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Babe Ruth + Dennis Lehane = uh oh

On Tuesday, Dennis Lehane's long-awaited novel The Given Day goes on sale. The author of Mystic River, Shutter Island and the excellent Patrick Kenzie series has turned his attention to historical fiction - specifically the Boston police strike - and family drama.

Day I was somewhat excited about The Given Day until I read the prologue.

"Due to travel restrictions placed on Major League Baseball by the Department of Defense during the Great War, the World Series of 1918 was played in September and split into two homestands."

It's like someone threw a bucket of cold water over me. Early 20th Century BASEBALL? I'm sure if I tried hard I could think of something more boring, but I'm not sure what it might be.

Now I know the book is about two families - one black, one white - living through a police strike, but I'm not sure I'm ever going to get past the prologue, which goes on to talk about how Babe Ruth got drunk ("he puked off the rear of the caboose as the train chugged out of Illinois Central Station zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz") I know we're just setting the stage here, but I doubt I'm going to make it past Act 1.

I love Dennis Lehane. I really do. But this is a tough one for me.


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Yes. Stellar reviews from everyone. And yet. AND YET. I read the first seven pages back in June and was like SHUT UP BABE RUTH SHUTUPSHUTUP. And then I read The English Patient instead.

Meanwhile, you need to make Jincy Willett publish more things. Thank you.


EWeekly gave it a B minus...and the Washington Post likes some of it and has some reservations about other parts.

But here's the most troubling thing: a quote in EWeekly in which Lehane says he won't write any more mysteries. "I 'd be writing these friggin' whodunits and I could care less."

Wow. I'm sorry I invested so much time and passion in them!

I mean, do you know how DIFFICULT it is to give someone the creeps? It's not as easy as tossing out a serial killer. Darkness Take My Hand accomplished that in a way few other books do. But, I guess that's just not important enough.

patrick ogle

One day I will actually read a book by Dennis Lehane. It will not be this book I fear.


Come on, give the man a chance. I also read the first few pages a couple of weeks ago and understand how you feel. I'm not even a sports fan of any sort, but I'm willing to at least try to read it. It's Dennis Lehane. It has to be good, just has to be good because it's been SO long ...


I commend your optimism! Maybe I'll try again...just not this week. Maybe I'll just skip the prologue?

I'm a little worried by that cliched "two families, one black , one white" bit, too, to be fair, but I think I've done enough judging of this book on the merits of one page...

Except that begs the question: If a writer can't hook you on page 1, do you have an obligation to keep reading!?


I'm with Connie, baseball=instant snooze. The only thing that will get me to a baseball game is a free ticket. Plus you can drink beer during the boring parts, which are approximately 99% of the game.

Throw in the two families and race, and this book goes to the bottom of the to-be-read pile. And that's a very big stack of books...

just sayin

heretics. baseball and lehane seem an excellent combo to me.


I love baseball, or at least the Red Sox. I like Dennis Lehane fine (I've only read Mystic River and thought the movie didn't do it justice, but when do they ever?). I also had some problems with the prologue and it took me a little bit to get into the book -- but I'm 150 pages in now and starting to get that feeling of dammit, why do I have to go to bed/go to work/stop reading this book? Sometimes these big historical epics are that way -- last one I read like that was Metropolis by Elizabeth Gaffney, and I wound up getting sucked into that one, too.
As far as how much you have to read - I rarely give up on a book once I've begun -- some kind of Swedish masochism complex -- but I aspire to Nancy Pearl's Rule of 50. Give a book 50 pages before quitting. If you're older than 50, subtract your age from 100 and that's how many pages you have to read before quitting (on the theory that you have less time on earth to spend on books you don't like).

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