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In 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 fea In 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. Patrick Radden Keefe writes an intricate narrative about a notorious killing in Northern Ireland and its devastating repercussions.


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In 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 fea In 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. Patrick Radden Keefe writes an intricate narrative about a notorious killing in Northern Ireland and its devastating repercussions.

30 review for Say Nothing: A True Story of Murder and Memory in Northern Ireland

  1. 4 out of 5

    William2

    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) could 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.

  2. 4 out of 5

    megs_bookrack

    Very impressive, Radden Keefe. Very impressive, indeed. 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. It follows events, particularly centered in Belfast, beginning in 1969 through the Good Friday Agreement of 1998. Bookending Radden Keefe's extraordinary compilation of this history is the story of a mother of ten, Jean McConville, who was forcibly taken from her home in la Very impressive, Radden Keefe. Very impressive, indeed. 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. It follows events, particularly centered in Belfast, beginning in 1969 through the Good Friday Agreement of 1998. Bookending Radden Keefe's extraordinary compilation of this history 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 widely believed, 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 narrative 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.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Rachel

    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.

  4. 4 out of 5

    jessica

    how PRK has structured this work of narrative nonfiction is an architectural feat. at the heart of this book is the disappearance of a single women and the multiple factors and people that played into her murder. the way the lives of so many key individuals weave in and out of this is really quite exciting. the troubles are only something i have vaguely heard about, which could be due to the culture of silence surrounding the times (see title), as well as my own lack of researching. but because o how PRK has structured this work of narrative nonfiction is an architectural feat. at the heart of this book is the disappearance of a single women and the multiple factors and people that played into her murder. the way the lives of so many key individuals weave in and out of this is really quite exciting. the troubles are only something i have vaguely heard about, which could be due to the culture of silence surrounding the times (see title), as well as my own lack of researching. but because of that, even though i know this is nonfiction, i am still so surprised that the people i read about are real, so surreal to google them and see photographs and actual video footage of them. i love how the writing made this feel like an engaging true crime novel. the storytelling is accessible, its concise, and, again, compiled in a way that doesnt feel like nonfiction. which is exactly what i needed to enjoy this. this is a highly informative book that taught me so much about a brutal period of time in a way that didnt feel like learning, but more like i was seeing a complex investigation play out from beginning to end. ↠ 4.5 stars

  5. 5 out of 5

    Richard (on hiatus)

    The Troubles in Northern Ireland were constantly in the background as I grew up. From the age of about ten or so (in 1970) I remember constant news footage of bombed out streets, soldiers patrolling in armoured vehicles, political killings and groups of kids throwing stones at the police. Say Nothing, the award winning work by journalist Patrick Radden Keefe has added greatly to my perspective. Britain has for centuries had an uneasy and often disastrous relationship with Ireland. The seemingly un The Troubles in Northern Ireland were constantly in the background as I grew up. From the age of about ten or so (in 1970) I remember constant news footage of bombed out streets, soldiers patrolling in armoured vehicles, political killings and groups of kids throwing stones at the police. Say Nothing, the award winning work by journalist Patrick Radden Keefe has added greatly to my perspective. Britain has for centuries had an uneasy and often disastrous relationship with Ireland. The seemingly unsolvable problem that came to a head at the end of the 60’s was that, although a majority of people in the island of Ireland wanted independence from Britain, the majority of those in Northern Ireland wanted to remain part of the U.K. (Ireland was partitioned in 1921) In 1968 a civil rights demonstration was ambushed by loyalists in Derry - thus began the terrible cycle of violence that would last for about 30 years. This very readable account of the turbulent years of strife has a famous mystery at its heart. The disappearance of Jean McConville. On a bleak, winters evening in 1972 a disparate group of people turned up at the McConvilles door in the the Divis Flats (‘a dank and hulking public housing complex in West Belfast’.) They burst in and dragged Jean, a single mother of ten, out of the building at gunpoint, leaving her children alone and very frightened. Were they the IRA, neighbours? Jean was never seen again. In telling these stories of The Troubles, Keefe focuses largely on the personal testimony of key republican figures, much of which has recently come into the public domain - the accounts are fascinating, chilling and sad. We get acquainted with the Price sisters who become key IRA members at a young age, Brendan Hughes the hard line IRA leader and Gerry Adams IRA leader who became a Sinn Fein politician. We hear terrible things from all sides. Persecution of communities, segregation, internment without trial, executions, bombing campaigns, the killing of innocent bystanders, hunger strikes etc. Much research also went into the stories of a number of people, including Jean McConville, who disappeared without a trace at this time. We also hear interesting stuff about the hard line republicans turning on Gerry Adams as he worked for a political solution ........ and washed his hands of the past. So many red lines crossed and sacrifices made, they thought, for nothing. We eventually get to Bill Clinton, Tony Blair, the decommissioning of arms and the Good Friday Agreement which signalled an end to (most of) the hostilities and (some of) the unease. Patrick Radden Keefe is an American author and is able to add a tone of impartiality to the writing. He talks about the many injustices and wrongs perpetrated by the British and loyalist paramilitaries over the years (the horror of Bloody Sunday etc), but he is certainly no apologist for the atrocities carried out by the IRA, whose combination of ‘vindictiveness and clumsiness’ were often their hallmark. He also discusses the dangerous naivety of American benefactors of the IRA, and writes in detail about the Boston College based ‘Belfast Project’ which attempted to secure and store testimonies of leading republicans, to be released after their deaths. Say Nothing is a gripping and accessible way to get some understanding of The Troubles in Northern Ireland .......... and you may ask - is the terrible mystery of what happened to Jean McConville solved by the end of this account? Best read the book and find out. Much recommended. Ps I recently visited Belfast, it’s a wonderful, friendly city. It’ll be a tragedy if the the unrest sparked by Brexit complications intensifies.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Matt

    “[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 fatefully, 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.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Elyse Walters

    Audiobook, read by Matthew Blaney. Matthew has an engaging Irish accent and was easy to understand. WOW & YIKES (as for this book).... TRUE CRIME.....ha,.... in just 14 hours and 40 minutes!!! .....I had no idea what I was getting into. MY MOUTH DROPPED at the start.....( horrific tragedy).... not something I ever got over. The storytelling was intimate with ordinary but real characters... who were IN TROUBLE! .....fascinating & informative —most of the time—- I started to zone out in parts of my l Audiobook, read by Matthew Blaney. Matthew has an engaging Irish accent and was easy to understand. WOW & YIKES (as for this book).... TRUE CRIME.....ha,.... in just 14 hours and 40 minutes!!! .....I had no idea what I was getting into. MY MOUTH DROPPED at the start.....( horrific tragedy).... not something I ever got over. The storytelling was intimate with ordinary but real characters... who were IN TROUBLE! .....fascinating & informative —most of the time—- I started to zone out in parts of my listening.... but then I’d come back. There is a lot to digest... but I’m glad I tackled it. The history, (education for me), suspense, and intensity was HEARTBREAKING and just so SAD!!! ....SO MUCH history of political violence in Northern Ireland. I still don’t understand everything ....but I understand the nightmare that religion and nationalism can be. And I understand when somebody is trying to save their ass and not admit the truth. I don’t read a lot of true crime whodunit non-fiction books that read like a thriller, so when I do, they stand out... as this one does. Incredible research, details, and atmosphere.... I learned a lot about what encompassed ‘the troubles’, and the repercussions that followed. Heartbreak storytelling!

