The Report

Jessica Francis Kane

Published: 5 January 2012
Paperback, B Format
129x198mm, 256 pages
ISBN: 9781846272806


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 ...


‘[A] taut and psychologically astute examination of the human need for understanding... The whole is a subtle meditation not just on a document but on whether a written account of a traumatic event can ever satisfy all its objectives. And who decides all these objectives anyway? A novel which raises as many questions as it answers.’ Lucy Beresford



The Report is an artful piece of work. The story itself has an appalling fascination, while the restraint of the telling, in both its factual and fictional aspects, lends it considerable power. Characters... are made richly present but are also shown as vanishing into history, refused the completeness of fictional narration.... As a documentary novel, The Report gains from the virtues of both forms.’ Sean O’Brien

‘A fascinating insight into a hidden piece of WW2 history... deeply moving... heartbreaking’ Caroline Quentin

‘A fascinating read’

‘A poignant tale about guilt, blame and love in a time of tragedy.’

‘A really pacy read’ Dave Gorman

‘A smart and troubling novel of ideas, which explores the power of crowds, collective guilt and the compromises required to balance a need for full disclosure with the desire to be kind.’ Adrian Turpin

‘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 MY IMAGINATION

‘A terrific human story.’

‘Her skilful evocation of the blitz means you can't help but sympathise with the characters - no matter what they may have done.’

‘Kane's command of period detail is marvellous ... Kane adroitly weaves together various theories [about the tragedy] and gives a sense of the grim succour that assigning blame can provide grief-stricken citizens ... [An] eloquent take on moral intricacy and ambiguity ... A deft, vivid first novel’

‘Kane's fictionalisation of a real life event keeps to the basic facts, but goes where they can't to produce a fascinating and movingly human explanation of how it might have happened.’

‘She skilfully evokes the Blitz-battered East End and brings her characters to life. The Report is a sober, thoughtful book that acknowledges the complexities of human nature and the demands of emergencies and asks how history views the responsibilities of authorities in times of tragedy.’ Tina Jackson

‘The historical material and characters are wonderful ... Kane skillfully reimagines the empathetic Dunne as he interprets the confessions and accusations of a community crushed by loss and guilt ... Vivid descriptions of hunkered-down and rationed East Enders add a marvellous texture’

‘This artfully constructed novel takes as its foundation the largest civilian tragedy of WW2... what emerges is a piercingly emotional exploration of wartime anxieties, and later, of loss, blame and guilt.’

‘Very thought-provoking and very moving’ Rory McGrath

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