter or The Town, but there’s something about stories set in that city that draw me in – that’s what happened with The Given Day by Dennis Lehane.

When I saw this one the first thing that caught my eye was the time period – post-World War One America (mostly Boston). I thought I’d give it a try because I haven’t read too many books from that era and I’ve enjoyed Lehane’s writing (Mystic River is one of my favourite books).

The novel follows the two storylines. The first is that of Danny Coughlin, a Boston police officer. He’s caught in a battle to follow his father, Captain Thomas Coughlin’s wishes and rise through the ranks with his guidance and sway on the force, or be his own man and join the less popular, but more righteous fight to unionize the force (BPD strike, 1919)

The second storyline follows Luther Lawrence, an African American man who just can’t seem to stay out of trouble. After getting a chance to start a new life with his pregnant girlfriend in Tulsa, Oklahoma he gets caught up in the wrong crowd. Eventually Luther has to escape, by himself, to Boston where he finds work with the NAACP and Danny’s father, Thomas and on a mission to turn his life around.

In Danny’s story, I enjoyed the insight into how the Police operated as individual departments, and how officers were treated. In 1919, officers were expected to provide protection without question while going underpaid, living in dilapidated rooming houses and working with very little time off, among other issues. The powers that be justified it by saying they were public servants and should just accept it. It’s so astonishing to see how far as a society we’ve come. Unions now hold all the power in cases like the Police force, and the public servants are far better off than many private citizens.

Luther was a character I kept rooting for. No matter how much he wanted to succeed, some innate negative force just kept pulling him back. As soon as he thought he’d escaped his problems in Tulsa and was doing the right thing in Boston, Eddie McKenna, a dirty cop and friend of the Coughlin family decided to dig into Luther’s past. Over time, Luther became stronger, and through his relationship with Danny he developed the strength necessary to overcome – though it wasn’t by taking the high ground, necessarily.

My favourite part however, was a side story featuring baseball great, Babe Ruth. Throughout the book, we’re given a fictional glimpse into what his life may have been like during his time with the Red Sox. At the beginning, however, he comes upon Luther playing a ball game with some African American players. Ruth, along with other major leaguers having broken down in Ohio on their train ride to Boston, play a pickup game that leaves the two men with sour tastes in their mouths, and Ruth with lasting memories of Luther.

The Given Day is a lot to take in, in terms of storylines, but it’s such an appealing read. Lehane’s writing is full of imagery and the words jump off the page and take you back in time. At 733 pages, it’s a bit of a time consuming read, but I enjoyed every second of it. The Given Day gets a 4/5.

The Town: Boston accents and Oscar-worthy acting

The post won’t be written with a Boston accent, but feel free to read it that way, if you like.

On Friday night I went with the girlfriend to watch The Town, starring and directed by Ben Affleck. I saw the preview for it during another film a little while back, and was pretty amped to see it from the get-go. I’m not the biggest fan of Ben Affleck, but I do enjoy the New England crime movie genre that’s become popular over the last few years.

Going into the movie I was expecting a great performance from Mad Men‘s Jon Hamm, and while I wasn’t necessarily disappointed, he was basically Don Draper as an FBI agaent – so, not much range there. The performances from Jeremy Renner (The Hurt Locker) and Blake Lively (Gossip Girl), however, stole the spotlight. After his performance in The Hurt Locker, I expected Renner to do well, but for Lively I wasn’t expecting much. When she was on the screen, playing a Oxycontin addict with a child, sporting the famous accent, I wasn’t thinking of her rich-girl character Serena from Gossip Girl. I’d say Lively and Renner deserve nominations for Academy Awards, Golden Globes and whatever other award shows there are.

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As for the movie itself, it had pretty much everything you could ask for. There was obviously a lot of drama and suspense, but it also had a great character-driven plot and even some funny moments during times you wouldn’t think they’d pop up (if you’ve seen it you’ll know the one scene that made everyone laugh). If you’re a fan of the genre I highly recommend you checking The Town out; you won’t be disappointed – I give it a 4/5. Another great review I happened upon was from Two Blondes Walk into a Blog. It’s worth checking out to get their perspective.

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