  8. 4 out of 5

    Paula

    National Book Award nominee 2019 National Book Critics Circle nominee 2019 Fantastic history about The Troubles. I listened to the audiobook and was enthralled from page one. The book really gave a good historical account of Northern Island during the difficulties with Britain. I thoroughly enjoyed listening to the history and getting a more balanced account of what was going on. I felt for the individuals going through all the trauma. The Sisters were so amazing. They gave so much to their countr National Book Award nominee 2019 National Book Critics Circle nominee 2019 Fantastic history about The Troubles. I listened to the audiobook and was enthralled from page one. The book really gave a good historical account of Northern Island during the difficulties with Britain. I thoroughly enjoyed listening to the history and getting a more balanced account of what was going on. I felt for the individuals going through all the trauma. The Sisters were so amazing. They gave so much to their country. Odd that I just saw Steven Rea on a show last evening. Husband to one of the Sisters... If you want any knowledge about Northern Island and The Troubles, do read. Fantastic. 5 out of 5 stars

  9. 5 out of 5

    Erin

    Everything you have heard or read about this book is true. Say Nothing is THE nonfiction book of 2019. My review specifically will focus on my experience with the Audiobook. In Belfast, history is alive-and dangerous What compels an American journalist living in the United States to bring forth to readers the political violence that held the Irish public in a vice grip from 1916-1998? For Patrick Radden Keefe, it wasn't his 19th century Irish roots on his father's side. It was to bring to r Everything you have heard or read about this book is true. Say Nothing is THE nonfiction book of 2019. My review specifically will focus on my experience with the Audiobook. In Belfast, history is alive-and dangerous What compels an American journalist living in the United States to bring forth to readers the political violence that held the Irish public in a vice grip from 1916-1998? For Patrick Radden Keefe, it wasn't his 19th century Irish roots on his father's side. It was to bring to readers attention how exactly radicalization can not only make people do anything and everything to achieve their cause, but it can also lead a whole society to stay silent on all that happens. Even when innocent civilians are caught in its midst. Keefe opens his novel with the disappearance of mother of ten, Jean McConville, in 1972. Her disappearance serves as a vehicle in which Keefe unfolds his story. This is not a true crime novel. Rather, Keefe peels back the layers of secrecy and focuses his attention on some of the major players of the IRA (Irish Republican Army) and their actions during this time. To borrow from an online book reviewer, Say Nothing provides readers with a panoramic analysis that leads us down many dark alleys and even into the political forum as well. Considering the author has four years of research, seven trips to Ireland, and interviews with over 100 people to weave into a book. The reader and or listener is given a very detailed perspective of the events. There were places where I would have to "playback," just to make sure that I got my facts straight. But what added to the experience was the rich narration provided by Matthew Blaney, a man whose Northern Irish accent immediately transported me from my kitchen to all the events in Belfast. As I finished this novel Northern Ireland is seeing more tension along their border as its citizens deal with the turmoil over Brexit and the recent killing of Irish journalist Lyra McKee earlier this month has caused many of its citizens to remember the times of the Troubles. Just today I read an article online that asked if Northern Ireland could ever move beyond their troubled past. If I was to take away anything from this book, is that there never will be closure if everyone takes their secrets to the grave and say nothing. Audiobook narrated by Matthew Blaney 14h 40 minutes 38secs

  10. 5 out of 5

    Matt

    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/...

  11. 5 out of 5

    Beverly

    IRA Terrorists kill innocent victim Being of Irish heritage, my grandfather was a Quinn, I've always been intrigued by "The Troubles", but have never read a non-fiction book about it until now. This is a fine place to start. Keefe's story is heartbreaking and impeccably researched. In 1972, Jean McConville was kidnapped from her home by a dozen women and men in disguise. She had about 8 of her 10 children living at home who witnessed her abduction. Her son Archie, 16 at the time, tried to go to wi IRA Terrorists kill innocent victim Being of Irish heritage, my grandfather was a Quinn, I've always been intrigued by "The Troubles", but have never read a non-fiction book about it until now. This is a fine place to start. Keefe's story is heartbreaking and impeccably researched. In 1972, Jean McConville was kidnapped from her home by a dozen women and men in disguise. She had about 8 of her 10 children living at home who witnessed her abduction. Her son Archie, 16 at the time, tried to go to with her, but the gun men told him to "f. . .off" back to their apartment. He did. His mother's last words to him were, "Look after the children. " They never saw her again. The McConvilles had just lost their father, who died right before this and Jean was not doing well. They lived in abject poverty. She was keeping the family together, though. Now they would be split apart. After a while of being on their own The children were farmed out to various Catholic children's homes in which they endured physical and sexual abuse under what have been derided as "The Sisters of No Mercy". A true innocent, Jean has been vilified then and still today as an informant by the IRA. Here the author wishes to clear her name for her children and also get a measure of justice denied her all these years by the IRA and the people of Belfast, and the British government. No one cared about her disappearance, except for her children whose lives depended on her. This is a tragedy and an in depth look into the terrorist and what he or she is willing to do for an idea. Are innocents to be slaughtered for the greater good? Who are they to decide? And what if she were an informant? Is death an appropriate response?The particular role of female terrorists is particularly looked at here. How can they go on to become wives and mothers, which many did, while advocating the death of a mother?

  12. 4 out of 5

    Johann (jobis89)

    “All wars are fought twice, the first time on the battlefield, the second time in memory.” - Viet Thanh Nguyen. Back in school when I was selecting which subjects I wanted to progress with for A-Level, my History teacher at the time tried to convince me to continue to study History. I told him that although I loved his classes, I knew we would cover more Northern Irish history and I just couldn’t face it. I had heard enough. It didn’t feel like “history” when it was still looming over our lives - “All wars are fought twice, the first time on the battlefield, the second time in memory.” - Viet Thanh Nguyen. Back in school when I was selecting which subjects I wanted to progress with for A-Level, my History teacher at the time tried to convince me to continue to study History. I told him that although I loved his classes, I knew we would cover more Northern Irish history and I just couldn’t face it. I had heard enough. It didn’t feel like “history” when it was still looming over our lives - relations have improved greatly, but a divide still exists. Fast forward 15 years later and frankly I’m surprised that I even wanted to pick this up. Yet I’m glad I did because it has cemented itself as one of the best non-fiction books I’ve ever read - it was informative, accessible, and the story just felt human. Historical books can often feel like a lot of names and dates, coming across as cold and factual, but Keefe manages to narrate the story of The Troubles through focusing on a number of the key players and telling the story of the abduction and murder of Jean McConville, a widowed mother of ten who was lifted from her home one night and never seen again. One of my main concerns about any of the books about The Troubles, including this one, was that they would be biased. And although Say Nothing primarily focuses on the IRA and the republican side of the fighting, their actions are presented factually - at no point did I feel like Keefe‘s own personal feelings toward either side were apparent. Although in the very final chapter he does highlight those who he thinks should be held accountable for the murder of McConville. If you know nothing, or very little, about The Troubles in Northern Ireland, this is a fantastic book to start with. Or even if you feel like you already know a lot, like I did, you’ll still learn a few things. Hands down, my favourite book of the year so far. The ease with which Keefe handled such a complex and sensitive topic has floored me. 5 stars.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Esil

