Say Nothing
From award-winning New Yorker staff writer Patrick Radden Keefe, a stunning, intricate narrative about a notorious killing in Northern Ireland and its devastating repercussionsIn December 1972, Jean McConville, a thirty-eight-year-old mother of ten, was dragged from her Belfast home by masked intruders, her children clinging to her legs. They never saw her again. Her abduction was one of the most notorious episodes of the vicious conflict known as The Troubles. Everyone in the neighborhood knew the I.R.A. was responsible. But in a climate of fear and paranoia, no one would speak of it. In 2003, five years after an accord brought an uneasy peace to Northern Ireland, a set of human bones was discovered on a beach. McConville's children knew it was their mother when they were told a blue safety pin was attached to the dress--with so many kids, she had always kept it handy for diapers or ripped clothes.Patrick Radden Keefe's mesmerizing book on the bitter conflict in Northern Ireland and its aftermath uses the McConville case as a starting point for the tale of a society wracked by a violent guerrilla war, a war whose consequences have never been reckoned with. The brutal violence seared not only people like the McConville children, but also I.R.A. members embittered by a peace that fell far short of the goal of a united Ireland, and left them wondering whether the killings they committed were not justified acts of war, but simple murders. From radical and impetuous I.R.A. terrorists such as Dolours Price, who, when she was barely out of her teens, was already planting bombs in London and targeting informers for execution; to the ferocious I.R.A. mastermind known as The Dark; to the spy games and dirty schemes of the British Army; to Gerry Adams, who negotiated the peace but betrayed his hardcore comrades by denying his I.R.A. past, Say Nothing conjures a world of passion, betrayal, vengeance, and anguish.

Say Nothing Details

TitleSay Nothing
Author
LanguageEnglish
ReleaseFeb 26th, 2019
PublisherDoubleday Books
ISBN-139780385521314
Rating
GenreNonfiction, History, Crime, True Crime, Cultural, Ireland, Politics, Mystery, Audiobook

Say Nothing Review

  • William2
    January 1, 1970
    Harrowing. I’ve always wanted a book that could describe simply and clearly what happened in Ireland during The Troubles. Not being Irish, I’ve too often felt the pall of incomprehensibility daunting me. I never found the right book, until now. Say Nothing is indeed that longed-for book. The prose is just perfectly freighted, and the reader is hoovered into the narrative maelstrom from the very first page with the mad scene of Jean McConville being torn from the arms of her huge and loving famil Harrowing. I’ve always wanted a book that could describe simply and clearly what happened in Ireland during The Troubles. Not being Irish, I’ve too often felt the pall of incomprehensibility daunting me. I never found the right book, until now. Say Nothing is indeed that longed-for book. The prose is just perfectly freighted, and the reader is hoovered into the narrative maelstrom from the very first page with the mad scene of Jean McConville being torn from the arms of her huge and loving family—never to return—by masked goons.The hatred here is like hatred everywhere—irrational. Be it the Nazis and the Jews, the new “discoverers” of America and its indigenous peoples, the Tutsi and the Hutu—the list is abysmally long. And let’s not forget the Legacy Museum, in Montgomery, Alabama, also known as the lynching museum. I long to visit it. Why? What can I possibly do at this remove? I guess it’s as Victor Klemperer once said, or rather wrote, one must bear witness, even if it’s at second or third hand. There were five hostile entities in Belfast in the early 1970s. There was the IRA which was Catholic Nationalist and which split into two rival camps: (1) the Official IRA, which was Communist, and sought to remove Northern Ireland from the UK and create a workers' republic; and (2) the Provisional IRA, which sought to end British rule in Northern Ireland, and bring about an independent republic, and who were known as the Provos—the largest and most active republican paramilitary group. Other bellicose parties included (3) the loyalist paramilitaries, which were Protestant militia opposed to Catholic Emancipation and supporting the British occupation; (4) the Royal Ulster Constabulary, RUC, which was a Protestant police force; and finally (5) the British Army, the key military force of a (largely Protestant) nation which had recently lost virtually all of its colonial possessions. Other paramilitaries formed later.After Jean McConville was “snatched,” to use the tabloid argot, and her ten parentless children were left to fend for themselves in the execrable Divis flats—their father Arthur had died of cancer some time before—no one from the surrounding community took the orphans under their wing. These traumatized children received no care. Even the local parish priest was unsympathetic. With good reason, it turns out, since Jean had been taken by the papist IRA. This resulted in a culture of silence in Belfast not unlike that in the USSR under Stalin, when even next door neighbors would not speak to one another due to the mutual fear of denunciation.In the Provisional IRA, the members were all very young. Kids, really. They generally volunteered as children, with many assuming important roles by their teenage years and early twenties. These were the snipers and bombers and hit persons then so feared. Dolours Price was eighteen when she volunteered, having been raised by parents who’d both been IRA members back in the 1950s. It was Dolours Price’s idea to take the bombing campaign to London. ”The English public, removed on the other side of the Irish Sea, seemed only dimly aware of the catastrophe engulfing Northern Ireland. It was a case study in strategic insanity: the Irish were blowing up their own people in a misguided attempt to hurt the English, and the English hardly even noticed.” (p. 117) I abhor the religious irrationality which drives pietists and which here can be traced back to the 12th century. It is a long and labyrinthine historical view you’ve got to have to kill in the name of this very ancient idea. One wonders if everyone was a scholar here—if the origins of the conflict were as fully understood and recalled and recited chapter and verse as would seem necessary to justify so much killing?It’s now 1973 and the IRA is about to plant four car-bombs in London near government facilities. Dolours Price is given command of the operation. I was living in America when these horrors occurred. I can almost see the headline in the Washington Post. The author is now destroying that distance. The night before the bombings Dolours and her companions go to a West End play by Brian Friel, The Freedom of the City. The next morning London police are scurrying about bright and early to locate the cars; they were tipped off 14 hours in advance by a Provo mole. That day there’s a transit strike so London is chockablock with cars. Fortuitously the cops find one vehicle and disarm it. It’s alarm-clock timer was set for 3:00 p.m. They infer that they have until then to find the three remaining cars.However, I don’t mean to be too hard on the NRA. So how’s this for balance? “Loyalist gangs, often operating with the tacit approval or the outright logistical assistance of the British state, killed hundreds of civilians in an endless stream of terror attacks. These victims were British subjects. Yet they had been dehumanized by the conflict to the point that organs of the British state often ended up complicit in such murders, without any sort of public inquiry or internal revolt in the security services.” (p. 274)Say Nothing is nonfiction. It’s every bit as good as, say, Killers of the Flower Moon. In some ways, one might argue, its better, which is taking nothing away from David Grann. But to my mind Killers is a little thin at the end. It almost peters out. Say Nothing by contrast has a consistent verbal density and narrative compression throughout. How did I not know that the Irish Potato Famine has been justly laid at the feet of Britain, who was exporting food from Ireland for its own needs as one million Irish died and another million emigrated? Now Dolours and Marian Price, locked up with a sentence of twenty years each in H.M.P. Brixton, begin a hunger strike which echoes that genocide. “If the British had employed hunger as a weapon during the famine, it would now be turned around and used against them. Dolours Price had always felt that prison was where an IRA volunteer’s allegiance to the cause was truly tested. Now she told anyone who would listen, she stood more than ready to die.” (p. 151) The young women’s hunger strike will break your heart. That’s the surprise about this book. It knocks you off your moral high horse. Two-hundred and fifty people injured by the bombs—terrible!—but miraculously no one killed. So when the British decide to force feed these young women, you know this is a violation of their civil rights; you know it is wrong; only long after the fact is it condemned and prohibited by the state.After developing an eating disorder from the 207 days of forced-feeding, Marian is released near death. She has served 8 years. Dolours is released for the same reason after serving 13 years. To have kept her in jail would’ve been to kill her. She renounces the IRA and its violence. We skip ahead to Bobby Sands’s election to Parliament on the 41st day of his hunger strike in 1981; PM Margaret Thatcher’s recalcitrance in the face of all good sense; Sands’s death, followed by nine more hunger strike deaths that summer, one every week or so; the rise of Gerry Adams—blackly tarred for giving away the store as his onetime fighters see it—and with him Sinn Féin, the Good Friday Agreement etc. One aspect of the peace that the GFA did not provide for is the truth and reconciliation process; thus the last part of the book, The Reckoning. Boston College undertakes this role when it is apparent no one else will. (The city has a large Irish-American population.) It’s called Project Belfast. The sheer tonnage of mental derangement and searing regret shouldn’t surprise us, not after a war this prolonged and bitter, but it does, it does. Then Boston College “screws the pooch,” to quote former test pilot Chuck Yeager, when the old RUC, trying to take down General Adams, obtains the transcripts via subpoena in 2003 or so. None of Boston College’s agreements with the interviewees, it turns out, were ever vetted by in-house counsel, so the pledges to withhold the transcripts until after the interviewee(s)’s death(s) can not be honored. I was reading this and whispering: “oh God, oh my God,” which shows you how clichéd I become when dumbfounded. You may wish to brace yourself.
