- Paperback: 240 pages
- Publisher: Graywolf Press; First Edition edition (August 31, 2010)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1555975658
- ISBN-13: 978-1555975654
- Product Dimensions: 5.6 x 8.2 inches
- Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 28 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,458,714 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Report: A Novel Paperback – August 31, 2010
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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.
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“[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
“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 with praise for Jessica Francis Kane
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Top customer reviews
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.
Through the parallel structure of the novel - with one storyline occurring at the time of the tragedy and the other decades later - the author shows us the effect of time and reflection on the characters – especially, how we can grow to wonder whether our best effort was ever good enough.
The writing is elegant, clear-eyed and compassionate. The story seems deeply researched and rings true in its details. The author succeeds in the difficult job of creating tension and suspense around an event when the reader already knows the outcome. This is a fine book by a talented new novelist.
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.