    It took me a long time to get through this audiobook, but it was definitely worth it. I grew up in Canada hearing about the “troubles” in Northern Ireland, but I only had the vaguest idea of Irish history. Last summer, I was in the Republic of Ireland and really appreciated the vivid introduction to Irish history and culture. I seem to have caught the bug, because this summer I will be traveling to Northern Ireland. Say Nothing is a great look at some of the causes and consequences of the North’ It took me a long time to get through this audiobook, but it was definitely worth it. I grew up in Canada hearing about the “troubles” in Northern Ireland, but I only had the vaguest idea of Irish history. Last summer, I was in the Republic of Ireland and really appreciated the vivid introduction to Irish history and culture. I seem to have caught the bug, because this summer I will be traveling to Northern Ireland. Say Nothing is a great look at some of the causes and consequences of the North’s fraught history. The author has done in depth research into the plight of two women on different sides of the conflict. Jean McConville, the mother of 10 children, disappeared in 1972. Dolres Price was a young active member of the IRA in the 1970s, imprisoned for many years. Keefe makes no apologies for anyone’s behaviour but he gives context to the events. It’s an intense deep dive into recent history. It felt a bit too dense at times, but it really comes together at the end as Keefe ties some loose ends as best he can. Strongly recommended to anyone with an interest in this part of history. If you listen to the audio, the narrator has a lovely Irish accent.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Natasha Niezgoda

    I couldn't finish this audiobook. I FEEL TERRIBLE. But I had a difficult time following along between the narration and the plotline. It kept jumping between the murder and then the history of Belfast. So by the time you reconnected with the murder, the details were fuzzy because you had just listened to an hour of religion versus state historical facts. Does that make sense? I couldn't finish this audiobook. I FEEL TERRIBLE. But I had a difficult time following along between the narration and the plotline. It kept jumping between the murder and then the history of Belfast. So by the time you reconnected with the murder, the details were fuzzy because you had just listened to an hour of religion versus state historical facts. Does that make sense?

  15. 4 out of 5

    Somethingsnotright

    I married a Belfast man and was astonished and enthralled by his, and his family's, stories about the euphemistically named "Troubles". His uncle was a prison guard in Long Kesh and told how the opposing factions in jail would put on a show of aggression and enmity for camera-wielding reporters and, once they had left, go back to joking and chatting. He thought they were all idiots - "even those Orange bastards. Sure, they're no better than the other ones". His cousin was in the RUC and told of I married a Belfast man and was astonished and enthralled by his, and his family's, stories about the euphemistically named "Troubles". His uncle was a prison guard in Long Kesh and told how the opposing factions in jail would put on a show of aggression and enmity for camera-wielding reporters and, once they had left, go back to joking and chatting. He thought they were all idiots - "even those Orange bastards. Sure, they're no better than the other ones". His cousin was in the RUC and told of having to check his car for explosive devices every day, living at a level of stress I still find unfathomable. Another cousin worked for the Dept of Social Security and reckoned she had the safest job in Belfast as most of the IRA were on the dole and would, therefore, never blow up the DSS office being their primary source of income. They told of checkpoints and daily bombings and reports of suspect devices. Northern Ireland was undoubtedly a war zone. I was by no means sympathetic to the IRA but I could imagine how degrading and enraging it must have been for the Catholics to be treated as a second class citizen in their own country, unable even to get a job in the government like my husband's family members. I needed it explained to me how anyone could even tell a Catholic from a Protestant. They all look alike. How could anyone know? Easy, they told me. By their name, their address, where they went to school... all the most basic details of a person's life stacked the deck against the Catholics in Northern Ireland. I would be angry too. Intrigued by how it had all come to that sad state of affairs, I started reading all I could about Irish social and political history. This book is one of the very best. It is hard to put down and even harder to forget once you've finished. I was intrigued to read that, from the outset, it seemed to be Gerry Adams' aim to take the conflict out of the realm of violent conflict and place it into the political arena. Love or loathe him - he achieved his goal. I highly recommend this book. Haunting, sobering stuff.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Cody

    "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.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Diane

    "Say Nothing" is a fascinating look at the Troubles in Northern Ireland, and it's one of the best nonfiction books I read in 2019. The author starts by sharing the gripping story of a mother who disappeared after being abducted by IRA members, which was some excellent true-crime writing and is a mystery that is woven throughout the narrative. It was a relief, for both the reader and the orphaned children of the mother, that by the end there is some closure to this sad event. One of the things I l "Say Nothing" is a fascinating look at the Troubles in Northern Ireland, and it's one of the best nonfiction books I read in 2019. The author starts by sharing the gripping story of a mother who disappeared after being abducted by IRA members, which was some excellent true-crime writing and is a mystery that is woven throughout the narrative. It was a relief, for both the reader and the orphaned children of the mother, that by the end there is some closure to this sad event. One of the things I liked most about this book is that the author went to great lengths to interview and report on both sides of the conflict — so there are stories from both the Irish protesters and British soldiers. (It reminded me of the greatness of Ken Burns' and Lynn Novick's masterpiece documentary on the Vietnam War, how they made sure to interview soldiers from North Vietnam, in addition to the South Vietnamese and Americans.) I listened to this on audio, and the narrator had a lovely Irish accent that really gave the book a sense of atmosphere. Highly recommended.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Dave Schaafsma