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  • Rachel
    January 1, 1970
    I wish it weren't only February because the statement 'this is the best book I've read all year' does not carry very much weight when we still have 10 months to go. But, nonetheless, this is my reigning book of 2019. And it ended up being one of those rare cases when the book turned out so differently from what I expected, but I ended up liking it all the more for that. From the blurb I got the impression that this was going to focus on the disappearance of a woman called Jean McConville, with d I wish it weren't only February because the statement 'this is the best book I've read all year' does not carry very much weight when we still have 10 months to go. But, nonetheless, this is my reigning book of 2019. And it ended up being one of those rare cases when the book turned out so differently from what I expected, but I ended up liking it all the more for that. From the blurb I got the impression that this was going to focus on the disappearance of a woman called Jean McConville, with details about the Troubles setting the background context, but instead it's primarily a narrative account of the Troubles which occasionally, haltingly zeroes in on McConville's story. So it's less true crime than it is historical nonfiction, but the final product is focused and compelling.Say Nothing, whose title comes from a line from a Seamus Heaney poem which examines the treacherous precedent of speaking plainly about the Troubles, paints a comprehensive picture of twentieth century Belfast and introduces us to a few of the main players responsible for much of the devastation caused by the IRA - Brendan Hughes, Gerry Adams, Dolours and Marian Price, et al. Radden Keefe explores the lives and family histories and philosophies and interpersonal dynamics of these individuals and I found it refreshing that he didn't have an interest in moralizing in his approach to this story; while I think true objectivity is probably impossible, this is about as multifaceted as it gets. Driven primarily by an interest in the human cost of the conflict, Radden Keefe turns four years of research into a richly detailed account of Northern Ireland's fraught history, particularly examining how difficult it is to cultivate a historical record when different accounts contain conflicting information, and when everyone is afraid to speak openly about a conflict that's officially been resolved, but is a strong force in cumulative living memory. (If you loved Milkman, or if you didn't understand Milkman, this is such a valuable nonfiction supplement.) Certain anecdotes and images in this book were just arresting, and I think it's telling that the two stories that affected me the most had victims on opposite sides of the conflict. The first was about an IRA man who ordered a hit on another IRA man, whose wife he was having an affair with; the first man was sentenced to death, and Dolours Price, driving him to his execution, was struck with the thought that she could let him go, or that he could attack her and escape, but neither of those possibilities was going to happen because they both wholly accepted their devotion to the cause. The chapter ends with the flat and haunting lines "'I'll be seeing you Joe,' Price said. But she knew that she wouldn't be, and she cried the whole way home." The second story that got under my skin was about two young British soldiers who had accidentally found themselves in the middle of an IRA funeral; because of a recent attack by loyalists, their presence was met with suspicion and they were dragged from their car and beaten, and eventually taken across the road and shot. A Catholic priest ran over and when he noticed that one of the men was still breathing, asked if anyone knew CPR, but he was met with silence from the crowd, and a photograph was captured of him kneeling over this soldier's body and staring into the camera, his lips bloody from trying to resuscitate him.As for the significance of Jean McConville, the mother of ten who went missing in 1972, and whose body wasn't recovered until her bones were found on a beach in 2003: at first I did worry that this element was being shoehorned as a bizarre piece of human interest (I say 'bizarre' due to the little attention that's paid to McConville and her children throughout). However, I needn't have worried, as everything does eventually dovetail in a way that fully justifies this book's premise. Running alongside the historical account of the Troubles, Radden Keefe introduces the reader to something called the Boston College Tapes, an aborted project in which heads of the college's Irish History department endeavored to curate an oral history of the Troubles, to be accessed by the college's students in future generations. Due to the fact that discussing past paramilitary activity is an incriminating act, participants in the project were granted a sort of amnesty and promised that the tapes would not be released until after the participant's death. This promise was violated in the form of a lengthy legal battle between BC and the UK government, and ended up playing a key role in getting to the bottom of McConville's disappearance.While I'd first and foremost recommend Say Nothing to those with an interest in Irish history and wouldn't dream of selling this as a true crime book, I don't want to downplay how enthralling this was. Granted, its focus is something I already had an interest in, but what Radden Keefe brought to this narrative was a fiercely human angle, and I found this as deeply moving as it was informative.Thank you to Netgalley and Doubleday for the advanced copy provided in exchange for an honest review.
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  • megs_bookrack
    January 1, 1970
    WOW -- Very impressive, Radden Keefe, very impressive.Say Nothing: A True Story of Murder and Memory in Northern Ireland is an intricate and moving piece of narrative nonfiction concerning The Troubles in the North of Ireland, particularly centered in Belfast, beginning in 1969 through the Good Friday Agreement of 1998.Bookending Radden Keefe's extraordinary compilation of these events is the story of a mother of ten, Jean McConville, who was forcibly taken from her home in late 1972, becoming o WOW -- Very impressive, Radden Keefe, very impressive.Say Nothing: A True Story of Murder and Memory in Northern Ireland is an intricate and moving piece of narrative nonfiction concerning The Troubles in the North of Ireland, particularly centered in Belfast, beginning in 1969 through the Good Friday Agreement of 1998.Bookending Radden Keefe's extraordinary compilation of these events is the story of a mother of ten, Jean McConville, who was forcibly taken from her home in late 1972, becoming one of 'the disappeared' during this bitter conflict. McConville had been accused of being a paid informant for the British Army and it was common knowledge at the time that the IRA was responsible for her disappearance.This book seems remarkably researched and indeed, Radden Keefe, provides copious notes at the end of the main story detailing where his information is coming from, etc. During the course of his 4-years of research, he interviewed around 100 people, although many more refused to speak with him, as talking about The Troubles can still hold repercussions.I was so impressed with how he was able to bring such a sensitive and emotional topic to life on the page. Weaving together an immersive account of a time fraught with violence, betrayals and loss. There are descriptive accounts of the roles of various players at the time such as Gerry Adams, Brendan Hughes, Bobby Sands and the Price Sisters, Dolours and Marian.One of the most interesting areas explored, for me, was the hunger strikes carried out by many of the volunteers captured and imprisoned by the British. I hadn't really heard too much about that before and found it a horrifying and fascinating avenue of resistance, which the author handled so well.I would absolutely recommend this book to anyone interested in 20th century Irish history or anyone interested in The Troubles in particular. I definitely have a couple of people in my own life that I will be purchasing this book for as a gift. Thank you so much to the publisher, Doubleday Books, for providing me with a copy to read and review. I truly appreciate having the opportunity to read this one. A big thank you as well to the author, Patrick Radden Keefe, for taking on this project as I feel this is a part of history that deserves to be remembered. Well done.
