The Report

Jessica Francis Kane, Author
Jessica Francis Kane, Graywolf, $15 paper (256p) ISBN 978-1-55597-565-4
Reviewed on: 05/17/2010
Release date: 08/01/2010
Paperback - 240 pages - 978-1-84627-279-0
Ebook - 256 pages - 978-1-55597-010-9
Hardcover - 320 pages - 978-1-4074-7767-1
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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. (Sept.)
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