    “Who should be held accountable for a shared history of violence? It was a question that was dogging Northern Ireland as a whole.” “If you could just get people to talk, he believed, the most bitter antagonists could discover common ground.” “Say nothing!” Delours Price, to her collaborators, as they faced prison in London for participating in an IRA bombing of key London sites. Here’s Seamus Heaney’s poem, "Whatever You Say, Say Nothing"(1975) as written: https://www.blueridgejournal.com/poem... H “Who should be held accountable for a shared history of violence? It was a question that was dogging Northern Ireland as a whole.” “If you could just get people to talk, he believed, the most bitter antagonists could discover common ground.” “Say nothing!” Delours Price, to her collaborators, as they faced prison in London for participating in an IRA bombing of key London sites. Here’s Seamus Heaney’s poem, "Whatever You Say, Say Nothing"(1975) as written: https://www.blueridgejournal.com/poem... Here’s Heaney reading some of the poem aloud: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OpDw5... Say Nothing: A True Story of Murder and Memory in Northern Ireland is an impressive work of true crime/non-fiction set in Northern Ireland during the late twentieth century decades known there as The Troubles that makes clear that saying nothing, the code of silence, complicates history, memory and our ability to navigate the future in so many ways. We don’t trust the other side, the police, the gangs, the opposition powers, we don’t talk about family secrets and so on. But how do we create a reasonable facsimile of history with ethical responsibility if stories are silenced? Patrick Radden Keefe grew up in Irish-American Boston and knew little about those days. Books had been written, films were made, but he wanted to know what really happened there, and why. Keefe’s story centers on the abduction of a woman called Jean McConville, a young and recent widow and mother of ten children, in 1972. She was taken out of her house with her children clinging to her arms and legs, and they never saw her again. She was "disappeared," she was murdered, and decades later Keefe set out to figure out who did it, because he knew people knew, and he felt if he worked hard enough on it, he could find out. And he thinks he does! The book opens with a nappy (diaper) pin attached to McConville’s skirt and it ends with that same nappy pin, still attached to her skirt, found many years later with her bones in a shoreline grave. George Bernard Shaw called Ireland “an autonomous political lunatic asylum,” which from the outside seems to have some darkly amusing truth to it, but the murders of those times can’t be reduced to glib/grim metaphors. You can’t understand what happened to McConville or why unless you have a basic understanding of the events of those years, so for more than 2/3 of the book we revisit Gerry Adams, Bobby Sands, the Price sisters, Burntollet Bridge, Bloody Sunday, Enniskillen, Margaret Thatcher and Ian Paisley, among so many others. Right, so the single murder mystery can’t be extricated from layers of Irish history, secrecy, martyrdom, amid hundreds of other murders perpetrated by both (or several complicated layers) "sides” of the conflict. So we need to revisit the days of car bombs and paramilitaries and the fraught relationship between England and Ireland, between Protestants and Catholics, hunger strikes and forced feedings, Bloody Sunday, the disappeared, all of that. No one during The Troubles seemed to have had any idea of Martin Luther King or Gandhi, let’s just say that. I live in Chicago; we continue to have some experience with these things here, too. “The violence intensified, grandiose funerals became routine, with rousing graveside orations and caskets draped in tricolor flags. People took to joking that there was no social life in Belfast anymore, apart from wakes.” Keefe ushers us finally, too, into the secret and much contested—biased!?—"Treasure Room” of the Boston College Library, where oral history recordings that hold clues to McConville's fate turn out to be archived. Hundreds of people, including Gerry Adams himself, refused to talk to him, saying nothing, congratulations! But what is the responsibility of a people to collective memory? When political murder is committed over decades, who is to be taken to task for these crimes? Do they establish a Truth and Reconciliation Commission, as in South Africa and Canada? Doesn’t look like it, I, an outsider, observe, but who am I to get on my high horse about what is obviously none of my business and whaddoIknowabouddit, anyway!!?? What does this have to do with other human beings on the planet? Why don't I just shut up about it?! But Keefe disagrees, and he says something, piecing together a story from the shreds of talk several people are willing to have with him. I just reread (the fictional) Milkman by Anna Burns about The Troubles, and so it was great to revisit the time through a non-fictional lens. I also re-read Joyce's Dubliners, where we can see that violent political conflicts were of course already present in Ireland more than a century ago. Who’s the villain in this one? Lots of fingerpointing goes on here, and no faction comes off clean, but Gerry Addams seems to be one of Keefe’s central bad guys--Addams, the leader of the IRA, who at one point denied he was ever in the IRA!! But if no one admits guilt or identifies the murderers, as I see it, all we are left with is, as the Prince says in Romeo and Juliet: “All are punished.”

  19. 4 out of 5

    Ginger

    5 stars overall! 4 stars for narration. And 10 million stars for content, research and a well written book on a complicated topic! Even though I’m an American citizen, I’ve always been fascinated by the Troubles in Northern Ireland. I’m not that knowledgeable about the political and bloody war that happened for almost 3 decades, so take this review for what it is. I did not live through this complicated time or raised in Ireland. I AM of Irish and Scottish decent and think that’s why I’ve always bee 5 stars overall! 4 stars for narration. And 10 million stars for content, research and a well written book on a complicated topic! Even though I’m an American citizen, I’ve always been fascinated by the Troubles in Northern Ireland. I’m not that knowledgeable about the political and bloody war that happened for almost 3 decades, so take this review for what it is. I did not live through this complicated time or raised in Ireland. I AM of Irish and Scottish decent and think that’s why I’ve always been fascinated by the topic for years. When this book came to my attention last year, I just knew that I needed to read it. I was not disappointed in the least! On to the book! Although the Troubles primarily took place in Northern Ireland, the violence spread to other parts of the Republic of Ireland, England, and mainland Europe. Most Catholics tended to be Irish and most Protestants were British. It wasn’t necessarily a religious war such as Israel and Palestine, but the results and devastation to the communities couldn’t be much different. Most Catholics were of Irish decent and wanted to leave the United Kingdom. Most Protestants were of British decent and wanted to stay in the United Kingdom. And this was the problem. No one knew how to fix this complicated situation in a diplomatic and non-aggressive way. Say Nothing: A True Story of Murder and Memory in Northern Ireland is an unflinching report of what went down during this time between the Catholics, the Protestants, and all the innocent bystanders on the edge just trying to survive. I listened to the audiobook and felt Matthew Blaney did a decent enough job. I loved the Irish accent but I did experience some sleepiness and spacing out while I was listening. I’m pretty sure it was the lyrical, musical accent of his and it made me relaxed and peaceful. I do think I would have preferred a different approach for a narrator (still Irish but more blunt with some drama!). I will have to remember this when I have insomnia in the future! hahaha Enter the Troubles. Say Nothing introduces you to all the main characters in the Provisional Irish Republican Army (IRA) and the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC), along with famous politicians in Ireland and Britain at this time. All the research and in-depth interviews that Patrick Radden Keefe did in this book blew me away! He really dug down deep with getting information along with trying to keep a balanced view in his investigative reporting. I really appreciated this approach because he never really comes out and says, “Who is to blame and who is not to blame?” It’s more of a look into a complicated and deadly political issue with no winner. I think the real victims are the innocent on the sidelines who did not pick a side. And one possible innocent victim was Jean McConville. She was a widower and mother of 10 children. One night during a massive fight with the Provos and RUC, Jean helps an injured British soldier. After the incident, she is dragged out of her house and never seen again. Was Jean McConville a spy relating information to the RUC? Or is she an innocent bystander that was doing a good deed and is in the wrong place at the wrong time? Jean was just one of many victims that disappeared during the Troubles and Keefe does a fantastic job of relating all of this. I also think the paramilitary individuals are their own victims as well. They go through a lot of heartbreak and anguish in later years and I picked up on it in interviews. Was the acts of war worth it or were they just committing murders? Read this if you are a fan of books that are non-fiction, historical or true crime. This is all three so bonus! And if you love all things related to Ireland, you definitely need to pick this up! It’s well worth the time!

