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. 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.
Based on the true story of the worst civilian disaster of World War II, this is an evocative, moving and beautifully crafted novel about loss and guilt, and the possibility of redemption.
First and foremost, it was agreed within our group that this novel provided some fascinating reading, in the information it supplied with regard to the actual true story of the Bethnal Green underground crush during the WWII blitz, and also the human story entwined within the facts. Little was known of this civilian disaster by any of us and there were a few who would have liked the novel to travel deeper into the factual history. But overall, we found the read a good one. You can visit our Over the Fence blog to find out more of our thought-provoking discussion.