Say nothing : a true story of murder and memory in Northern Ireland

by Patrick Radden Keefe

Hardcover, 2019

Status

Available

Publication

New York : Doubleday, 2019.

Description

""Meticulously reported, exquisitely written, and grippingly told, Say Nothing is a work of revelation." --David Grann, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Killers of the Flower Moon From award-winning New Yorker staff writer Patrick Radden Keefe, a stunning, intricate narrative about a notorious killing in Northern Ireland and its devastating repercussions 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, McConville always kept it handy for diapers or ripped clothes. Patrick Radden Keefe's mesmerizing book on the bitter conflict in Northern Ireland and its aftermath uses the McConville case as a starting point for the tale of a society wracked by a violent guerrilla war, a war whose consequences have never been reckoned with. The brutal violence seared not only people like the McConville children, but also I.R.A. members embittered by a peace that fell far short of the goal of a united Ireland, and left them wondering whether the killings they committed were not justified acts of war, but simple murders. From radical and impetuous I.R.A. terrorists--or volunteers, depending on which side one was on--such as Dolours Price, who, when she was barely out of her teens, was already planting bombs in London and targeting informers for execution, to the ferocious I.R.A. mastermind known as The Dark, to the spy games and dirty schemes of the British Army, to Gerry Adams, who negotiated the peace and denied his I.R.A. past, betraying his hardcore comrades--Say Nothing conjures a world of passion, betrayal, vengeance, and anguish"--"A narrative about a notorious killing that took place in Northern Ireland during The Troubles and its devastating repercussions to this day"--… (more)

User reviews

LibraryThing member Narshkite
I kept forgetting this was nonfiction. Instructive, heartbreaking, complicated, chilling, gripping, and all about the gray areas. It is all put together by a guy who knows how to tell the hell out of a story. I can't imagine anyone would not be drawn in and challenged by this book.
LibraryThing member bookworm12
I can’t believe how little I knew about the IRA before reading this. I knew the general details of the conflict, but had no idea of its length and the sheer reach of the terrorism that the Irish lived with for decades. It was startling and disturbing to think about what both sides were capable of. Bombings, “disappearing” people, torture, hunger strikes, and more. The closest thing we have to that in America is the mafia.… (more)
LibraryThing member rivkat
A widowed mother of numerous children was taken from her home one evening, presumably to her death, presumably by the IRA, but decades of silence left the details a mystery, only partially unraveled with the later decision of some IRA members to talk about the past. Keefe weaves this story with others about the IRA, including the story of Dolores Price, who was part of a bombing conspiracy that mostly failed. She was sentenced to decades in prison, but went on a hunger strike; after force-feeding her in ways amounting to torture, the British ultimately paroled her. She went on to marry actor Stephen Rea and to reject the IRA in many ways. (As an American, one of the most astonishing things for me was that the British only locked her up, and not for life; we are so used to our representatives of law and order inflicting death in this country—though the British also killed their share in Ireland, including by having secret death squads, so it’s not as if there’s an overall clear difference. For example, Mao said that guerrillas should move through the people like fish through water; one British counterinsurgency expert, who was tasked with pacifying Northern Ireland during the Troubles, chillingly updated that with “If a fish has got to be destroyed it can be attacked directly by rod or net, ... But if rod and net cannot succeed by themselves it may be necessary to do something to the water …” though he did continue by saying that poisoning the “water” should be a last resort. The British acted accordingly, although they took more pains than most American police departments to conceal that from the public.) It’s a powerful, ambiguous story about violence, evolution from violence, and the compromises that societies make to move on.… (more)
LibraryThing member RidgewayGirl
In December 1972, Jean McConville is taken away from her apartment in front of her ten children by masked gunmen. She is never seen again. In March 1973, along with nine others including her sister, Delours Price places four car bombs in central London. She is arrested while trying to leave the country. During her stay in prison, she and her sister go on a hunger strike and are force-fed by the prison authorities.

Using the framework of these two women's lives, Patrick Radden Keefe explores the history of Northern Ireland during the years known as The Troubles, a thirty year span that began in the late 1960s and ended with the Good Friday Agreements of 1998. The Troubles are a complex and maddening part of a long conflict, but by structuring it around a single event, and two women, Keefe manages to control the focus of the book. McConville was killed by the Provisional IRA, known as the Provos, and while usually the bodies of anyone murdered by them were left to be found as a warning to others, McConville's was not. The reasoning for that is unclear as is the reason for her murder. The attempt to unravel what happened to her involves learning about what daily life was like for the citizens of Belfast, what drew young people into the IRA and how the Provisional IRA functioned during those years and how it was that they came to decide on peace.

This is a superlatively good book. By keeping the focus on the two women, Keefe was able to give a solid history of the IRA during the years of The Troubles in a manageable and compelling way. Delours Price is a fascinating woman who was in the middle of the things for a long time. And the impact of and ambiguity around Jean McConville's disappearance, not the least what it did to her children, makes her story impossible to set aside.
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LibraryThing member alexrichman
A nuanced, compassionate, crucially human retelling of the Troubles at street level. I picked this up as a primer and couldn't recommend it more. Never loses sight of the victims, and makes clear that blood is on the hands of both sides.
LibraryThing member pivic
‘All wars are fought twice, the first time on the battlefield, the second time in memory.’

