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Cries Unheard: the Story of Mary Bell Hardcover – 8 May 1998

4.4 out of 5 stars 46 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Macmillan; First Edition edition (8 May 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0333735242
  • ISBN-13: 978-0333735244
  • Product Dimensions: 15.3 x 4.2 x 23.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (46 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 146,443 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product description

Book Description

Renowned journalist and biographer Gitta Sereny covered the Mary Bell case in the 1960s and wrote about it at the time. Mary, then eleven, was charged and subsequently convicted of the manslaughter of two younger boys. Now, following Mary's release on licence, and in collaboration with her, Sereny provides a thought-provoking biography of someone who was considered to have committed an evil crime of unparalleled horror. She brilliantly delves into the mind of this complex and damaged human being and reveals how little was done to investigate Mary's own troubled circumstances. A powerfully disturbing book, it will resonate with all who read it. --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
A gripping and thought-provoking read, as the author considers the murders in 1968 of two little boys by 11 year old Mary Bell. Sereny had attended court at the time and wrote an earlier book on the case. Here she catches up with Mary Bell - now released and living under a new name with her partner and child - and in lengthy interviews with her tries to understand her thinking and motivations at the time.

I found the construction of the book worked well; rather than just working through Mary's life chronologically, Sereny begins at the time of the offence, then interposes discussions with Mary with memories of her time at a remand centre and later an adult prison. Not until the end does Sereny give us any great detail about Mary's early childhood, which helps explain her later crimes. Throughout Mary's life, like an evil genius, is the corrosive presence of her mother.

My feelings on Mary remained ambivalent; an unlikeable child, yet undoubtedly traumatized for life by her experiences. But could an intelligent 11 year old REALLY not understand the finality of death? Sereny's criticisms of the legal system as regards child offenders are persuasive however.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is an interesting yet at times, frustrating read. I bought this as the Mary Bell case was something that happened prior to my birth, and I didn't know a great deal about it. I was hoping to read Mary's story and see why she did what she did, and how it has affected her life since. On finishing the book, I'm still unclear on lots of things but this may well be down to the subject as well as the author.

Bell, it turns out, makes for a very difficult interviewee being at times evasive, erratic and often resorting to downright lying. One senses that the author, realising how difficult it's going to be to make this a coherent read, too often, uses the book as a platform for her thoughts and personal views and this starts to grate after a while.

All in all, I would recommend this book for anyone interested in the case and the aftermath as far as Bell is concerned but it is by no means an easy read.
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Format: Hardcover
I found myself with huge sympathy for Mary, who seemed to encounter unhelpful people at every turn. Her reluctance to admit to the crimes was, in my view, a sign of the horror she felt at what she had done which put her in denial. She was also resentful at the way her companion at the time (Norma) was somehow seen as blameless. Her sad, very sad childhood and her attachment to her mother who was hurting her in so many ways, really makes my heart go out to her living her life with this massive wound. The harm she did to others, the loss of those children and the grief of the bereaved families is heart-breaking too. There were no winners.
The author does intrude somewhat into the writing, because, one feels she is burdened with guilt at not having replied to a letter from Mary, in which she reached out to her. That is the sad thing though, about having a job as a caring person, you cannot do that role entirely as a job, same as being a priest or a mother - it's not, or it should really be, a 'job'.
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Format: Hardcover
The book itself was very well written and must have been very difficult to listen to such horror,both from the victims families,but also Mary Bell herself. I also do not condone what she did, but I can believe the anger she felt inside, which unfortunatly spilled over to the unthinkable act of murder. What is hard to come to terms with is the way Mary was treated by the system, and why on earth was no help given to her during these years? I do think she now has started to build her life again with the help of her child, and someday this child will learn what her mother had done, this is inevitable, and again Mary will have to face many months of healing. I hope in time our legal system will start to listen to these children who commit these terrible crimes, instead of just branding them evil, after all no child is born evil, only people make them so.
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Format: Paperback
Sensitively written, well researched, story of Mary Bell, dubbed a 'child murderer' but clearly presented here as more sinned against than sinning. Her story should be compulsory reading for all who have to handle children in such circumstances, but especially by parents and police, social workers and journalists, and the general public before they rush to pass judgement. One of the best books I have ever read.
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Format: Paperback
Like many people I always assumed that Mary Bell was a child who was simply born evil; a bad seed. And to be honest I didn't have much sympathy for her. However, after reading this book my views have changed. This child was prostituted to her Mother's clients from the age of four. She was frequently beaten and constantly told by her disturbed Mother that she was unwanted and unloved. Ten years of this treatment would make even an adult snap and do something terrible; The real miracle is that there aren't many more children who commit such crimes. Don't get me wrong: I ABSOLUTLEY sympathise with the two murdered little boys and their families; but I now also sympathise with Mary..........
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Format: Paperback
The furore that surrounded the publication of this book must have in part be due to the fact that it is likely to be used as salacious entertainment by the sort of sick people who are the protagonists. We read (towards the end of the book) of how before the murders Mary Bell was used in her mother's business as a prostitute. Men who liked strangling young girls were allowed to strangle her until she was unconscious. She did not die, she woke up again. It is unlikely that she would know that such experiments were highly dangerous and sometimes people did not wake up again. It is hardly surprising, therefore, that she tried similar experiments herself on other people with the tragic consequences everyone knows about.
Other reviewers have written about the book's demonstration of the flaws in the British legal system. Whether a criminal is an adult or a child, the only way we can seriously reduce crime is to investigate *why* crimes are committed. If the court in this case has made as thorough investigation as Gitta Sereny then it would have uncovered not an isolated evil person, but a whole system of evil in which the humans were just mere links. Punishing Bell and no one else is totally idiotic - those that were really responsible for initiating it all still go free.
Also shown by the book is the fact that this mass psychosis doesn't just involve men with peculiar desires visiting prostitutes, but all those who stand outside courtrooms in cases like this banging on police vehicles transporting the accused, or avidly read accounts of it in popular newspapers, or lapping it up in tv programmes whilst at the same time saying how appalling it all is.
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