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  • Matt
    January 1, 1970
    “[A] pair of dispassionate [IRA] gunmen were sent from Belfast. Before the killing, they summoned a priest. This was not unusual: there were certain priests in that era who grew accustomed to the late-night phone call. They would be summoned outside by gruff men who were about to perform an execution and asked to deliver the last rites. The act of killing itself had a ritual character, a practiced choreography…A bag is placed over your head. Your hands are bound behind your back. You kneel in th “[A] pair of dispassionate [IRA] gunmen were sent from Belfast. Before the killing, they summoned a priest. This was not unusual: there were certain priests in that era who grew accustomed to the late-night phone call. They would be summoned outside by gruff men who were about to perform an execution and asked to deliver the last rites. The act of killing itself had a ritual character, a practiced choreography…A bag is placed over your head. Your hands are bound behind your back. You kneel in the soft grass. Then you flop forward when the bullet hits your brain…”- Patrick Radden Keefe, Say Nothing: A True Story of Murder and Memory in Northern Ireland Patrick Radden Keefe’s Say Nothing is a remarkable book. It bills itself as a murder mystery of sorts, centered on the December 1972 abduction – and subsequent “disappearance” – of a widowed mother in front of her ten children. But it is much more than that. It is, in fact, a retelling of “the Troubles” – the sectarian conflict in Northern Ireland – through four distinct characters: Gerry Adams, the morally malleable political leader of Sinn Fein; Brendan “the Dark” Hughes, the deadly brigade leader of the Provisional Irish Republican Army; Dolours Price, who joined the IRA as a young woman and embarked on the type of celebrity-terrorist career that brings to mind Patty Hurst without the trust fund; and finally, Jean McConville, who may or may not have been a British informant, but was certainly murdered for no good reason. Each is memorable in their own way, their lives intersecting, often violently, in a web of violence, ideals, and memory far larger than themselves. Say Nothing is elegantly structured, using the McConville murder as a narrative touchstone from which to embark on a larger exploration of the vicious, long-lasting, and incredibly intimate conflict pitting loyalists (mainly Protestants) who wanted Northern Ireland to remain in the United Kingdom, and republicans (mainly Catholics) who wanted it to become part of a united Ireland. This conflict was marked by kidnappings, extralegal confinements, torture, assassinations, and bombings. In terms of sheer numbers, the violence in Northern Ireland was low-grade. The numbers I’ve seen put total fatalities at around 3,500 over a roughly 30-year period. In our own Age of Terror, those numbers – unfortunately – barely make you blink. (By way of comparison: the Omagh Bombing, carried out by an IRA splinter group, killed around 30; on September 11, 2001, al-Qaeda killed around 3,000). In terms of viciousness, though, the Troubles still manage to shock and unsettle. This was a civil war pitting neighbor against neighbor. The violence was personal and every bullet had a name. When Jean McConville was taken, many of her abductors were recognized by her children, who saw them around for years later. When I picked up Say Nothing, the things I knew about the Troubles – about Irish history in general – could fit into a pint glass. Indeed, most of the things I knew revolved around pint glasses. I think that’s important to mention, because part of my reaction to this book is a function of the thrill of discovery. With the exception of Adams, Bloody Sunday, and a couple of the IRA’s most famous bombings, I did not have a lot of foreknowledge about this subject. It is quite possible that a person who has studied these times before will be less enthralled. That said, Keefe has still done an excellent job here. He is a consistently engaging writer with a really good grasp on what he is trying to do. He recognizes that the McConville murder itself can probably be covered comfortably in a long magazine article (and I believe it has been, by Keefe himself, in The New Yorker). Thus, he weaves the crime into the overall tapestry of the Troubles. But he never resorts to mere filler. Instead, all the different storylines inform each other. While there are some pretty long stretches in which McConville is absent from Say Nothing, Keefe never forgets her (or her children), and he is always returning to her final moments, gradually revealing certain aspects of it that he has uncovered (including, in the final pages, the possible identity of her actual shooter). Keefe is also a dogged researcher and interviewer, and he has gone to great lengths to tell this tale right. His endnotes are extensive and reveal his efforts to get people to give up their secrets, in a land in which touts – informers or snitches – are still reviled. He tries extremely hard to remain unbiased, writing with a controlled sense of outrage about both loyalist and republican atrocities. There is no single villain here. Certainly, there is no unblemished hero. Both sides did appalling things. Undoubtedly, there will be partisans who say Keefe hasn’t told the truth, but that is to be expected. The “truth” is dead in an unmarked grave, and we are left with many competing remembrances. As Keefe demonstrates, many eyewitness accounts are at odds with each other and with contemporary reports; yet for the eyewitness, that account has become gospel.For me, one of the best measures of a book is how often I am unconsciously bringing it up in conversation. During the week in which I tore through Say Nothing, I probably said the words “I’m reading this book called Say Nothing” a dozen times. And that’s not even counting St. Patrick’s Day, when I attempted to steer all bar conversations toward the ethics of political violence. Without ever indulging a lecture, Say Nothing has a lot of things to say about idealism and brutality; about national memory; and about which ends justify which means.Say Nothing is in part possible because of a secret oral history endeavor called the “Belfast Project,” in which interviewers spoke with former IRA men and women, collecting their stories (and their crimes) and placing them under seal at Boston College. When word of the project leaked, prosecutors in Northern Ireland subpoenaed these records, and Boston College hastily complied. What Keefe found in a lot of these reminisces is the concept of moral injury: the damage to a person’s soul for transgressive acts taken in the name of a cause. Many of these old fighters/terrorists felt betrayed by the 1998 Good Friday Agreement, because they sensed that the awful things they’d done had been done for no reason. In the end, all their efforts ended in a compromise that probably could have been attained without the bloodshed. Yet someday, Ireland will be unified from top to bottom. Someday, the relatively recent history covered in Say Nothing will be old history. From that distant vantage, the answers to some extremely difficult questions will seem self-evident. It will be easy to shrug and say that the car bombs, the kidnappings, even the killing of a mother of ten children, were nothing more than minor speed-bumps on the road to unification. To that end, Say Nothing will serve as an important reminder of the terrible complexities of the Troubles. It is an indelible portrait of four participants living in a moral bog, where otherwise-decent men and women saw their choice as between killing a person and hiding their body, or killing a person and leaving their body on the street. It is a study of the cost of belief, to both victim and perpetrator alike.
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  • Valerity (Val)
    January 1, 1970
    I’ve always been under-informed about the situation in Ireland and reading Say Nothing was a great way to cure that problem. It gives great history on the long-standing feud between the Protestants and Catholics in Ireland, and the problem with England getting involved in Ireland’s affairs for hundreds of years. It shares the story of the widowed 38-year-old mum of 10, Jean McConville, who is taken from her apartment one December night in 1972 by a threatening masked group, (IRA, but unsaid) and I’ve always been under-informed about the situation in Ireland and reading Say Nothing was a great way to cure that problem. It gives great history on the long-standing feud between the Protestants and Catholics in Ireland, and the problem with England getting involved in Ireland’s affairs for hundreds of years. It shares the story of the widowed 38-year-old mum of 10, Jean McConville, who is taken from her apartment one December night in 1972 by a threatening masked group, (IRA, but unsaid) and doesn’t come home. The kids try to carry on in her absence, with the oldest daughter in charge and the oldest boy working, but they are failing, hungry. The authorities eventually have to step in and put the younger ones into care, splitting some of them up.The book also delves into the lives of several volunteer members of the IRA who have followed orders and done their jobs to an extreme. Some from a very young age, and almost to their deaths of starvation in prison on hunger strikes. There are the Price sisters, Dolours and Marian, and the man they call The Dark, Brendan Hughes. Bobby Sands, Gerry Adams, The IRA had split into 2 divisions, the Originals…more political, and the Provisionals who typically didn’t vote. My thanks for the advance electronic copy that was provided by NetGalley, author Patrick Radden Keefe, and the publisher for my fair review.Also on my BookZone blog:https://wordpress.com/post/bookblog20...
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  • Matt
    January 1, 1970
    After reading a history-rich fictional pentalogy about the Irish struggles, I could not help but turn to Patrick Radden Keefe’s book. Keefe takes the reader into the heart of the Anglo-Irish conflict, particularly as it developed in Northern Ireland (or the North of Ireland, depending on which side you support). Keefe explores how the simmering tensions of the Irish Republican Army (IRA) against the British Army and Ulster (Protestant) majority in the six remaining counties turned out to be some After reading a history-rich fictional pentalogy about the Irish struggles, I could not help but turn to Patrick Radden Keefe’s book. Keefe takes the reader into the heart of the Anglo-Irish conflict, particularly as it developed in Northern Ireland (or the North of Ireland, depending on which side you support). Keefe explores how the simmering tensions of the Irish Republican Army (IRA) against the British Army and Ulster (Protestant) majority in the six remaining counties turned out to be some of the bloodiest clashes of the entire push for a freed Ireland. Keefe explores all aspects of the fighting, from the creation of plots to harm and kill, to turning those who would otherwise be seen as British sympathisers, and even into the negotiations to bring about a lasting peace. Keefe lays out much of the details as seen through the eyes of the Northerners, painting degrees of abject poverty and constant concern by the Catholics, as well as their attempts to use blood and terror to bring British and the Ulsters to their knees. While the IRA and Sinn Fein (the political embodiment of the Cause) are not synonymous, Keefe connects some fairly large dots, particularly as it relates to Gerry Adams, long seen as the face of the fight in the 1970s through to 1999. A man who would not break, even when tortured, Adams did all he could to bring about a better understanding to the world about the plight of the Catholics in the North and how horrid things were for them under the British thumb. The campaign began to work, though the constant reporting of IRA violence or Ulster targeting of the Catholic population soured much of the support that began. As Keefe explores throughout, the IRA—both its long-standing version and the newer Provisional form—had its own internal problems, particularly power struggles as to how things ought to go. For some, no peace without all 32 counties united, while others saw that this could not happen with any degree of ease. There was also a strong push to make comparisons between the violence meted out on the streets of (London)Derry and Belfast and the cruel punishments that would be condemned elsewhere in the world. How could the British and Protestants act and the world would turn a blind eye? Keefe turns also to some of the revelations of the Boston College interviews, headed up by academics after a formal peace was secured. Stories that emerged when amnesty was provided helped flesh-out some of the darker and more violent aspects to life in the North over the close to three decades of hardcore fighting. However, some of the interviews were used by the British in legal settings to bring members of the IRA to justice for crimes committed, using a large loophole in the process. Even with peace established, new wars emerged, continuing to pit the IRA against the British. Told in raw and unapologetic honesty, Keefe tells a story that many readers would not otherwise believe while also being compelled to learn more. I strongly suggest anyone with an interest in learning more about the struggles in Ireland from the 1970s through to the present find this book and discover trove of sources and details likely not part of the mainstream narrative.As I mentioned above, reading this book complemented my previous binge reading of a powerful five-novel series about the Irish struggles. I remember some of the heightened struggles in Ireland, mostly from news reports and loose historical documents. What Patrick Redden Keefe provides here is a strong and well-documented approach to the plight of the Irish in the North at the hands of the majority, providing the reader with a look at the oppressed that sought to push back against the majority. Keefe does not shield the bias, though some would say that this is the only way to get the story out there, to focus on those who were fighting for a cause, even if they also sought to use violence as a means to success. I have often wondered why sides must shed blood and bomb one another, how that could ever lead to lasting peace and change. Keefe’s book left me sympathising with some of the plight, though the use of random violence that took the lives of the innocent to prove a point does not sit well with me. Even two decades after formal peace has been established, this book rocked me and brought much of the buried narrative back to light. Stories and sentiments, as well as giving the reader and inside view into how things were run and what happened to those who did not obey. More than a primer on the subject, Keefe drawls on many sources and depicts the struggle as being not only real, but somewhat essential in order to have their voices heard. Through the blood and the bombing, the violence and the vindication, Keefe provides the reader with something sobering to give a difference perspective than many may have had. Long chapters provide the core of the book, though it sometimes takes a while to get the true sentiment across, thereby educating the reader effectively. The mighty British may appear prim and proper, but this St. Patrick’s Day, as I nurse a pint or two of Guinness, I’ll think a little harder about how the colonial power sought to control one of the last vestiges wanting independence and self-rule.Kudos, Mr. Keefe, for a stunning book. I could not have asked for more and hope others will be as shocked and gobsmacked as I was while reading.Love/hate the review? An ever-growing collection of others appears at: http://pecheyponderings.wordpress.com/A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/...
