Tag Archives: jessica francis kane

Rules for Visiting by Jessica Francis Kane

Rules for Visiting by Jessica Francis Kane Title: Rules for Visiting
Author: Jessica Francis Kane
Publisher: Granta Books
ISBN: 9781783784646
Genre: Literary Fiction
Pages: 304
Source: Publisher
Rating: 4 stars

Jessica Francis Kane’s book, Rules for Visiting grows on you. Much like the trees and grass spoken about in the book. Much like how they are an intrinsic part of the book, as the protagonist is a gardener. May Attaway, is a 40-year-old gardener who lives in her parents’ home with her father, an 80-year-old man inhabiting the basement (his own accord). May’s mother died when she was 40 and this kicks off May’s choice to change some things about her life. The primary one being to go and visit four of her women friends, with whom she has lost touch.

Thank God that this book isn’t one about intimacy of women that will give you the warm cuddly feeling. It is an honest book about honest relationships, and how they are in life – twisted, damaged, complicated, and yet the kind that leave space for repair.

Her friends’ lives are something else altogether – one of them is going through a divorce (quite expected), another is a new wife and a stepmother to two boys, and as the book progresses you see how May changes as a person (not altogether but in small ways). Kane’s May is flawed and knows it. She is aware, and tries not to be a bother when visiting her friends. The rules for visiting comes from there – it also signifies how we have to make our spaces without it being an intrusion in homes we visit.

Rules for Visiting is hilarious, often a lot of fun, and also has a lot of twists and turns to it that are touching and ironic as well. The book is about friendship – what we take for granted and let go for years, and what we come back to. And then it connects to the environment beautifully with descriptions of trees, and what they stand for when it comes to life and living.

Also, the character of May that tries very hard to be reliable, but is sometimes just taken in by what she sees around her. I loved the fact that she was so human. Rules for Visiting is about the lost art of friendship and what it takes in our world clogged and bogged down by social media to rekindle it, to get in touch without any guilt or fear, and ensure that relationships last beyond just a screen. Rules for Visiting is the kind of book that perhaps most people will relate to instantly. A must-read, in my opinion.

The Report by Jessica Francis Kane

The Report: A Novel

What is the language of Grief? Does it even have a language of it’s own? It must be sad for sure and haunting and would bring back residue of memories that one decides not to touch. May be, that is grief – in its form – absolute and never-fading. At the same time, it does little to help conjure the strength to get to a point when it does not remain grief any more. I know I may not be making any sense right now – however to get my point, you have to read The Report by Jessica Francis Kane.

During the Blitz in London in 1943, an extraordinary event took place in Bethnal Green. On March 3, 1943, when air raid warning sirens went off, thousands of people, as usual headed to nearest bomb shelter, the local Tube Station that could shelter close to ten thousand people at one time. Some had come here many times and knew that they could reserve cots and places to sleep for the night. Others just took their chances, hoping that the emergency would not last long and that they would be able to return home soon afterward. On this night, something unique happened. One hundred seventy-three people died of asphyxia within a minute of their arrival, all suffocated in the crush on the first twenty stairs of the entrance. Ironically, “not a single bomb had fallen in the city that night.”

Author Jessica Francis Kane, who studied the original government inquiry into the reasons for this catastrophe, draws on the facts of the real Bethnal Green case to create a fictionalized version of what went wrong. The actual facts, gathered and put into a report by Sir Laurence Dunne within three weeks of the events, had been hushed up by the government so as not to alarm the people or create questions about the government’s ability to handle crises. Wanting to avoid placing blame on people who might become scapegoats, he had written his report with a concern for human feelings and for what humans need in order to deal with disasters during fraught times such as war. “Perhaps,” he suggests, “we should only sometimes be held accountable for the unintended consequences of our actions.”

At the same time Ms. Kane maintains the balance of why people behaved the way they did and forms thoughts to their actions. The characters elicit sympathy, and when all the details are known, the reader feels the same sorts of conflicts that Sir Laurence Dunne felt when he wrote his report.

She avoids the flights of sentimentality while writing the book and brings out the true character of people in a situation like this – what they do and how they become. She shows you the bigger picture of morality and issues at hand.

I commend Graywolf Press for publishing this book. It made for some captivating reading and most of all another view of looking at things – from not just one eye, just from beyond what is there to be seen.