  20. 4 out of 5

    Julie

    Right now, the only visible sign that you've crossed the border between the United Kingdom and Ireland is the change on road signs from miles to kilometers. In the twenty-one years since the Good Friday Agreement was signed in Belfast, signaling an end to the decades-long conflict known as the 'Troubles', the checkpoints have come down, the armed border patrols have been decommissioned, the observation towers are nowhere to be seen. With Brexit looming, however, the visible division between the Right now, the only visible sign that you've crossed the border between the United Kingdom and Ireland is the change on road signs from miles to kilometers. In the twenty-one years since the Good Friday Agreement was signed in Belfast, signaling an end to the decades-long conflict known as the 'Troubles', the checkpoints have come down, the armed border patrols have been decommissioned, the observation towers are nowhere to be seen. With Brexit looming, however, the visible division between the two countries may return, and with it, renewed calls to remove Northern Ireland from the United Kingdom and reunite it with the Republic. The prospect of reopening old wounds that are still so very close to the surface is so very real for communities on both sides of the border. Patrick Radden Keefe's incendiary modern history of the bloody sectarian conflict in Northern Ireland could not be more perfectly timed. Say Nothing is part murder mystery, part political thriller, and all true. It reveals not just the cost of war, but the costs of peace. On a cold winter's night in a dreary ghetto apartment block outside Belfast's city center, a widowed mother of ten is forcibly removed from her apartment by masked gunmen. It is December 1972 and Jean McConville is never seen again. Her body was found at last in 2003, but who murdered Jean and why was buried with her over thirty years before. By following the trail of Jean's disappearance, Keefe leads us into an epic history of the tearing apart of Northern Ireland by religious and political strife. He weaves together the stories of the most influential actors in this most complex and layered of plays, among them Brendan Hughes and Gerry Adams, the tactician and politician who revived and controlled the IRA, Dolours Price and her sister Marian, who became IRA warriors and folk heroes, and many others who contributed their personalities, voices, and/or weapons to the struggle to either unify the two Irelands or protect the might of the British crown. Keefe holds both sides in balance, showing the IRA and its political arm, Sinn Fein, in as glaring a light as the British army- both sides committed atrocities that they later excused as the price of war. Keefe follows former members of the IRA as they age into regret or defiance, compounding the tragedy of lives given for a cause that seems bewildering in retrospect. Gerry Adams may have been an architect of the peace agreement, but his bizarre denials of involvement in the IRA, when all evidence shows him as its principal leader in the 70s and 80s, render him a sociopathic figure. His Judas betrayal of his IRA contemporaries adds to the emotional haunting of many of this story's central figures and makes mockery of what these young people thought they stood for- several of whom died during the course of this book's writing. Say Nothing is a riveting, gut-wrenching work of investigative journalism that explores a complex and devastating episode of modern Irish history through intimate portraits of lives deeply affected by the conflict. It is outstanding. Easily one of the best books I will read all year.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Shannon

    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.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Valerity (Val)

    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...

  23. 4 out of 5

    Marks54

    I reached young adulthood around the time that the Troubles in Northern Ireland broke out and were a constant occurrence on the TV and in newspapers. Since then, I have forgotten how terrible this struggle was. Subsequently, it became clear that it was even worse than it appeared on the news. With Patrick Keefe’s new book, Say Nothing, it is clear that the Troubles were even worse than that. It is amazing to me that they were brought to any peaceful conclusion. This is a detailed account of an e I reached young adulthood around the time that the Troubles in Northern Ireland broke out and were a constant occurrence on the TV and in newspapers. Since then, I have forgotten how terrible this struggle was. Subsequently, it became clear that it was even worse than it appeared on the news. With Patrick Keefe’s new book, Say Nothing, it is clear that the Troubles were even worse than that. It is amazing to me that they were brought to any peaceful conclusion. This is a detailed account of an extremely nasty and violent civil war or sorts (people have different names for it) that is simultaneously disturbing and difficult to put down. The focal point of the book is the disappearance and murder of a widowed Belfast mother of 10 children, but the story expands to follow the course of the Troubles up until the Good Friday Peace Accords of 1998 and beyond. Given the increased uncertainty around the border between Ireland and Northern Ireland due to Brexit, it is terrifying to think about reigniting this conflict. Why this book now? The impetus for the book appears to have been an oral history project associated by Boston College to talk with direct participants in the conflict in depth as a way of filling in details about the various violent outrages over three decades of conflict, an analog of sorts to the truth and reconciliation processes in South Africa after the end of Apartheid. The contents of these histories begin to leak out in various ways and then influence the processes in Northern Ireland after the peace settlements. The details and participants in some of the more outrageous killings become known and the actions and reputations of many key players in the Troubles come under enhanced scrutiny. It is clear that leaders all around were both highly strategic and very cynical and that mistakes were made by many. Time heals all wounds, right? Guess again and hold on for a bumpy story. Keefe’s book reads as a detailed narrative that ties serveral story lines together across the course of three decades. There are lots of details to keep track of as the narrative develops. To help organize the book and keep the narrative on track, Keene focuses on a small set of key participants: Jean McConville and her family, Brendan Hughes, Gerry Adams, and Delours and Marian Price. There are lots of others, of course but these are the focal characters. Few of the participants are left out. While there are lots of twists and turns to the story, Keefe organizes the book effectively in terms of an ethical problem brought about by the Peace Accords and the switch from the militant action of the Provisional IRA to the political action of Sinn Fein after the Good Friday agreements. The problem can be understood in terms of how extreme violence - that kills and injures others — is to be justified and what happens when it ends up not being justified. In its heyday, the provos justified their militant action out of the need to drive Britain from Northern Ireland and then to unify Ireland at any cost. The violence, killing, and terror was to be justified by the value of the noble end of a unified Ireland free of British oppression. Well, what happened to the ethics of violence once the combatants agreed to a peace deal that did not produce a unified Ireland and did not expel the British from Ireland? Some militants adjusted to the need for an imperfect settlement and moved into politics. Stopping the violence has its own value and justifies the agreement. What about the militants who disagreed with this? To them, the Peace Accords amounted to a betrayal that rendered the soul scarring violence since 1969 as unjustified, especially since the ultimate goal of a unified Ireland had failed to materialize (or get any closer). Prior rebels had not compromised their principles when they failed in their rebellions, why should that change in 1998? It was this set of conflicts that came out in the oral histories and that kept the Troubles from receding into memory. The book is well written and well documented, although this is not an academic history. The author has his own prespective, of course, but he tries to be balanced and I was not troubled by his perspective. I am not sure that a detailed thoughtful account of a very nasty conflict with a long history (1000 years of British rule in Ireland) is for everyone at the start of the summer. I highly recommend the book, which will continue to be timely for quite some time.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Kathleen

    National Book Award for Nonfiction Longlist 2019. Keefe provides a valuable historical perspective of the Troubles in Northern Ireland that claimed the lives of nearly 4,000 people between the late 1960s and the 1998 Good Friday Agreement. One is reminded of the brutal tactics pursued by the Royal Ulster Constabulary and the British military in response to Catholic non-violent protests—including Bloody Sunday when 28 unarmed civilians were shot and 14 died. Keefe follows the development of the Pr National Book Award for Nonfiction Longlist 2019. Keefe provides a valuable historical perspective of the Troubles in Northern Ireland that claimed the lives of nearly 4,000 people between the late 1960s and the 1998 Good Friday Agreement. One is reminded of the brutal tactics pursued by the Royal Ulster Constabulary and the British military in response to Catholic non-violent protests—including Bloody Sunday when 28 unarmed civilians were shot and 14 died. Keefe follows the development of the Provisional IRA who embraced violence to achieve unification with the Republic of Ireland. All of the main players are included—Brendan Hughes, the Price sisters—Dolours and Marian, and Gerry Adams. The author includes the most spectacular terrorist acts, the capture and imprisonment of these key leaders, and their eventual releases. Brendan Hughes and Dolours Price sat for interviews after the Good Friday Agreement and Boston College was charged with holding the documents until after their deaths. Keefe has used these accounts in providing new light on the movement and the “disappearances” of 20 people, including the curious case of Jean McConville, a widowed mother of 10 who was taken and never heard from again. Her body was discovered in 2003, and her murder has yet to be officially solved. It is clear that many members of the Provisional IRA felt betrayed by Gerry Adams signing the Good Friday Agreement. Unification with the Republic was not achieved; and as a result, they felt their crimes in the cause were not justified. Keefe points out that Adams had become convinced that a political solution was more desirable than armed resistance, and did so largely without the others’ support. Today, the border between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland is open and easy to cross. BUT—will Brexit change that? The Republic of Ireland is a member of the E.U. Will check-points and guards again crop up along this porous border? Recommend.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Mehrsa

