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

by Gitta Sereny

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323861,430 (3.74)9
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.… (more)
  1. 10
    Boy A by Jonathan Trigell (Booksloth)
  2. 00
    Looking for JJ by Anne Cassidy (meggyweg)
    meggyweg: Looking for JJ is clearly based off the Mary Bell case.
  3. 00
    Caril by Ninette Beaver (meggyweg)
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» See also 9 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 8 (next | show all)
This book focuses on the issue of the judging of children in an adult court and the importance of relevant rehabilitation. It in no way sensationalises nor defends Mary Bell’s crimes but shows how the legal system needs to be adapted when dealing with children. It certainly made me think about it differently. ( )
  Carolinejyoung | Oct 23, 2019 |
'I believe Mary Bell's childhood experiences...to be the key to the tragedy'
By sally tarbox on 6 April 2016
Format: Hardcover
A gripping and thought-provoking read, as the author considers the murders in 1968 of two little boys by 11 year old Mary Bell. Sereny had attended court at the time and wrote an earlier book on the case. Here she catches up with Mary Bell - now released and living under a new name with her partner and child - and in lengthy interviews with her tries to understand her thinking and motivations at the time.

I found the construction of the book worked well; rather than just working through Mary's life chronologically, Sereny begins at the time of the offence, then interposes discussions with Mary with memories of her time at a remand centre and later an adult prison. Not until the end does Sereny give us any great detail about Mary's early childhood, which helps explain her later crimes. Throughout Mary's life, like an evil genius, is the corrosive presence of her mother.

My feelings on Mary remained ambivalent; an unlikeable child, yet undoubtedly traumatized for life by her experiences. But could an intelligent 11 year old REALLY not understand the finality of death? Sereny's criticisms of the legal system as regards child offenders are persuasive however. ( )
  starbox | Jul 11, 2016 |
I'm disappointed because I thought this book would be something it wasn't. I thought we'd get into the psyche of sociopathic, murderous children. I thought we'd get statistics or at least qualitative data. Instead, this is essentially a biography of a single child with no information about the generalizability of her story. If that interests you, you'll like this true crime biography. But if you want more, you'll be disappointed. The question of why children kill -- the book's subtitle -- is never answered. ( )
1 vote sparemethecensor | Feb 5, 2016 |
I'm not sure that, by concentrating on Mary Bell alone, this book is as persuasive as it would like to be. The interviews with Mary read more like therapy and a need for her story to be heard, which is perfectly understandable but another book altogether. ( )
  Moomin_Mama | Jan 25, 2014 |
If you are at all interested in true crime, you must read this book. Mary Bell was an 11 year old murderer labeled a monster by everyone. After reading this book, it doesn't by any means excuse what she did, but it sure makes it a hell of a lot easier to understand why. Insightful and tragic story. ( )
  TracyCampbell | Nov 10, 2013 |
Showing 1-5 of 8 (next | show all)
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Bell is the subject of two books by Gitta Sereny: "The Case of Mary Bell" (1972), an account of the killings and trial, and "Cries Unheard: the Story of Mary Bell" (1998), an in-depth biography based on interviews with Bell and relatives, friends and professionals who knew her during and after her imprisonment.
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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.

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