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  • Cody
    January 1, 1970
    "Must it be the case that who one perceives a tragedy will forever depend on where one sits? The anthropologist Claude Levi-Strauss once observed that, 'for a majority of the human species, and for tens of thousands of years, the idea that humanity includes every human being on the face of the earth does not exist at all. The designation stops at the border of each tribe, or linguistic group, sometimes even at the edge of a village.' When it came to the Troubles, a phenomenon known as "whatabout "Must it be the case that who one perceives a tragedy will forever depend on where one sits? The anthropologist Claude Levi-Strauss once observed that, 'for a majority of the human species, and for tens of thousands of years, the idea that humanity includes every human being on the face of the earth does not exist at all. The designation stops at the border of each tribe, or linguistic group, sometimes even at the edge of a village.' When it came to the Troubles, a phenomenon known as "whataboutery" took hold. Utter the name Jean McConville and someone will say, What about Bloody Sunday? To which you could say, What about Bloody Friday? To which they could say, What about Pat Finucane? What about the La Mon bombing? What about the Ballymurphy massacre? What about Enniskillen? What about McGurk's bar? What about. What about. What about." (333)Say Nothing: A True Story of Murder and Memory in Northern Ireland is an crowning achievement in Irish history, investigative journalism, and nonfiction in general. What author Patrick Radden Keefe has done is written about a topic so murky in truth and so widely opinionated with an unbiased perspective that is so welcome to readers looking for a good starting place to begin. Keefe focuses on the Provisional IRA and the murder of a mother of ten, interweaving the storylines of both groups set against the tension and violence of the second half of 20th century Ireland and into present day. Famous (or rather infamous) people are brought in, from Jean McConville's own children to Dolours and Marion Price, and others amongst both sides of the conflict.What is so significant about this book is how immersive it becomes. Say Nothing is such an effective page-turner you almost would think these are made-up characters inhabited a fictional setting and storyline. Keefe illuminates the reader with a gripping sense of heartrending character, peeling back the many layers of governments trying to keep stability in the most unstable of ways and radicals bent on political violence mudding the waters until they become the monsters they believe they are up against all against the backdrop of Belfast and wider English controlled Northern Ireland. A definite must read.
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  • Dita
    January 1, 1970
    Breathtakingly haunting and good.Patrick Radden Keefe tells the story of the conflict in Northern Ireland between the Irish nationalists, the Catholics, and the unionists, the Protestants, in a time described as The Troubles.This book is very well researched, it is harrowing and it focuses largely on the human cost. I believed myself to be relatively well-informed on this topic before I read this book. I wasn't.I cannot recommend highly enough!Thank you to Doubleday, Patrick Radden Keefe and Net Breathtakingly haunting and good.Patrick Radden Keefe tells the story of the conflict in Northern Ireland between the Irish nationalists, the Catholics, and the unionists, the Protestants, in a time described as The Troubles.This book is very well researched, it is harrowing and it focuses largely on the human cost. I believed myself to be relatively well-informed on this topic before I read this book. I wasn't.I cannot recommend highly enough!Thank you to Doubleday, Patrick Radden Keefe and Netgalley for providing me with this ARC in exchange for an honest review.
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  • Perry
    January 1, 1970
    Blazin' banshees! Unbelievably bloody brutality.... lyin' Gerry feckin' Adams.... Who in feck did he tink tey were to judge, condemn and take lives and destroy families?
  • Donna Davis
    January 1, 1970
    The Irish have fought against oppressive British rule for centuries, but for many the most interesting—and for some of us, emotionally charged—period is that known as The Troubles, which unfolded in 1969 as Irish youth, inspired by the Cuban Revolution and the Civil Rights movement in the United States, sought to carve out some rights for working people living in the North of Ireland and concluded in 1997 following the ceasefire agreement struck between Sinn Fein, which was then the political ar The Irish have fought against oppressive British rule for centuries, but for many the most interesting—and for some of us, emotionally charged—period is that known as The Troubles, which unfolded in 1969 as Irish youth, inspired by the Cuban Revolution and the Civil Rights movement in the United States, sought to carve out some rights for working people living in the North of Ireland and concluded in 1997 following the ceasefire agreement struck between Sinn Fein, which was then the political arm of the revolutionary Irish Republican Army, and the British government. Keefe’s intense, compelling narrative is the most readable that I’ve seen, and the revelations it holds affected me more deeply than any literature I’ve read since I began reviewing books five years ago. Thanks go to Net Galley and Doubleday for the review copy, which I read free and early. You can buy it tomorrow, February 26, 2019. The history unfolds in three sections and is bookended by the quest of Jean McConville’s family to find her body and if possible, to learn who killed her and why. It’s an interesting choice given the number of dead the conflict produced, many of whom have never been found and identified, but the mystery and the ambiguity of her activities—was she merely a mother of ten as her children say, or working quietly for the IRA, or a double agent working for the British—is emblematic of the tension and secrecy maintained on both sides. We begin with Jean’s abduction in the first section, titled “The Clear, Clean, Sheer Thing,” move on to the meatiest and most tragic part of the struggle, “Human Sacrifice,” in which young hunger strikers and many others die, and conclude with “A Reckoning,” in which the ceasefire is signed and many Irish people that were involved in the guerrilla war are held accountable—and as usual, the British are not. The entire thing is carefully documented. Keefe notes that during the 1980s there was a good deal of “ambient” support for the IRA in the US, and this I know to be true. I participated in fund raisers for humanitarian aid to the six counties during that time, and I attended a presentation by Bernadette Devlin, an iconic leader of the struggle who for some reason barely bears mention in this work. It’s my only complaint about the book. The middle section left me shaking an in tears. I had not read Brendan Hughes’s claim about the deaths of the hunger strikers and the role almost certainly played by Gerry Adams, and it was a week before I could pick the book up again. I am still raw from it. I can recall seeing headlines in 1981 when Bobby Sands died, and at the time I was a practicing Catholic. When I saw the news, I picked up the phone and requested a special mass be held for him at my parish in the Midwestern city where I lived then. The parish priest thought it was a lovely idea but he needed the approval of the bishop. The bishop squashed it like it was a bug. There’s a metaphor in there somewhere. The final section discusses The Belfast Project, a series of interviews done under the promise that they would not see the light of day until the subjects were dead and buried. The names of the interviewees were coded as a further layer of protection, and the whole thing was stored in the vaults of the Burns Library at Boston College, where it was believed that the British government would never lay hands on it. Never say never. This book is a masterpiece. The writer is a journalist on the staff of The New Yorker, and this project took four years of steady effort by the author and his assistants, and a good deal of travel as well. The documentation is meticulous. Nevertheless, there are a number of details that are impossible to nail down, and the book’s title gives the reason for this. The only way to be sure a secret remains a secret is to keep your mouth shut, and that’s precisely what most of those involved in the struggle have done. A great many details that could doubtless condemn large numbers of working class Irish to lengthy prison sentences are buried with the bones of those that could have told. And although the author doesn’t explicitly say so, it’s obvious from the fate of the interview tapes that there is never any other guarantee of confidentiality; the code of silence still held to by the survivors of The Troubles has been all the protection that Irish participants have ever had. The vow to keep information private was decimated time and time again by the horrifying physical and psychological torture on the innocent and culpable alike by British jailers, none of whom will ever be brought to justice. Those that didn’t follow this fight in real time will likely not be as shattered by the things this book holds as I was. The author paints a vivid scenario—imagine coming home and noting that there’s a British soldier in uniform, gun drawn, in the rhododendrons in the front yard, for example—and peppers the account with well-chosen quotes. The slow deaths of Irish youth held in virtual dungeons are hard to read about, but then, war stories usually are. It’s fascinating stuff, though not necessarily material for bedtime, depending on your level of sensitivity. Highly recommended.