    A great history of a modern anti-colonial struggle that doesn't look like all the others. The book is well-written and provides excellent analysis. Keefe digs into the archives and chases down some curious trails. His interviews with the aging IRA members are fascinating and so is the way the movement ends and how it splintered the activists. A great history of a modern anti-colonial struggle that doesn't look like all the others. The book is well-written and provides excellent analysis. Keefe digs into the archives and chases down some curious trails. His interviews with the aging IRA members are fascinating and so is the way the movement ends and how it splintered the activists.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Max

    Keefe gives us a riveting account of the violent conflict between Catholics, Protestants and the British army known as the Troubles that started in the 1960s in Northern Ireland. At the time Northern Ireland had a million Protestants and half a million Catholics, but both felt like minorities. The Protestants feared Northern Ireland becoming part of the Catholic Irish Republic. The Catholics suffered open and widespread discrimination. They were denied good jobs. Most were very poor, often recei Keefe gives us a riveting account of the violent conflict between Catholics, Protestants and the British army known as the Troubles that started in the 1960s in Northern Ireland. At the time Northern Ireland had a million Protestants and half a million Catholics, but both felt like minorities. The Protestants feared Northern Ireland becoming part of the Catholic Irish Republic. The Catholics suffered open and widespread discrimination. They were denied good jobs. Most were very poor, often receiving welfare. They supported large families, living in small apartments. Conflict between the two groups went back centuries. There was little intermingling. Each group had their own neighborhoods and outsiders were not welcome. Each side had its own paramilitary groups and supporting organizations. The Protestants controlled the local police. The British army with its mission to keep the peace typically focused on IRA members while ignoring similar activities by Protestant loyalist paramilitary groups. The IRA was itself divided between those dedicated to violence, the Provisionals or provos and those wanting a peaceful resolution, the Officials or stickies. From here on IRA means the provos. Keefe leads with the murder of Jean McConville who was abducted from her home in Belfast by a band of intruders as the smallest of her ten children clung to her legs. With this incident he adds a bit of mystery to his narrative. We don’t get the full story of what happened to McConville until the end. Keefe focuses on several key figures: Dolours Price and her younger sister Marian Price, Gerry Adams and Brenden Hughes. Keefe keeps us engaged taking us through the Troubles with them. In 1969 Catholic students marched peacefully from Belfast to Derry to protest discrimination. Just outside Derry at Burntollet Bridge, Protestant loyalists ambushed the marchers heaving stones, bricks and bottles followed by attacks with crowbars, pipes and clubs. Eighteen year old Dolours Price and her sister Marian were among the marchers. They were from a family with a long IRA pedigree. Now they would follow in their footsteps. In January 1972 another peaceful Catholic demonstration in Derry ended with 13 demonstrators shot and killed and 15 wounded. British troops had opened fire claiming someone shot at them, which turned out not to be true. Bloody Sunday as it is known set off a powder keg. Belfast turned into a warzone. The IRA took in many new recruits. In December 1972 Jean McConville was abducted. Her six youngest children remained at home hoping for her return. A month later a man came to return her rings. But no one in the community or the authorities showed much interest in her disappearance or the children in a city at war. In 1973 the five McConville children under sixteen were placed in Catholic orphanages and training schools where they were abused by monks, nuns and other children who had been raised in a life of abuse. At sixteen totally unprepared for life outside they would be set out on their own. Keefe paints a dark picture of life in a city where no one is safe. The provos had a structure similar to the British army with companies and a secret intelligence service that planted bombs and carried out assassinations. Called the Unknowns, this unit was led by Brenden Hughes who reported directly to Gerry Adams, the Operational Commander of the Belfast Brigade, the top IRA leader in the city. Delours and Marian Price were members of the Unknowns. While the IRA said they were not targeting civilians, they shot innocent people and killed many with their bombs, Protestants and Catholics alike. The British army special intelligence unit in Northern Ireland called the MVS operated secretly in civilian dress. The MVS targeted IRA leaders for assassination and abduction and recruited double agents which sometimes were turned around becoming triple agents. One could never be quite sure who was working for whom. When someone was shot or abducted, the organization responsible was often not discernable. In March 1973 the IRA brought their bombing campaign to London. They wanted to take the fight directly to the British. At Adams and Hughes direction Delours led a group of ten to plant car bombs in London. The bombers got the cars parked at their designated locations, but the British had been tipped off and knew the cars to look for and where they would be. There had to be an informer at a high level in the IRA. The British disarmed two of the bombs but two went off in tremendous explosions. Hundreds were injured but miraculously no one was killed. The IRA did make a warning call an hour before the bombs went off and claimed it was not their intention to kill people. The bombers planned to be on flights home before the warning call. But the British were waiting for them at the airport. Dolours, Marian and the other eight were arrested. Marian and Dolours were defiant at the trial, but one of the defendants turned on the others ensuring their convictions. She was given a new identity and never was heard from again. The IRA would have killed her otherwise. Sentenced to life which was reduced to 20 years Marian and Dolours were imprisoned in England. They didn’t plan to stay in England and went on a hunger strike demanding that they be imprisoned in Northern Ireland. After they became emaciated the British began force feeding them. After the hunger strike death of an IRA prisoner not connected with the bombing the press was so bad the British relented and sent the sisters to Northern Ireland. Meanwhile, Brenden Hughes also had been arrested and was put in prison along with Gerry Adams. Hughes made a daring escape hiding inside a trashed mattress that a confederate loaded onto a garbage truck. Lucky for Hughes, the spears that the guards poked through the garbage before it left the prison narrowly missed him. He was soon recaptured. Again it seems there was an informer at a high level. In 1980 Hughes led a hunger strike among the many IRA members in prison with him. After one of his fellow hunger strikers, Bobby Sands died, it created headlines. Before he died, Sands, while in jail, ran for and was elected to Parliament. Hughes called off the strike after Sands died, but it was restarted and ten prisoners starved themselves to death. The press about Sands and the hunger strikers helped Dolours Price who separately was also wasting away and soon hospitalized for anorexia. Because of her condition she was released from prison early in 1981. Eight years in prison and now 31 years old Dolours had a completely different attitude. She rebuffed entreaties by the IRA, moved to Dublin where she did some writing and married the Irish actor Stephen Rea in 1983. Rea starred in the hugely successful film The Crying Game. In the movie Rea plays an IRA gunman who can’t bring himself to carry out an execution. Ironically, one of his wife’s duties in the IRA was driving people across the Irish border to be executed. One time she cried on the way since it was a friend she was taking to be killed, but she did her job. The hunger strike also gave impetus to the political party Sinn Fein, which espoused republicanism and sought a peaceful solution. In 1983 Gerry Adams, now released from prison, also had a change of heart. He joined Sinn Fein becoming its president and ran for Parliament, for the same seat that Bobby Sands had won. Adams brazenly claimed he had never been involved in violence and had not been in the IRA. Still the killings and bombings went on both by the IRA and the loyalists. In 1986 Hughes was released from jail, but he soon realized he no longer fit in the IRA with its political movement. In 1994 the IRA declared a cease fire thanks in large part to negotiations mediated by Father Alex Reid who was accepted by both sides. In 1998, the Good Friday Agreement was reached between Britain, Ireland and Catholic and Protestant groups in Northern Ireland, an agreement that still stands. Northern Ireland remained part of Britain, but if a majority of its residents voted to join Ireland it could. A Northern Ireland parliament was established. The IRA and other paramilitaries had to decommission their weapons. Adams was instrumental in getting the agreement and touted the prospects of peace. His former IRA associates however felt that it made a mockery of their service in the IRA. They felt they had been fighting the long fight to unite Ireland and that what Adams and Sinn Fein settled for was next to nothing. Those disillusioned with Adams and Sinn Fein included Brenden Hughes and Dolours Price. In 2000 Boston College initiated what became known as the Belfast Project. Boston College, known for studies in Irish history, wanted to break through the strict code of silence about the activities of the IRA and paramilitary loyalist organizations. Working through Irish journalists who knew important members of each side, former paramilitary activists were found to carry out the project in secret. The project was to interview and record people such as Brenden Hughes and Dolours Price about their IRA roles. Boston College signed contracts committing not to release the recordings until after the interviewee died. Some like Jerry Adams refused to participate and some like Dolours would not tell everything because her children would carry the stigma. In 2003 the press revealed the identity of a top level informer in the IRA. The IRA had been aware of many cases of British Intelligence knowing their next moves including the London Bombing and Hughes location. Turns out there were two high level informers. One was Freddie Scappaticci, the leader of the Nutting Squad, the secret IRA group tasked with killing informers. He had been a British informer all along. Nobody in the IRA ever suspected him since he killed so many people. British Intelligence was well aware of what he was doing and was inextricably involved in many murders. The British also controlled the man who held the target list for the loyalists. He would dutifully turn it over to his handlers. The British knew exactly what was going on and when Scappaticci appeared on the loyalist target list, the British substituted an innocent person for the loyalists to kill. In 2005, Dennis Donaldson, a former IRA leader who became prominent in Sinn Fein, was also revealed as a long time informer. He went into hiding but somebody subsequently shot and killed him. In 2012 British Prime Minister David Cameron admitted to “frankly shocking levels of state collusion.” Brenden Hughes died in 2008. Gerry Adams attended his funeral, but many of the IRA veterans including Dolours wondered what he was doing there. Hughes, Dolours and others felt betrayed by Adams denial of his past in the IRA and his sudden transformation into a peace loving suit and tie politician. They had invested their lives in the IRA working under Adams and now he said he had nothing to do with it. Dolours marriage to Stephen Rae had fallen apart and she had fallen into alcoholism and drugs as had many of her past associates who were beset by violent memories. Past IRA members were writing books and memoirs and revealing details about the disappeared and who was responsible for killings and bombings and providing details about Adams role in the IRA. What happened to Jean McConville folows in the spoiler. (view spoiler)[ Hughes had requested that the tapes he made for Boston College investigators be used to write a book after he died. One of the investigators wrote it. In it Hughes said that Adams ordered the disappearance of Jean McConville (believed to be an informer) and many other disappearances, killings and bombings including the London bombing. Dolours gave a recorded interview to a journalist that was reported in the press. Dolours independently corroborated Hughes. Adams denied all of it and claimed they were suffering from mental conditions, drugs and alcohol. Dolours said Adams ordered her to drive McConville across the Irish border where she would be killed and buried by the IRA there and disappear. Dolours did not know McConville and was told she was an informer. However the local IRA unit ended up refusing to kill her, Dolours conjectures because she was a woman. So Dolours and two others went back to do the job. They only had one gun. They each took a cartridge, one being a blank, but they could only fire one at a time. Dolours said she deliberately missed, but the next person shot her in the back of the head and McConville died. The local unit sealed the grave which they already had dug. The killing was reported back to Adams. In 2009 two British soldiers were killed with the IRA phoning in to claim credit. Marian Price was identified as the caller and at 59 with arthritis and grown children she again was sent to jail. In 2013 Dolours died from an overdose of prescription drugs ruled an accidental death. Marian was given leave to attend the wake and was released from prison later that year. In 2014 Gerry Adams was arrested in connection to the murder of Jean McConville. He stonewalled refusing to admit that he was ever an IRA member or knew anything about McConville. Adams was never prosecuted. But who fired the shot that killed McConville? Keefe knew from several sources that a man named Pat McClure was one of the three along with Price. Who was the third? Keefe thought he knew and finally a source confirmed it revealing Dolours had told him. It was this third person who fired the shot into the back of McConville’s head. It was Marian. (hide spoiler)] Keefe writes a compelling saga of extreme violence and passion that we follow through Hughes, Adams and the Price sisters. I was also struck by two other themes. One was the complicity of the British government. They had to have intelligence to deal with the violence, but to be effective they also had to be involved. One thing leads to another and it becomes hard to distinguish the intelligence service from another paramilitary group. When in the eighties the senior Special Branch official responsible for informants asked Margaret Thatcher for guidelines, she told him to carry on as he had and not to tell her any details. The second was the fate of Dolours, Hughes and many of their colleagues when they realized the cause they so fervently believed in had been abandoned. Young and full of idealism, they believed they were fighting a just war against their British overseers. When their vision faded into an ambiguous compromise they felt their lives had become worse than meaningless. How could they justify what they did?

