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The Report [Kindle Edition]

Jessica Francis Kane
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (84 customer reviews)

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Book Description

It is an early spring evening in 1943 when the air-raid sirens wail out over the East End of London. From every corner of Bethnal Green, people emerge from pubs, cinemas and houses and set off for the shelter of the tube station. But at the entrance steps, something goes badly wrong, the crowd panics, and 173 people are crushed to death. When an enquiry is called for, it falls to the local magistrate, Laurence Dunne, to find out what happened during those few, fatally confused minutes. But as Dunne gathers testimony from the guilt-stricken warden of the shelter, the priest struggling to bring comfort to his congregation, and the grieving mother who has lost her youngest daughter, the picture grows ever murkier. The more questions Dunne asks, the more difficult it becomes to disentangle truth from rumour – and to decide just how much truth the damaged community can actually bear. It is only decades later, when the case is reopened by one of the children who survived, that the facts can finally be brought to light …

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Product Description


'A sober, thoughtful book that asks how history views the responsibilities of authorities in times of tragedy.' --Metro, ****

'An artful piece of work ... As a documentary novel, The Report gains from the virtues of both forms.' --Times Literary Supplement

`A smart and troubling novel of ideas which explores the power of crowds and collective guilt' --Financial Times

'An astute and subtle meditation on whether a written account of a traumatic event can ever satisfy all its objectives' --Telegraph

'Composed yet rawly emotional ... An East End ravaged by the blitz is powerfully recreated'


"[Kane] moves deftly among perspectives on the [Bethnal Green] catastrophe: We eavesdrop on war-battered townsfolk, the tardy policeman, the overburdened priest, the devastated shelter-chief who feels responsible. Kane's command of period detail is marvelous. . . . A deft, vivid first novel."
--"Kirkus Reviews"
"Kane skillfully reimagines the empathetic [Laurence] Dunne as he interprets the confessions and accusations of a community crushed by loss and guilt. . . . Meticulous historical detail and vivid descriptions of hunkered-down and rationed East Enders add a marvelous texture." --"Publishers Weekly"
"The Report is a graceful and dignified look at a single event that quickly becomes something so much more expansive: a kaleidoscopic examination of crowds, of disasters, of reverberations and reckoning. I was absolutely riveted." --Anthony Doerr, author of "Memory Wall" and "The Shell Collector"
"I began reading this story hoping it would aim my judgment at some one person who had made the fatal mistake. But "The Report "cracks that hope and replaces it--as only the bravest novels can do--with a vivid exploration of the events themselves in all their disquieting tangles. This book shows us that the single sin for which judgment hopes is a lie. The truth is not one misstep but a horde of them, hidden in a tunnel that this novel brilliantly excavates." --Salvatore Scibona, author of "The End "" """"An absorbing, thought-provoking first novel about a terrible civilian tragedy during wartime, "The Report" manages the delicate literary feat of being both a probing historical inquiry into a disaster, and a moving, multi-faceted portrait of a community under extreme duress. Jessica Francis Kane's authorial control of her material is impressive; the book's moral complexities linger long after the book is finished. A memorable debut."--John Burnham Schwartz, author of "The Commoner" and "Reservation Road" "Elegantly wr

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 462 KB
  • Print Length: 257 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 1555975658
  • Publisher: Portobello Books (3 Feb. 2011)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B004P1JBAA
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
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  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (84 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #132,994 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
55 of 56 people found the following review helpful
The novel is based around the report of an inquiry into the deaths from suffocation, in 1943, of 173 people in a crush at the entrance to an underground station used as an air-raid shelter in Bethnal Green, East London. The siren had sounded but no air-raid materialised. A respected magistrate, Laurence Dunne, was commissioned to write a report for the government and this he did in three weeks, interviewing witnesses, rescuers and officials.

Predominantly through the eyes of eight-year old Tilley, her mother Ada, young clerk Bertram, vicar McNeely, and warden Low we are taken through the events and emotions and fears of the period. Thirty years on Tilley's adopted brother, Paul, is making a documentary film of the tragedy and interviews the report's author. The conflicts between the elderly retired magistrate who wanted his report to bring an understanding of the tragedy rather than allot blame and the young filmmaker who still sees in black and white, truth and wrongness, are well observed. "Your parents said that I knew the crowd wasn't guilty. ... What's the opposite of guilty?', "Innocent?" "Well, they weren't that, either."

Herbert Morrison, the government minister remembered only for his shelter, sat on the report and it wasn't published until after the war. In 1943 I was seven, lived in the London suburbs only about 16 miles from Bethnal Green, was an avid listener to the news on the wireless (and slept many nights in a Morrison shelter). Yet the real tragic events described were new to me. Bad news did not escape government censorship. Likewise a first to me was a description of sewing circles making topographical quilts of German landscapes for the Royal Air Force.

