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The Report Paperback – 5 Jan 2012

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Product details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Portobello Books Ltd (5 Jan. 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1846272807
  • ISBN-13: 978-1846272806
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 1.6 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (82 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 292,378 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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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'
--Guardian --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

About the Author

JESSICA FRANCIS KANE is author of an acclaimed story collection, Bending Heaven (Chatto, 2002). Her work has appeared in a number of US publications, including McSweeney's, The Missouri Review, and Michigan Quarterly Review. She lives in New York with her husband and two children.

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55 of 56 people found the following review helpful By Dr. M. G. Farringdon on 20 Dec. 2010
Format: Paperback
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 By Amazon Customer on 12 April 2011
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 By Eleanor TOP 500 REVIEWER on 27 Mar. 2011
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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