  27. 5 out of 5

    Kelly

    As Cole Porter said: Always start on a five star, always end on one. ... or something like that anyway. :) I got lucky enough to break my nearly two year drought of books I wanted to give five stars to with my very last read of 2019... and here I go again with the first one of 2020. I’ve been eyeing this for months, waiting for a chance to have the time to truly dig into it and the headspace to absorb it. I’m so glad I did. A bit of a warning note though: This book will tell you it’s about an un As Cole Porter said: Always start on a five star, always end on one. ... or something like that anyway. :) I got lucky enough to break my nearly two year drought of books I wanted to give five stars to with my very last read of 2019... and here I go again with the first one of 2020. I’ve been eyeing this for months, waiting for a chance to have the time to truly dig into it and the headspace to absorb it. I’m so glad I did. A bit of a warning note though: This book will tell you it’s about an unsolved murder from the Troubles. But it isn’t really, not until the third act. The first two acts are more like a group of short biographies and vignettes of major figures of the Troubles that are all involved , directly or indirectly with the murder. I never knew pretty much any of this- I’m just a little young to have lived through more than the very end of it. So even the Price sisters were new to me. New and fascinating and tragic and frustrating and deeply flawed. As you can see, its near impossible not to come out of this without some Opinions. And I have many maaaany more of them. For instance, on Gerry Adams. Keefe calls him a sociopath and I think that’s a mild description of what he is. It’s breathtaking what he’s got away with. If I could pick a flaw, it would be that I found his dry journalistic style a bit off putting and made many parts of the text not as interesting as they deserved to be. After all; Murder! Chaos! Secret gangs, secret police. We needed some narrative color sometimes. But overall obviously amazing. Read this.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Perry

    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? 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?