Jessica Francis Kane has woven her characters, their feelings, emotions, reasons, opinions and fears into a compelling novel which I found difficult to put down.
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23 of 24 people found the following review helpful
Format:Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
"The Bethnal Green Tube shelter disaster took place on the evening of Wednesday March 3, 1943.

173 people died in a terrifying crush as panic spread through the crowds of people trying to enter the station's bomb shelter in the East End of London.

However, no bomb struck and not a single casualty was the direct result of military aggression, making it the deadliest civilian incident of World War Two."

Jessica Francis Kane, read the full historical transcript of the enquiry into this, the worst civilian disaster of the Second World War, and she used what she read as the basis of her debut novel, a wonderfully vivid picture of people living through the event and its aftermath.

She tells her story through a number of characters: A mother who lost her younger daughter; her elder daughter, who survived but would not speak; the warden of the shelter, devastated by what has happened; a young man who was delayed, who wonders if he might have been able to make a difference;a vicar, looking for answers, wanting to offer comfort and support...

All of their stories are beautifully observed, with just the right details picked to illuminate those lives. A hand held too tightly. A wireless turned up to mask a conversation. A breakfast left untouched. The picture is clear, and it is moving without ever becoming sentimental.

It falls to Lawrence Dunne, the local magistrate, to investigate and report on what happened. A fundamentally good man, he wanted to understand, he wanted lessons to be learned, and he wanted to show understanding of what people had been through, of what they had to endure in wartime conditions.

His story added another dimension.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A forgotten tragedy 27 Mar. 2011
By Eleanor TOP 500 REVIEWER
Format:Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
The Bethnal Green tube station disaster was Britain's worst wartime loss of civilians. On the 3rd of March 1943 a crush occurred among those trying to access the station which was being used as an air raid shelter; 173 people died. This novel is a fictionalized account of the event and its aftermath with the action alternating between 1943 and 1973. Its themes include the psychology of crowds, the way in which we impose a story on events, and the need for people to apportion blame.

I thought this was a brilliant book: quiet, clever, and thoughtful, but having a strong emotional effect. Kane convincingly recreates the fraught wartime atmosphere of Bethnal Green, as well as its repercussions thirty years on. The horror of the crush and the grief of the characters felt hideously real and Kane pulls no punches in exploring the unpleasant side of human nature, but also the idea that 'people aren't as bad as the worst thing they do'. The author is American but the English setting and the dialogue felt authentic and I don't think she put a foot wrong; I have read books where this is not the case and the results can be excruciating.

At one point Kane writes: "The tragedy does not remain the story. As with any public property it is transformed by use.". This novel is based on a real event and some of its victims are still alive, as are the relatives of the dead, and it would be interesting to know what they make of it. The author's note explains that much has been fictionalized and I think it is important to bear that in mind given some of the revelations in the book. I'm glad, however, that this event has been written about, especially as it was hushed up during the war and a commemorative plaque was only put up in the station itself in 1993.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars it seemed more like a documentary
Interesting but although I assumed it was supposed to be a novel based on true facts, it seemed more like a documentary.
Published 22 days ago by JPB
2.0 out of 5 stars Dull and pointless.
This drab, pointless book suffers from being neither one thing nor another. A detailed and meticulously researched account of what happened that night would have been a reasonable... Read more
Published 3 months ago by ZJK64
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
really enjoyed this book,very unusual
Published 4 months ago by LYNNB
3.0 out of 5 stars instead of telling the story where by we meet characters who we learn...
For anybody with an interest in the lives of those on the Homefront during WW2 this may be of interest. Read more
Published 10 months ago by Ejcb12
5.0 out of 5 stars A quiet triumph
This is an extraordinary achievement of re-imagination of a single incident in the Second World War, the Bethnal Green Tube disaster of 1943. Read more
Published 16 months ago by Stephen
4.0 out of 5 stars Thought provoking
Having worked in Bethnal Green in the 70's and having visited relatives there in the 50's, this book brought out the character and spirit of the people. Read more
Published 17 months ago by catflap
4.0 out of 5 stars What is fact and what is fiction?
A fictionalised version of a true story. Surprisingly this was the largest single casualty of WW2 and yet was not due to bombing, is little known and has taken an American to write... Read more
Published on 6 May 2013 by Book chatter
5.0 out of 5 stars Factually correct?
I really enjoyed this. I had, of course, heard about this incident and was interested to read more about it. Read more
Published on 22 Jan. 2013 by Amazon Customer
4.0 out of 5 stars The Dubious Value of Blame
Jessica Francis Kane's first novel is a fictionalized account of a real disaster that took place at Bethnal Green Underground Station in 1943 - on the evening of an airraid, the... Read more
Published on 18 Jan. 2013 by Kate Hopkins
5.0 out of 5 stars Reflective and thought provoking
This book gives a good insight to this often little unknown tragedy. When you think it was the largest loss of life on the underground and involved the deaths of over sixty... Read more
Published on 9 Jan. 2013 by Ian Tulloch
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