Cries Unheard: Why Children Kill: The Story of Mary Bell

Sereny, Gitta

Published by Picador
ISBN 10: 0805060685 / ISBN 13: 9780805060683
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Synopsis: England's controversial #1 best-seller.

What brings a child to kill another child? In 1968, at age eleven, Mary Bell was tried and convicted of murdering two small boys in Newcastle upon Tyne, England. Gitta Sereny, who covered the sensational trial, never believed the characterization of Bell as the incarnation of evil, the bad seed personified. If we are ever to understand the pressures that lead children to commit serious crimes, Sereny felt, only those children, as adults, can enlighten us.

Twenty-seven years after her conviction, Mary Bell agreed to talk to Sereny about her harrowing childhood, her terrible acts, her public trial, and her years of imprisonment-to talk about what was done to her and what she did, who she was and who she became. Nothing Bell says is intended as an excuse for her crimes. But her devastating story forces us to ponder society's responsibility for children at the breaking point, whether in Newcastle, Arkansas, or Oregon.

A masterpiece of wisdom and sympathy, Gitta Sereny's wrenching portrait of a girl's damaged childhood and a woman's fight for moral regeneration urgently calls on us to hear the cries of all children at risk.

Review: In 1968, cases like that of Mary Bell were almost unheard of. Two little boys were dead, and the two accused killers, Mary Bell and Norma Bell (no relation), were 11 and 13. Norma was acquitted, but Mary was found guilty and sentenced to life in prison. Almost 30 years after her conviction, Mary Bell was able to tell her story, from her troubled childhood to her eventual release from prison as an institutionalized young woman and her awkward attempts to build a life for herself in a hostile world.

In Cries Unheard, Gitta Sereny coaxes out Mary's story without becoming an apologist. She is blunt about the brutality of these crimes, and doesn't attempt to dismiss them as the acts of an ignorant child. When Bell gives explanations that don't ring true, Sereny pushes on, refusing to accept the easy answers. The questions raised are wrenching: Can children understand the finality of death? Are they capable of evil? Did Mary Bell understand what was happening to her in the courtroom where she was declared a "bad seed," a child so innately evil that she would have to be locked away for the rest of her life? Was she responsible for her actions at all, or were those responsible for her to blame? While Cries Unheard can't answer all these questions, it dissects Bell's unthinkable acts to the point that we can almost understand them. --Lisa Higgins

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Title: Cries Unheard: Why Children Kill: The Story ...
Publisher: Picador
Binding: Paperback
Book Condition: Very Good

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