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  • Eric
    January 1, 1970
    Say Nothing by Patrick Radden Keefe details the decades-long bloody conflict, known as The Troubles, in Northern Ireland between all factions involved.Through the book, Keefe does an excellent job of bringing forward the history of the conflict in an understandable way for all readers. In his detailing of the violence, Keefe aptly provides the reader with enough explanation that shows this is not just a Catholic or Protestant conflict, or for that matter, a British or Irish conflict either (one Say Nothing by Patrick Radden Keefe details the decades-long bloody conflict, known as The Troubles, in Northern Ireland between all factions involved.Through the book, Keefe does an excellent job of bringing forward the history of the conflict in an understandable way for all readers. In his detailing of the violence, Keefe aptly provides the reader with enough explanation that shows this is not just a Catholic or Protestant conflict, or for that matter, a British or Irish conflict either (one very interesting aspect of The Troubles includes two sects of the Irish Republican Army were even at war with themselves).The book opens with a fascinating telling of the serving of a subpoena on a university in Boston, Massachusetts over highly secret information locked away deep into the university's archives. This information is an accounting of who did what and to whom during The Troubles.Keefe then takes the reader back to December 1972 where a mother of ten is abducted from her Belfast home by masked assailants, never to be seen again. Keefe knits his recounting of these events by historical research on each topical spoke of this conflict, blending in a wide variety of people until the spokes intersect in the middle.Say Nothing keeps the reader engaged and Keefe breathes life into the people involved with a story that never bores. This book reads like a broad, historical crime novel involving conspiracies, governments, a wide range of people and fascinating layers to the tale. This book is highly recommended to people who would like to develop a deeper understanding of The Troubles that is explained in a highly accessible manner.
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  • Skip
    January 1, 1970
    I will be surprised if this book does not win some literary awards. It details the decades-long violent conflict in Northern Ireland (a/k/a The Troubles) between the Protestant majority, the Catholic minority, and the British. The book is very well-researched with 75? pages of annotated footnotes, but suffers some in my opinion, from the introduction of too many people, in an attempt to be all-inclusive. There are essentially four main characters: Jean McConville (mother of ten, who is one of th I will be surprised if this book does not win some literary awards. It details the decades-long violent conflict in Northern Ireland (a/k/a The Troubles) between the Protestant majority, the Catholic minority, and the British. The book is very well-researched with 75? pages of annotated footnotes, but suffers some in my opinion, from the introduction of too many people, in an attempt to be all-inclusive. There are essentially four main characters: Jean McConville (mother of ten, who is one of the Disappeared), Dolours Price, Brendan Hughes, and Gerry Adams, the latter three all pivotal, larger-than-life members of the IRA. Told mostly in a chronological manner, there are many themes of dedication, betrayal, retribution, etc. and the eventual peace process, culminating in the Good Friday Agreement (a/k/a Got Fuck All to the militant faction) and Gerry Adams complete denial of his leadership role in the IRA. I especially liked the reveals about the spies for each group, and the legal battle over the Belfast Project at Boston College, which secretly interviewed over 100 participants in the IRA and the Ulster Volunteer Force, where confidentiality was promised until all the participants were deceased.
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  • Chris
    January 1, 1970
    When Dolores O’Riordan of the Cranberries died, some people said “Dreams” or “Linger” was the band’s best song. But for many people, myself include, it was “Zombie”, the song about the Troubles in Northern Ireland. It isn’t that the U2 songs about it are bad – “Sunday, Bloody Sunday” is powerful – but “Zombie” is so rare that powerful doesn’t even begin to describe it. It is the sense of horrible lose and pain. And you can’t help but think of that song why reading Keefe’s account of the Troubles When Dolores O’Riordan of the Cranberries died, some people said “Dreams” or “Linger” was the band’s best song. But for many people, myself include, it was “Zombie”, the song about the Troubles in Northern Ireland. It isn’t that the U2 songs about it are bad – “Sunday, Bloody Sunday” is powerful – but “Zombie” is so rare that powerful doesn’t even begin to describe it. It is the sense of horrible lose and pain. And you can’t help but think of that song why reading Keefe’s account of the Troubles. Keefe primarily focuses on the family of Jean McConville, a woman who was one of the Disappeared; Dolours Price, a member of the IRA; as well as Gerry Adams and Brenden Hughes. To say that the reporting in this book is gripping is an understatement. In addition to the personal stories that drive the narrative, the book also considers Boston College’s interviews with both republicans and loyalists. So, the book isn’t so much a history of the IRA or the Troubles, but of the impact of the Troubles or the effect of the Troubles upon people. The most tragic part of the book is the story of the McConville family, whose story is the driving force behind the narrative and opens and closes the book. Jean McConville was abducted on night, her children were ostracized by a community as well, and what happens after treads on several Irish issues. It is interesting that for some reason I thought the number of Disappeared in the Troubles was higher than what Keefe states. This speaks to the pain, trauma, and horror of simply having a family member go missing. His examination of whether McConville (a Protestant who had married a Catholic) was an informer or not is well done. Memory is a slippery thing, and Keefe is careful when he relies on memory. Keefe also looks at the IRA, not so much Gerry Adams, but the foot soldiers who Adams would eventually disavow. Primary he does with the Price sisters who were somewhat famous. They are also an example of what happens when young and pretty women do something. Part of what Keefe notes is the looks of the Price sisters contributed to how the media and people viewed them. But Keefe looks beyond the media and appearance. The impact of prison on the women is examined as well as their changing political views. Dolours Price may not get as sympathetic hearing as the McConville children but Keefe treats her and other IRA members with understanding. It is this question of fairness and history that also is used when dealing with Boston College and the interviews. The project of recording interviews and the various problems this important idea of recording interviews is dealt with but so are the complications. This is really a stunning piece of journalism.
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  • Mike
    January 1, 1970
    Pretty riveting, especially for an idiot like me who knew nothing about the Troubles.Like a long, well-written magazine article, this is a history told through the intertwined stories of a number of the principal figures. Dolours Price, for example, who drove ‘touts’ to their deaths across the border in the Republic, whose idea it was to export car bombings to London, and who later married the actor Stephen Rea (a Protestant), from The Crying Game; Brandon Hughes, the man of action whose relatio Pretty riveting, especially for an idiot like me who knew nothing about the Troubles.Like a long, well-written magazine article, this is a history told through the intertwined stories of a number of the principal figures. Dolours Price, for example, who drove ‘touts’ to their deaths across the border in the Republic, whose idea it was to export car bombings to London, and who later married the actor Stephen Rea (a Protestant), from The Crying Game; Brandon Hughes, the man of action whose relationship with Gerry Adams waxes and wanes over the years, Adams the sort of Leninesque figure you always seem to find at the heads of revolutionary movements, calculating the political capital of starvation and death; and then there’s the large McConville family, ten kids, whose mother is abducted one night in Belfast in 1972, leaving most of them to grow up in orphanages with everything that entails, including priests who like the kids to sit on their laps. For decades afterwards, they wonder if the IRA killed their mother because she once showed kindness to a wounded British soldier. I learned a lot from this book. Then again, I knew so little. One thing I found myself wondering about was that old question of how much of life is determined for us before we have any say at all. Those McConville kids, for example, never had a chance. Dolours’s father, Albert, when she was little, “liked to reminisce about beloved comrades whom the British had hanged, and [she] grew up thinking that this was the most natural thing in the world…” Or maybe the turning point was years later, after the student march that she took part in on January 1st, 1969, was ambushed and stoned? Another thing that struck me was learning what life was like for these people afterwards- after the violence, after the prison time and the hunger strikes, after the dance with history- the lifelong aftermath of violence and trauma. Which is to say, there never really is an afterwards. Life gets to feel like an extended epilogue of drinking and (mis?)remembering, and, against reason, nostalgia for that brief time you spent on the world stage. Except for Adams, it seems, who becomes a politician, an effective one, while denying that he was ever a part of the IRA. Or, as Keefe puts it, Adams's father, Gerry Sr., had been an IRA man as well, and had taken part in a campaign during the 1940s that fit squarely into the long republican history of noble failure. When Adams was growing up, he would see veterans of earlier conflicts hanging out at...a social club that his father had helped to found, where men like Albert Price would drink and tell war stories and ruminate about what could have been. It was almost as if 'defeat suited them better than victory', in the words of one historian, 'for there was a sense in which Irish republicanism thrived on oppression and the isolated exclusivity that came with it'...To be sure, there was a doomed romance in the notion of republican failure, a poetry in those archetypes of futility. But Gerry Adams was not a romantic.
