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Summary

Friday, 12th February, 1993. Two outwardly unremarkable 10-year-old boys began the day by playing truant and ended it running an errand for the local video shop. In between they abducted and killed a two-year-old boy, James Bulger. In search of an explanation, award-winning journalist David James Smith looks behind the misinformation, misunderstanding and sensational reporting to an exact account of the events of that day. 

A sensitive and definitive account, The Sleep of Reason achieves a unique understanding of the James Bulger case, and comes as close as may ever be possible to explaining how two 10-year-olds could kill.

©2017 David James Smith (P)2020 Audible, Ltd

What listeners say about The Sleep of Reason

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    3 out of 5 stars
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    2 out of 5 stars

a history of the strand.

far too much emphasis on the strand shopping centre history. I wanted to learn about the James Bulger case not details about which kind of building materials were used for the strand. full of irrelevant details.

7 people found this helpful

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A bit too sympathetic for the killers for my taste

Much of the book itself is a systematic run through of the events, as they took place, that led to the killing of James Bulger. This aspect of the book is interesting if you want detail on the timelines, occurrences etc.

However, it becomes clear from the Preface, that while presenting itself as a non-biased record of events, there is an undeniable sympathy that runs through for the murderers John and Robert. In particular for Robert - who throughout the book is called the more affectionate 'Bobby'. There is reference to the author meeting with Anne Thompson, Mother of Robert. She is knitting him hats for his baby and says if James had had reins on him this wouldn't have happened.

The Introduction then includes a long list of offenses committed by children, as if the fact that this has been done before can somehow diminish the severity of what John and Robert did.

I listened to this as Audio book. At times I felt the delivery was a bit too chirpy and breezy during the delivery that was out of step with the content. This wasn't a telling of a breezy jaunt to the park.

As the book concludes, the author has added a final chapter where he muses that John and Robert couldn't have chosen to do what they did, that they were just 'kids talking tough', they'd been watching horror films and played violent video games. They'd had difficult childhoods and so on.
He downplays the possibility that they could possibly have had any intent to do what they did. 'Perhaps they weren't really trying to push James off of the pavement - maybe they were pushing him in the direction of the police station' (!) Really. Further contributing factors such as childhood instability, poverty, and trauma get put forward. The author is increasingly frustrated by the government and public response to the case. Poor John and Bobby

Here's where I gave up. It was just too distasteful.










5 people found this helpful

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Heartbreaking

Great book, hard not to become emotional listening to it. Will now move on to the book written by James Bulgers mum ‘I let him go’

5 people found this helpful

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Gruesome

I thought I knew about the Bulger case until Iheard this audio book.
Some really gruesome and upsetting details but an overall respectful analysis.
My one criticism of the narration is that, at times, the narrator uses a bouncy, chirpy manner of speaking that you might hear reading a child's story book while describing awful facts.

The outcome in the last chapter shows just how the deterioration of family life can damage a child.

4 people found this helpful

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Repeatitive in parts

Ive previously listened to Denise's book and that i think is the superior of the two here. This wasnt badly written however a lot focus on the strand history which isnt really relevant. Quite a lot of repeatition - ie when the boys that found James are being interviewed. Its the same sentances over and over to the point of irritation.
I understand the point the author was making in the introduction listing the incidents where children have murdered.. however it went on far too long. That part was longer than most relevant chapters to the story.
I really wanted to lose myself in this audiobook but found myself becoming quickly irritated.

2 people found this helpful

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A fascination, sad, disturbing read..

I found this book to be really interesting. It went really in depth into the events, but with more focus on the two perpetrators rather than young James, although some background is covered about him too.

You might want to space it out over a few days, like I did, because the subject matter is pretty intense.

Narration is also top notch.

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  • Si
  • 29-05-21

Apologetics of the worst order

This offering is nothing more than a vehicle for this liberal author - who lacks even a basic understanding of criminal psychology and is evidently too outraged to learn - to present a belated case for the defence of two convicted murderers. His reasoning, taking place as it does after several hours of irrelevant detail (such as the history of the Strand shopping centre and interminable listings of the barristers' curriculum vitae), is so puerile and weak as to demand derision.

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Insightful

very very hard to listen too. I wanted to get answers as to why the two boys did what they did. interested in child psychology prompted the read. As been interesting albeit I its very much the writers conclusion which not everyone will agree with. however I guess that is the point. he offers his beliefs into the possible thought processes of why this happened

1 person found this helpful

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Extraordinary

I grew up with this case being a major headline and very close to home. I thought I'd known it quite well... but The Sleep of Reason is so thoroughly researched and the accounts of what happened are so incredibly written that my understanding of the horrific crime and the young lads behind it have been turned on its head.
The author is sensitive to all parties involved and although Smith does divulge some of the disturbing acts, it is never done so to shock or to revel in it.
The performance too was outstanding, great accents and some genuinely heart-breaking moments.
It's a heavy read, but a must for true crime fans. 9.2/10

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  • SD
  • 03-05-22

Looking from the other side.

Highly recommended. Although we will never be able to understand why little James suffered so horrifically, this full on account views all sides. Devoid of all the sensationalism and associations to desensisation from horror videos. Back to the bare bones of sociological and economical effects on both nurture and nature.

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  • Lanette Russo
  • 22-07-20

Read "I Let Him Go" after reading this!

Before I say anything else, make sure you read "I Let Him Go" (a 5 star book in my opinion) by James Bulger's mother. There is no way anyone can tell me those monsters killed this poor little boy because they had bad child hoods, bad parents, suffered through poverty & it is society's fault. The word sociopath should have been used in this book. I have known people & read books about people who have had horrible childhoods that are hard to even believe are true. None of them ever even thought about harming.another person, let alone killing someone. As I'm re-listening to James's mother's book right now, I have to change my review from 4 stars to 3 stars for THIS book. I found it offensive that this author & his lefty liberal view is trying to blame society & the poor unfortunate childhood they had. There is NO excuse for what happened. If the only reason they committed this heinous crime really was because of their poor upbringing, then how about people choosing to not have kids if you can't raise them right or can't afford them? There is a mental sickness in these 2 little evil boys, plain & simple. The bad childhoods & bad parents didn't help, for sure...but this can not be the main reason these kids did what they did.

8 people found this helpful

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  • Colleen T. Mizeres
  • 20-06-21

Couldn't stop listening..

This is a horrifying true story that I found so extremely shocking as the perpetrator's are little kids! Children for God's sake! The story kept my interest throughout and the narration was en point'!