  29. 5 out of 5

    Dan

    Say Nothing by Patrick Radden Keefe She stands in front of a brick wall somewhere in West Belfast in 1972. The bottom of her face is covered by a balaclava, only her eyes and red hair, fashioned in a boyish haircut, are visible. She could be a young man. She is wearing a trench coat with her arms crossed intentionally looking like a toughie. Her name is Dolours Price, she is a member of the IRA and she is posing for an Italian magazine. The photo of her is the cover of this best-selling book. Som Say Nothing by Patrick Radden Keefe She stands in front of a brick wall somewhere in West Belfast in 1972. The bottom of her face is covered by a balaclava, only her eyes and red hair, fashioned in a boyish haircut, are visible. She could be a young man. She is wearing a trench coat with her arms crossed intentionally looking like a toughie. Her name is Dolours Price, she is a member of the IRA and she is posing for an Italian magazine. The photo of her is the cover of this best-selling book. Sometimes a book’s cover captures the sentiment perfectly as it does so here. Dolours Price is close to Gerry Adams, at least in the early years. Adams is the most recognizable public face of Sinn Fein and he also figures prominently in this book. There are many other IRA figures to be sure who add to the story. So this non-fiction book reads as history, while laced with some intense drama. What struck me about this stunning narrative on the Troubles in 1970’s and 1980’s Northern Ireland, is the prominent role women played in the story — as in villains and victims. In the case of Price it is perhaps the number of horrible acts she committed. I’d say she is portrayed as a sympathetic figure — at least until the end of the book. Bombings, kidnappings, and executions. This fight was in most respects a real war. If you were an informant against the IRA in Belfast ,or a ‘touter’ in the IRA vernacular, and if you were discovered you were very likely going to die, especially if a woman named Dolores offered to take you for a drive to the countryside. 5 stars. I consider the movie ‘In the Name of the Father’ starring Daniel Day Lewis to be one of my ten favorite films. This book, covering essentially the same topics, is every bit as good. Highly recommended.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Canadian Reader

    “I became intrigued by the idea that an archive of the personal reminiscences of ex-combatants might be so explosive: what was it about these accounts that was so threatening in the present day? In the intertwining lives of Jean McConville [a 38-year-old mother of 10, who was “disappeared” in 1972 by the IRA], Dolours Price [a key IRA “volunteer” involved in the 1973 London car-bomb attacks], Brendan Hughes [a prominent IRA tactician], and Gerry Adams [the enigmatic leader of Sinn Fein, who h “I became intrigued by the idea that an archive of the personal reminiscences of ex-combatants might be so explosive: what was it about these accounts that was so threatening in the present day? In the intertwining lives of Jean McConville [a 38-year-old mother of 10, who was “disappeared” in 1972 by the IRA], Dolours Price [a key IRA “volunteer” involved in the 1973 London car-bomb attacks], Brendan Hughes [a prominent IRA tactician], and Gerry Adams [the enigmatic leader of Sinn Fein, who has repeatedly denied he was ever even a member of the IRA], I saw an opportunity to tell a story about how people become radicalized in their uncompromising devotion to a cause, and about how individuals—and a whole society—make sense of political violence once they have passed through the crucible and finally have time to reflect.” —Patrick Radden Keefe My maternal grandparents were from Belfast. Thankfully, they left the Northern Irish city well before the Troubles. Growing up, I heard stories from my grandmother about her difficult, working-class childhood and youth in that conflicted, divided place, and I became familiar with the names of some of the main streets in Catholic and Protestant sections of the city. My grandmother died many years ago now, but I often wish I could talk to her. My interest in her early, formative experiences has only increased with time. Keefe’s mosaic of a book grew out of a magazine article, “Where the Bodies Are Buried”, an extended piece he wrote for The New Yorker in 2015. Both the article and the book explore the 1972 abduction and execution of a Northern-Irish mother. Born a Catholic, Jean McConville married a Protestant 12 years her senior. He died a miserable death from lung cancer just as the political situation was heating up. Jean was left ground down by grief, poverty, and child-bearing. Some in the Provisional IRA claimed she was a British informant. The “Provos”—so the story goes—interrogated McConville sometime in the late fall of 1972, making it clear she was to cease and desist from providing intelligence to the enemy. IRA intimidation apparently did not dissuade her. McConville was “disappeared’ by the IRA during the Troubles, so were fifteen others. What makes her story compelling is that she was the only woman to have been abducted and murdered. She left ten kids behind. The McConville family was effectively destroyed the day masked IRA foot soldiers, neighbours of the family, dragged her from her home in the squalid Divis Flats, a housing complex in West Belfast. Most of the McConville children subsequently ended up in care. All of them would be haunted by their loss; all would struggle in life, some with addictions and trouble with the law. Keefe’s book provides considerable context about the IRA operations and some of the key figures associated with Jean McConville’s disappearance. However, Say Nothing contains more than the story of Jean and her children. It also presents the narratives of four other key figures: Dolours and Marian Price (two sisters whose IRA involvement began with their idealistic participation in the 1969 civil rights march from Belfast to Derry—an initially peaceful demonstration that ended with a violent ambush by Protestant Loyalists); Brendan Hughes (a daring and wily young IRA leader on the enemy’s most-wanted list); and the elusive (possibly sociopathic) strategist Gerry Adams (the head of the political wing of the IRA, who indisputably issued the orders). Keefe’s wide-ranging and informative book also includes sections on major incidents during the Troubles; the differences and tensions between the Official IRA (the “Stickies”) and the newer, militant Provisional IRA (the “Provos”); the manner in which the British collected intelligence about republican operations; the secret units on both the Loyalist and Republican sides; the imprisonment and hunger strikes of young IRA volunteers; and the response of many in the paramilitary to the ceasefire and Good Friday Agreement, which officially ended the armed conflict. The author acknowledges in his afterward that he did not attempt to address the terrorism perpetrated by the Loyalist side. A significant portion of Keefe’s book concerns “The Belfast Project”, a possibly ill-conceived and undeniably poorly planned oral history research undertaking associated with Boston College. This project received none of the legal oversight it so obviously required. IRA and loyalist volunteers had consented in writing to being interviewed and recorded by former insiders. It was believed they’d be more likely to open up to interviewers intimately acquainted with the conflict. Many of those who’d agreed to take part were haunted by their experiences, the violence they’d perpetrated, and the secrets they’d kept. Some were eager to unburden themselves. The recordings and written transcripts, as well as documents related to interviewees’ consent, were stored in a secret archive at the Massachusetts university. The material was to be made available to scholars after the participants’ deaths. However, because the Boston College personnel responsible for the files had not exercised due diligence—i.e., they’d failed to seek legal counsel—the documents and recordings were able to be accessed by the British government before the ex-paramilitary members had died. I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that while all hell may not have broken loose, quite a lot of it did. The Troubles, Keefe makes clear, have cast a long shadow over the North. Neighbourhoods and schools continue to be segregated along religious lines. “Peace wall” barricades continue to stand between Catholic and Protestant sections of Belfast, and the paramilitaries are still intact. Many former IRA members have struggled with substance abuse, unemployment, and mental health issues, including PTSD and depression. Say Nothing is a rich, informative, and fascinating work. The only thing that bothered me was the way the book was organized. I sometimes wished that I could be led through the stories in a more orderly (chronological) fashion. Even so, I still learned a lot. I’m curious how this book is being received on the other side of the Atlantic.

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