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  • Susan Johnson
    January 1, 1970
    I generally don't read non-fiction but the two best books I have read this year are that genre and this is one of them. I have always wanted to read a clear, concise and understandable book about the Irish troubles. I am going to admit my prejudices here. I have never understood why anyone would want the British in their country. Now I get it, for their protection. I think the U.S. sympathy was always with the IRA and I remember the activism in the 1970's for them. I think this is our natural i I generally don't read non-fiction but the two best books I have read this year are that genre and this is one of them. I have always wanted to read a clear, concise and understandable book about the Irish troubles. I am going to admit my prejudices here. I have never understood why anyone would want the British in their country. Now I get it, for their protection. I think the U.S. sympathy was always with the IRA and I remember the activism in the 1970's for them. I think this is our natural inclination due to our own history with British rule. I see things differently now and am shocked by the abuses. The kidnapping and murder of a young widow with 10 children is reprehensible and I did not buy that she was an informant and recognized by her shoes supposedly. I also found excess and abuses on both sides and no one comes out a hero except the families who were struggling just to survive, keep their heads low and live some kind of life. The British come off very badly and I am glad the important papers are lodged at Boston University. The author provides lots of interesting details and writes in such an informative style that I was captivated from beginning to end. This was a quite complex situation that finally made sense to me after reading this book. I highly recommend it.
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  • BAM The Bibliomaniac
    January 1, 1970
    Buddy read with my bestie
  • Shannon
    January 1, 1970
    From the description of this book, I thought it was mostly about Jean McConville, the woman who disappeared during the Troubles. And I thought that the history of the Troubles would come second, but I was much mistaken. Jean is barely mentioned in the first half of the book and instead we are treated to an in depth discussion of what the Troubles were and what led to them, with introductions to far too many characters for me to keep track of. The more I read, the more I wished the author would f From the description of this book, I thought it was mostly about Jean McConville, the woman who disappeared during the Troubles. And I thought that the history of the Troubles would come second, but I was much mistaken. Jean is barely mentioned in the first half of the book and instead we are treated to an in depth discussion of what the Troubles were and what led to them, with introductions to far too many characters for me to keep track of. The more I read, the more I wished the author would finally start telling us about Jean, as that is what drew me to this book in the first place. It's not until 40% that we start to find out more about Jean, and since the notes section starts at 60% of the total book, this is 2/3 of the way through.The book itself is well-written and filled with interesting information. My main issues lies with the way it is marketed, or more accurately, what I perceived the book to be about. It is not a true crime book where we follow around detectives or amateur sleuths. More than anything, it is a modern history book about the Troubles, their legacy, and a few key players during this time. The McConvilles as a whole have a rather small part, despite what the description and the introduction would have you believe. Every time a new chapter started that introduced a new character and pushed the actual solving of the crime farther off, I found myself wanting to skim since I knew there was no way I was going to remember yet another name.2.5 stars rounded up since it was more of a perception issue than an issue with the book itself.I received a free copy of this book through Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.
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  • Martin
    January 1, 1970
    One of the most eye opening and gut wrenching pieces of non fiction that I’ve read. Highly recommended for anyone curious about the conflict in Northern Ireland
  • Sarah
    January 1, 1970
    I wrote this review for Really Into ThisCheck out all of our reviews at https://reallyintothis.comHappy Reading, friends!SAY NOTHING BY PATRICK RADDEN KEEFE BOOK REVIEWA deep dive into the crime-ridden & tumultuous history of Northern Ireland.WHAT HAPPENED TO JEAN?Immediately, I need to know what happened to Jean McConville. As soon as the mother of ten is kidnapped from her home, I’m fully invested in this book. Jean’s story is terrifying & my heart breaks for her ten children.Quickly, I wrote this review for Really Into ThisCheck out all of our reviews at https://reallyintothis.comHappy Reading, friends!SAY NOTHING BY PATRICK RADDEN KEEFE BOOK REVIEWA deep dive into the crime-ridden & tumultuous history of Northern Ireland.WHAT HAPPENED TO JEAN?Immediately, I need to know what happened to Jean McConville. As soon as the mother of ten is kidnapped from her home, I’m fully invested in this book. Jean’s story is terrifying & my heart breaks for her ten children.Quickly, Keefe introduces us to the Price sisters, Marian & Dolours. We learn of their fight for an independent Ireland through their militant & dangerous behavior. Through Keefe’s writing & reporting, I’m able to understand the Price sisters are complicated. Their strongly held beliefs that Ireland should be Independent is shrouded in secrecy, murder & lies. I found them both despicable, yet I was intrigued by their devotion to their cause.FULL OF IMPORTANT HISTORYGet ready for the best kind of history lesson. No doubt Patrick Radden Keefe does his due diligence with Say Nothing. While reading this novel, I’m enthralled with all the details & history surrounding Northern Ireland & Great Britain. If you’re not a history or crime buff, just give it a bit. Like anything worth having, the story takes time. Keefe builds the (very true) narrative bit by bit. Before you know it, you’re fully engrossed in this time period. By the end, I’m burning through the pages.UNCOVERING THE TRUTHFor me, the heart of the story is family & ideals. We see how the ideals of an individual group affect so many. Despite countless crimes, attacks & so many secrets, the cause of the Price sisters (& their brethren) is not successful to date.With horrible crimes, victims can often be forgotten. We know all too well that it’s not just victims who suffer, but also their families. Readers come to know how the kidnapping of Jean changed the life of all her children in different ways. I appreciate how much time Keefe spent discussing the children of Jean McConville.During his research, Keefe possibly solves a huge part of the Jean McConville disappearance. This is where his journalism skills shine the best. Through years of research, he’s pieced together so much. So, when looking at a particular statement, something clicks. It’s pretty amazing & you can read more about it here.THE VERDICTI am Really Into This book! Patrick Radden Keefe writes a historical true-crime masterpiece with Say Anything. As I’m writing this review & discussing the story with my Dad, I realize how much I learned reading this book. Say Anything is timely, enthralling & informative.If you’re Really Into true crime, be sure to check out my reviews of I’ll be Gone in The Dark, Sons of Cain, The Stranger Beside Me & Goat Castle. Special thanks to Patrick Radden Keefe, Doubleday & NetGalley for providing my copy in exchange for an honest & fair review.
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  • Paddy
    January 1, 1970
    I grew up during the Troubles and many of the events described in this narrative are chillingly familiar to me. Keefe’s book is meticulously researched and I was gripped from start to finish.
  • Nancy Oakes
    January 1, 1970
    Stunning, brilliant, superlative. Obviously I loved it. more to come.
  • Scott Hitchcock
    January 1, 1970
    4.5*'sWhen I read Malazan I often think of Darujhistan or other cities as being similar to those in Asia, Africa or the Middle East. Even Lether reminds me more of the US. This crazy real life story happening in Ireland and England could be straight out of that world with assassins, bombs going off like magic, hunger strikes and protests, influences crossing global lines. Even within the Irish community the hatred and mistrust between the Catholics and the Protestants where you weren't safe cros 4.5*'sWhen I read Malazan I often think of Darujhistan or other cities as being similar to those in Asia, Africa or the Middle East. Even Lether reminds me more of the US. This crazy real life story happening in Ireland and England could be straight out of that world with assassins, bombs going off like magic, hunger strikes and protests, influences crossing global lines. Even within the Irish community the hatred and mistrust between the Catholics and the Protestants where you weren't safe crossing out of one community into another or you weren't Catholic enough for the Catholics or too Catholic for the Protestants could make you a target. People thought to be traitors or informants disappearing in the night. Crossing over into America and even an institution like Boston College and American Politicas playing a role. English terrorism back at the Irish. Margaret Thatcher's prominent role and what knowledge did she have in the abuse of people who were part of the empire and yet not treated as equals.
