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The Report: A Novel Paperback – August 31, 2010


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Graywolf Press; First Edition edition (August 31, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1555975658
  • ISBN-13: 978-1555975654
  • Product Dimensions: 8.7 x 5.4 x 0.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (25 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,414,284 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Kane (Bending Heaven) explores the fallout from a catastrophe that occurred in war-weary 1943 London to mixed results; the historical material and characters are wonderful, but the plot is deeply contrived. The newly built Bethnal Green tube station was serving as an air-raid shelter when 173 people suffocated to death in a mystifying pile-up in a stairwell. As rumors swell about possible causes, magistrate Laurence Dunne is assigned to investigate. Kane skillfully reimagines the empathetic Dunne as he interprets the confessions and accusations of a community crushed by loss and guilt. In a linked narrative set in 1973, Paul, who was orphaned in the tragedy, tries to persuade Dunne to be interviewed as part of a documentary he's directing. Meticulous historical detail and vivid descriptions of hunkered-down and rationed East Enders add a marvelous texture, but Kane runs into trouble by trying to establish that the tangle of noble and selfish intentions that contributed to the calamity can't be unknotted, while simultaneously tugging on a stubborn thread that will, for the sake of plot, prove the opposite.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Review

PRAISE FOR THE REPORT:

“[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 written and suffused with insights into human motivation, The Report illuminates how we interpret and endure tragedy. This novel is engrossing both for the story it tells and the way it tells it. It is filled with small wonders and very hard to put down.”
—Elise Blackwell, author of An Unfinished Score
 
“Jessica Francis Kane's The Report is a stealthy, quiet page-turner that understands there is as much tension in reckoning a disaster as there is in the disaster itself. In precise and searching prose, The Report looks without flinching at moral obligation and family duty over seconds, and over years. It's a lovely book.”
—Elizabeth McCracken, author of An Exact Replica of a Figment of My Imagination

Praise for Jessica Francis Kane:

“Neat, sharp, observant, and with a good ear, so that she hits the note every time… She's discerned the enormous gap between what people say and do, and what is actually going on inside them, and in that gap she moves swiftly and nimbly… An author to watch.”
—Hilary Mantel, author of Wolf Hall

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Customer Reviews

4.5 out of 5 stars
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See all 25 customer reviews
The writing is elegant, clear-eyed and compassionate.
Christine Dokko
The author has a way of finding just the right details about a character that make both the person and the time period come to life.
Ken Showman
The focus is really on the psychological aftermath of the event.
CurlyGeek04

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

13 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Ken Showman on October 9, 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Jessica Francis Kane's novel spans two timelines: the immediate aftermath of a wartime tragedy in 1943, and the preparation for a TV special about the tragedy 30 years later. The tragedy itself is quite remarkable: a crush of people making their way, without panic, into a tube station being used as a bomb shelter. No enemy action took place that night; nobody was trampled; and no closed door blocked people's way. So what happened? And how do people recover from such an event, where there is no clear villain to blame? This is the subject of "The Report".

Despite the somewhat grim-sounding subject matter, the book is not morbid, nor depressing. There are sad moments, and laugh-out-loud moments, but mostly it is a fascintating peek into the lives of a few people who lived in London during the Blitz. The author has a way of finding just the right details about a character that make both the person and the time period come to life. "Mighty William" neatly sums up the self-important alpha dog of the English upper-crust social scene; a priest pours each service's leftover holy wine onto the ashes of a repentant alcoholic.

So is it better to give people the truth, or to give them what they need -- or what we think they need? When an accident happens, how are people changed if they do or don't know whose fault it is? Can forgiveness be offered without understanding? One character says, "It's my practice to always hope people aren't as bad as the worst thing they do." A good philosophy, and part of an excellent book.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By BRC on November 18, 2010
Format: Paperback
I loved The Report. It has some kind of gentle combination between quick-paced story-telling and skillful literary tone. It is both artful and engaging. As the summaries above and other reviewers have already taken care to note, the novel is about an official government report written in response to a wartime accident in the Bethnal Green tube station in London. Kane tells the story in such a way that lets the reader think more deeply about the characters--not just Laurence Dunne, the author of the govt. report, but the other main characters too, 8-year-old Tilly, her mother Ada, Paul Barber who tracks down Dunne decades later, and the tangled relationships between them all for the rest of their lives--and the broader fog-of-wartime background against which the struggles take place. And she does it without standing over us. For me, then, it was gripping not just because of the elegant writing but because of the author's restraint. Since the story is about a civil servant trying to compose the definitive account of an indefinite event (because all events are), I followed the novel as being about the creation of truth and the burdens of accounting for the variety of experience. It is all to Kane's credit that the writing allowed me to see the possibilities of the story's larger meanings. I'm an academic by day, which means I sometimes have to relearn that reading fiction is entertaining and enlightening. The Report helped me do that.
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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Michael on September 6, 2010
Format: Paperback
This is the story of a civilian tragedy that occurred in London during World War II, the lives of people intimately affected by it and a report about it commissioned, but then suppressed, by the government. It was among a few singled out at by the folks at my local bookstore for their special display of new works of fiction. Once I picked it up, I couldn't put it down. I quickly became immersed in the community and lives of the characters and came to feel a personal stake in the outcome. It is captivating, insightful and elegant. I wish I could read it again for the first time.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Dr. M. G. Farringdon on November 9, 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
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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