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  • Caidyn (SEMI-HIATUS; BW Reviews; he/him/his)
    January 1, 1970
    This review can also be found on my blog!CW: death, kidnapping, anorexia, starvation, forced feeding, alcoholism, and drug useRight as I finished this book, my first thought was: “What a shame that the murder got lost in this book.” There was lots of murder, but the murder that this book was supposedly about got lost in the story. Lost as Jean McConville was in reality.This book is a fine book. I learned a whole hell of a lot. See, I was born around the time that The Troubles ended. I also wasn’ This review can also be found on my blog!CW: death, kidnapping, anorexia, starvation, forced feeding, alcoholism, and drug useRight as I finished this book, my first thought was: “What a shame that the murder got lost in this book.” There was lots of murder, but the murder that this book was supposedly about got lost in the story. Lost as Jean McConville was in reality.This book is a fine book. I learned a whole hell of a lot. See, I was born around the time that The Troubles ended. I also wasn’t born to an Irish Catholic family, so I didn’t carry that legacy of oppression in my veins. So, I never was exposed to this. For a few years now, I’ve been aware of the tensions between Ireland and Britain, but I wasn’t so aware of everything that happened.If you want a book where you find out about that insanity, this is the book for you.It was absolutely crazy for me to read because I had no idea that this happened in recent history. Irish Protestants and Catholics feuding in Northern Ireland because of the oppression that the Protestants put onto the Catholics. And then, when the Catholics fought back to gain equality and equity, the Protestants pushed back. Then the British military came in.And shit hit the fan.I’ve never read about domestic terrorism but, God, this book had it all. It was, honestly, insane. I cannot stress that enough. The things that each side did under the guise of being right and just blew my mind. Even more so since this whole war — and it was a war — ended when I was about two.In the midst of all this, there was a woman who went missing. Jean McConville. She had ten children and her husband passed away from cancer. That left her a widow. And, even worse, she was branded a sympathizer to the British. One day, she disappeared. She was never seen or heard from again until her bones were found three decades later. That’s a sad story by itself.The only problem is that the book focuses so much on the IRA (Irish Republican Army; i.e. Catholic militants) that she’s literally barely mentioned. I had to constantly look to remember her name. However, the book really makes it seem like this book is about finding her.Nope.It’s all about talking about The Troubles and things that happened. The McConville’s story is a footnote. The description basically gives a full summary of what you need to know about the case since it doesn’t elaborate much. You get more information, but it’s barely mentioned and I felt the whole time as if you could remove it completely and not miss anything.Which is horrible to say, isn’t it? The poor woman died in 1972 after likely being tortured for information, was buried in an unmarked grave, and wasn’t found until 2003. Even now, it’s unlikely that those who killed her will come to trial because one is now a famous politician in Ireland. Yet, she was gone and forgotten.It was a good book. Don’t get me wrong. I learned a whole lot about Ireland and The Troubles. It makes me want to go and read more just because I found the topic so fascinating. However, I wish the book had integrated more of McConville’s murder and the years of looking for her into the story. It just got lost.
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  • Rae
    January 1, 1970
    I finished this book over the weekend, and I’m still reeling from the weight of it in the best way possible. As an outsider, it is difficult to understand the implications of a conflict that has its roots in centuries past, but which still affects the lives of people in Northern Ireland today. Keefe’s book helps to unveil several of the central players in The Troubles, and to explore the difficulty of compiling a historical account of a conflict that no one who is involved wants to talk about. ⠀ I finished this book over the weekend, and I’m still reeling from the weight of it in the best way possible. As an outsider, it is difficult to understand the implications of a conflict that has its roots in centuries past, but which still affects the lives of people in Northern Ireland today. Keefe’s book helps to unveil several of the central players in The Troubles, and to explore the difficulty of compiling a historical account of a conflict that no one who is involved wants to talk about. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀Say Nothing is a deeply observant portrait of a country still reeling from the effects of a centuries old conflict. Centered around the story of one woman’s disappearance in the 1970’s in Northern Ireland, Keefe’s book reads more like historical nonfiction than like a true crime novel, but it is thoroughly gripping nonetheless, drawing true to life, nuanced portraits of his subjects. The cumulative effect of the book is fiercely human, affecting, and informative.⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀I would instantly recommend this book to anyone who has an interest in the history of Northern Ireland, but I would also recommend it as a haunting and breathtaking portrait of the human cost of conflict.⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀The title of the book, Say Nothing, is a reference to a poem by the famous Irish poet Seamus Heaney:⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀“Northern reticence, the tight gag of placeAnd times: yes, yes. Of the ‘wee six’ I singWhere to be saved you only must save faceAnd whatever you say, you say nothing.”Thanks to Doubleday for a free copy of this book. All opinions are my own.
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  • Kelsey
    January 1, 1970
    You should read this if you're into:Fascinating history, true crime, the Troubles of Northern Ireland, Protestant vs. Catholic conflict in Ireland, page turners, learning about things you may not know a whole lot about (if you're like me and you previously knew next to nothing about Northern Ireland!) 4.5
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  • Leah Green
    January 1, 1970
    Intricately detailed story about the conflict between the Protestants and the Catholics. History reimagined. Gripping and harrowing. Strong Characters. A must read for anyone curious about the history in Ireland. Touches on the IRA, The Troubles, and the English meddling in Irish politics. From the beginning to the aftermath. The struggle that divided an entire country. An absolute must read.
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  • Steven Z.
    January 1, 1970
    In reading Patrick Radden Keefe’s new book, SAY NOTHING: A TRUE STORY OF MURDER AND MEMORY IN NORTHERN IRELAND one has the feel they are inhaling a novel, a work of fiction that is drawing them into a complex plotline where it is hard to discern what is fact and what is fiction. But Keefe’s work is not fiction, but a recounting of the brutal events that are part of the history of Northern Ireland from the 1960s onward that includes extreme violence, personal heroism, ideological commitment, indi In reading Patrick Radden Keefe’s new book, SAY NOTHING: A TRUE STORY OF MURDER AND MEMORY IN NORTHERN IRELAND one has the feel they are inhaling a novel, a work of fiction that is drawing them into a complex plotline where it is hard to discern what is fact and what is fiction. But Keefe’s work is not fiction, but a recounting of the brutal events that are part of the history of Northern Ireland from the 1960s onward that includes extreme violence, personal heroism, ideological commitment, individual growth, ideological evolution, and the last vestiges of colonialism. The ongoing struggle between Catholics and Protestants; the Provisional Irish Republican Army and Protestant Unionists; the British army and its occupation are all played out from the “Time of Troubles” to an acceptable peace settlement. Keefe is a terrific storyteller who has created a true story of murder and memory in the context of the larger struggle that is and was Northern Ireland. Keefe accomplishes this by providing novelistic quality and pace which is the key to creating history that reads as if it is fiction.When asked in a New York Times podcast how he came to write the book, Keefe describes how he was reading the Times obituary of Dolours Price on January 23, 2013 and was attracted to the former IRA member and decided to dig further into her life story. As he became engrossed in her biography he came across Jean McConville, a Catholic mother of ten who was kidnapped, and whose fate would be buried for decades. The connection between the two women is a major theme of the book as it pulled together victims and perpetrators during the “Time of Troubles.”Keefe focuses on a few important individuals as his protagonists. Within this context are several families that come to the fore. The story unfolds as Jean McConville, at the age of 38 is kidnapped and seized in front of her children to be murdered by unionist thugs. Next, is the Price family that produced two daughters, Dolours and Marian who would experience the brutal unionist attack against a peaceful Catholic march on January 1, 1969 from Belfast to Derry. This would turn the sisters from their socialist and civil rights beliefs into joining the IRA. Radden reviews the history of Catholic v. Protestants, including important political, religious and socioeconomic points of view to place the reader in the moment as the “Time of Troubles” is about to commence. The British response to the violence is key as Catholics assumed that British troops were being sent to Belfast to protect them from Protestant violence, but in short order it was clear that their mission was to support the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) and B-Specials (anti-Catholic Unionist Auxiliary police).The history of the period is seen through the eyes of the McConville children as they have to cope with the loss of their mother, the separation of siblings into orphanages and other institutions, and living on the streets; the Price sisters who become key members of the violent wing of the IRA and carry out their operations until after years of imprisonment and hunger strikes they are released from prison and turn against the violence; and paramilitary leader turned politician, Gerry Adams and his alter ego, Brendan Hughes. In addition to these individuals’ other major characters impact the story. Reverend Ian Paisley, a radical Protestant preacher who calls for “religious cleansing” of Catholics; British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher who does not have an empathetic bone in her body when it comes to the Irish; and Frank Kitson, a British officer who excelled an counter-insurgency in putting down the Mau Mau rebellion in Kenya and was assigned to Belfast along with 30,000 troops to Northern Ireland to institute his theories in crushing a civilian led rebellion. In introducing his characters Keefe provides a mini-biography of each that is insightful and allows the reader to understand their role and place in history. What is amazing is how Keefe takes each character and deals with their emotional burdens.Keefe analyzes the strategies and tactics used by all sides in the conflict. He explores the creation of MRF by Kitson, an elite squad that infiltrates the IRA and carries out “interrogation in depth,” rather than “enhanced interrogation,” or just torture. The planning and implementation of Provisional bombings carried out, i.e.; in central London in 1973 and the trial that followed are investigated in depth as are several other operations. The conflict within the IRA between the Old Guard and the Provo’s is carefully dissected. The imprisonment, particularly of the Price sisters is examined carefully, in addition to the overall effect of Provo, Unionist, and British actions taken to achieve their agendas. But the main mystery that clouds the entire story surrounds the abduction of McConville. It will eventually take decades to learn what occurred that night, well into the 1990s when the children learn the truth and finally break their silence.A key to Keefe’s success as an author is his ability to integrate aspects of Irish history throughout the narrative be it the Great Famine, the Easter Rebellion of 1916, etc. As he tells his story Keefe weaves a few threads very effectively. Keefe concentrates on one aspect of his story, the plight of the McConville children, then switches to the Dolours Price planning a bombing operation, to the arrests and escapes of Gerry Adams and Brenden Hughes, or the hunger strike of Bobby Sands, elected to Parliament, but allowed to die in prison from a hunger strike. The components of the story seem diverse and unconnected, but Keefe can mesh the disparate elements for the reader which in the end come together.A key development in the history of the conflict is the supposed evolution of Gerry Adams from a paramilitary leader to a politician. Adams would come to realize that violence alone would not achieve his goals and believed a political component to the IRA strategy was called for. Adams believed that a political movement was needed to run parallel with the armed struggle, the Provo’s would carry out the armed strategy, the Sinn Fein the political as he is elected to parliament. It is fascinating how Adams can carry out his metamorphosis as the provisional IRA was illegal, and its political wing, the Sinn Fein was not. Keefe is correct in emphasizing the importance of how Adams successfully develops the IRA from a revolutionary cadre to a retail political outfit. Keefe is very careful as he confronts the war’s strange ending. Adam’s negotiates, but at the same time is planning and carrying out paramilitary operations. The split between the former “partners” Adams and Hughes is thoughtfully portrayed as is the split between Adams and Dolours Price. Keefe digs deep into their relationships as Adams seemed to suffer from amnesia concerning his role in the IRA, but for Hughes and Price he was their commanding officer who ordered them to carry out nasty operations. The result was Adams denied it all, and Hughes and Price passed away by 2013. Keefe’s approach is comprehensive and tries to uncover as many secrets as possible that are buried, bringing many to the attention of the public. Keefe has done all those involved in “The Troubles” a great service as his efforts lays out the past and hopefully it should help those involved to achieve some type of closure. Further, he describes the creation of the Belfast Project, an oral history of the “Time of Troubles” that is archived at Boston College which contains interviews that include Brendan Hughes that sparked a great deal of controversy and intrigue. However, when you approach the history of Northern Ireland from 1969 to the present one must remember that the civil war was so vicious that closure may be something to aspire to, but difficult to achieve. One last tidbit that Keefe brings up in the last pages of the book; wouldn’t it be ironic if Ireland is finally unified after all these years because of the Brexit vote, if so, the “Time of Troubles” needed have taken the course that it did – just a thought.
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  • Andie
    January 1, 1970
    My great grandmother emigrated from Londonderry in Northern Ireland to Chicago in 1880. She was a Orangewoman and hated Catholics with a vengeance. She passed that hatred down to my grandmother who every St. Patrick's Day would hang an orange banner on ther front porch of her house that read, "ONE KING, ONE CROWN, NO POPE IN OUR TOWN." As a young child, I just thought she was nuts and she became a figure of un in my young life. That is, until I traveled to the UK in the 1970's and saw first hand My great grandmother emigrated from Londonderry in Northern Ireland to Chicago in 1880. She was a Orangewoman and hated Catholics with a vengeance. She passed that hatred down to my grandmother who every St. Patrick's Day would hang an orange banner on ther front porch of her house that read, "ONE KING, ONE CROWN, NO POPE IN OUR TOWN." As a young child, I just thought she was nuts and she became a figure of un in my young life. That is, until I traveled to the UK in the 1970's and saw first hand what this internecine hatred had developed into. I came very close to being affected by IRA bombs in London and was subjected to having my bad and belongings searched at the entrance of every bar, restaurant, theater, or museum. The warfare of "The Troubles" thankfully ended with the Good Friday Accord of 1998, but with the specter of Brexit and the return of a hard border being reestablished between Northern Ireland and the Republic, the old tensions have started bubbling to the surface once again.Patrick Radden Keefe's book focuses on just one bloody incident in The Troubles: the abduction and murder of Jean McConville. a widow with ten children who was accused of being an informant to the British military. Keefe looks at what drove the violence: decades of discrimination against Catholics in employment, housing and schooling in the north, the desire for a unified Ireland, and teh almost consistent flat-footed nature of the occupying British military forces. Neighborhoods were segregated and marked by fences of concertina wire and people mostly kept to their own kind and were suspicious of anyone now known to them. Residents on both sides quickly learned that there was nothing worse that being an informer and people learned to keep their mouths shut.We meet two sisters, Dolours and Marilyn Price, who came from an IRA family and played significant roles in London IRA bombings, and probably in Jean McConville's murder. They were eventually caught, arrested and sentenced to a prison in England where they went on a hunger strike that does permanent damage to their health. We also meet Gerry Adams the leader of the Provisional IRA in the north as well as other more secondary players, all dedicated to uniting Ireland through force.At some point, Adams decides that more can be accomplished through negotiation than violence and becomes the "revered" politician he portrays today. However, in making himself respectable, he essentially threw many of his old comrades under the bus - a point that sat well with no one.The McConville children were eventually scattered into the Irish fostercare system - many of them enduring physical and sexual abuse at the hands of their caretakers. Even today, they frequently see the old neighbors who entered their home and took their mother away. when asked why they don't now, at last, go to the police and press charges, tehy talk about reprisals and say that it is just better to say nothing.
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  • Emily
    January 1, 1970
    To say that this is a groundbreaking and informative book about a topic I was eager to learn about is to undersell it, because I also found it completely mesmerizing and hauntingly written. The scope of it snuck up on me. At first I thought it would draw loops of context and detail around a single family's experience during the Troubles--the family of Jean McConville, who was abducted from her home in front of her ten surviving children, never to be seen again. Then I saw that it was about the w To say that this is a groundbreaking and informative book about a topic I was eager to learn about is to undersell it, because I also found it completely mesmerizing and hauntingly written. The scope of it snuck up on me. At first I thought it would draw loops of context and detail around a single family's experience during the Troubles--the family of Jean McConville, who was abducted from her home in front of her ten surviving children, never to be seen again. Then I saw that it was about the whole career of the Provisional IRA and some of its members like Gerry Adams and Dolours Price, as they went on to live seemingly respectable public or private lives. Then I realized that it all went together, in a compulsively readable mystery that also bears the weight of history.It seems silly to suggest that I could spoil a work of nonfiction when many of the facts are familiar--especially to people older than me. (My first notice of the conflict came in the '90s, and I never felt I understood the contours or rationale of it until I read this book.) But the unwrapping is so skillful that I still don't want to spoil it. Instead, let me include a few passages that I think exemplify the excellent writing style which is smooth and unexcitable but consistently evocative and alert to surprising details.Michael [McConville] scoffed at any notion that his mother could have been some sort of spy. She was an overworked, depressed, psychologically fragile mother of ten who had just lost her husband to cancer. She spent her days cocooned in her flat, smoking cigarettes and juggling children and doing laundry by hand. What information could she possibly provide?Or,But on account of their youth, perhaps, or the almost hallucinatory fever of their own righteousness, Price and her compatriots seemed eerily detached from the gravity and potential consequences of the [bombing] mission they were about to undertake. Besides, they were in London, a city more vast and freewheeling than their own. The heart of empire it may have been, but London was also, indisputably, a fun place to visit. So the young terrorists went sightseeing. Roisin McNearney paid a visit to Buckingham Palace. Some of the men defied Price’s admonition and went out and got drunk, so drunk that one of them would later have to be carried out of the pub.A final point of interest for me was the very serious warning against shoddy planning of controversial documentation projects. Librarians and archivists should give this a read for professional reasons as well.
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  • Michael Martz
    January 1, 1970
    Quoting the author in his 'A Note on Sources': "...in Belfast, history is alive and dangerous". I'm not sure truer words have ever been spoken. This is a jarring book, especially to one of the millions Americans with Irish blood who thought he knew enough about the 'Troubles'. I didn't."Say Nothing", by Patrick Radden Keefe, tells the story of the civil war between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland in the back half of the 20th century through the true story of the kidnapping of a youn Quoting the author in his 'A Note on Sources': "...in Belfast, history is alive and dangerous". I'm not sure truer words have ever been spoken. This is a jarring book, especially to one of the millions Americans with Irish blood who thought he knew enough about the 'Troubles'. I didn't."Say Nothing", by Patrick Radden Keefe, tells the story of the civil war between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland in the back half of the 20th century through the true story of the kidnapping of a young widowed Protestant mother of 10 by an IRA team. That just kicks things off- the remainder of the book follows several important characters among the outlawed Irish Republican Army (IRA), the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC), various other factions of the groups, the British army, and politicians. Acts of terrorism that I recall vaguely are reported in detail via interviews with the actual participants (and in some cases, surviving victims). As the author states, "This is not a history book but a work of narrative nonfiction". Everything in it was conveyed to Mr. Keefe from interviews with sources and extensive research. There are nearly 70 pages of footnotes and bibliography. I think we all know the ending with the Good Friday Agreement, but how the parties got there is absolutely remarkable and likely not well known to most Americans, Irish background or not.I don't read much nonfiction. The best of the genre tends to read like fiction- quickly paced, lively narration, etc. This ain't that. It's a dense book, well written in a very straightforward manner, and it doesn't move along all that quickly. But the content, and the skill and tenacity the author needed to build the story, is top notch. I also only read nonfiction if I can learn a lot from it and I can truly say that my knowledge of the Troubles has been exponentially increased. Patrick Redden Keefe has created a great work here and I highly recommend it.Update: Context is everything, I suppose. Here's another critique of this book by someone who had a little more experience with the topic than I had when I read it... https://www.irishcentral.com/homepage...
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