– VIET THANH NGUYEN


This book did not have me hooked from the start.

I’ve always been unaware of “the conflict in the North of Ireland”, or, as the book points out, “Northern Ireland”; the difference between the two terms can be—and often is—politically vast, as is everything, for example to pronounce the letter “h” as “aitch” or “haitch”.

My family is partly from Yugoslavia. When that nation broke into smaller ones, and NATO tried to shell Serbia from the face of the planet, suddenly everybody I even remotely knew, whose surname contained “ic”, turned political. Mainly via their parents. And vinegar words turned into vitriol, which turned into hatred of a people, of a nation, of more nations. And all were against NATO/USA.

Radden Keefe is, I suppose, denounced by a lot of people just for writing about what’s happened.

I believe he is moralistic in the book. And I think he’s right in choosing sides, morally speaking. This could be because I agree with a lot of his decisions, even though he’s not steadfastly saying something’s right or wrong; he’s researched the hell out of this book and come to his own terms on a lot of things.

This book is, by the way, anything other than a Wikipedia search result. Radden Keefe has spoken with many persons and uncovered truths himself. More importantly, this book is not only extremely well written and respectful—as far as that is possible, considering that some stances are held—but stylistically beautiful. The rhythms this book contains is staggeringly wondrous and radiant: it’s like truly discovering what is beautiful in jazz. The timings, the space of the book, despite the thousands of subjectively dormant facts that have been uncovered in these pages, are, simply put, a reminder of what documentary writing can be at its best.

This book delves into the Troubles from different perspectives, naturally from different political ones, but also from the eyes of everyday people who lived in the Troubles.

The story of Jean McConville and her family horrified me on several different levels. From the book:

Nights were especially eerie in Divis. People would turn out all their lights, so the whole vast edifice was swathed in darkness. To the McConville children, one night in particular would forever stand out. Jean had recently returned from the hospital, and there was a protracted gun battle outside the door. Then the shooting stopped and they heard a voice. ‘Help me!’ It was a man’s voice. Not local. ‘Please, God, I don’t want to die.’ It was a soldier. A British soldier. ‘Help me!’ he cried.

As her children watched, Jean McConville rose from the floor, where they had been cowering, and moved to the door. Peeking outside, she saw the soldier. He was wounded, lying in the gallery out in front. The children remember her re-entering the flat and retrieving a pillow, which she brought to the soldier. Then she comforted him, murmuring a prayer and cradling his head, before eventually creeping back into the flat.

Archie – who, with Robert in prison, was the oldest child there – admonished his mother for intervening. ‘You’re only asking for trouble,’ he said. ‘That was somebody’s son,’ she replied. The McConvilles never saw the soldier again, and to this day the children cannot say what became of him.

But when they left the flat the next morning, they found fresh graffiti daubed across their door: BRIT LOVER.


I feel that the author never tries to say that this book is an ultimate truth of sorts; the title gives that away. Radden Keefe is a great storyteller and an adept journalist.

I’ll never understand the Troubles as somebody who’s lived at that time and in Northern Ireland will. A book will never provide me with even a day’s worth of anything remotely akin to that.

What this book does provide, is written transcript of the lives and deaths of innocent people, the search for justice, and the search for truth. In the middle of this book, the search for truth prevails over all the deaths, those committed by the British, the IRA, Gerry Adams‘s many different lives, the clandestine testimonies by Dolours Price and Brendan Hughes, the graffitied murals of Belfast, past the funerals, the Armalites, the graves, and the searches for graves, decades past.

The past might never come to rest, but when do we?

We learn that silence buries truth.
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LibraryThing member Cariola
In 1972, Northern Ireland was in the throes of The Troubles. Tensions between Catholics and Protestants were high, and the IRA clamoured for a united, independent Ireland, free of British rule. Jean McConville, a 38-year old mother of 10 who had recently been widowed, was depressed and reclusive. Although she had married a Catholic and lived in a predominantly Catholic neighborhood, she herself was Protestant and therefore not on the best of terms with her neighbors. One night, following a skirmish in the street outside her home, Jean heard a wounded British soldier calling for help. She crept out of her house to place a pillow under his head; when asked why she had helped him, she replied, "He's somebody's son." The next morning, the words "BRIT LOVER" were scrawled on her front door. Depending on whose story you listen to, it was either the next day or a few days later that a car pulled up with three young IRA members in it. As the neighbors watched--but said nothing--they pulled Jean away from her crying children, shoved her in the back seat, and drove away. She was never heard from again. Jean McConville has become one of "the disappeared."

While Keefe's book would seem to be a true crime story, it's really more the story of politics within the IRA, the resistance movement and the British efforts to quell it. In fact, we hear little about Jean again until near the end of the book. The focus shifts to the leaders and agents of the IRA--Gerry Adams, Brendan Hughes, Bobby Sands, and two sisters, Dolours and Marian Price, among others. The Price sisters were convicted of setting a bomb that exploded in front of Old Bailey in London, injuring more than 200 people, but after an extended hunger strike threatened their lives, Marian was released and Dolours granted her request to be sent to a prison in Northern Ireland. She was also released soon after due to critical health issues. Dolours had been close to Gerry Adams, but once he won a seat in the Irish parliament and helped to engineer a peace treaty, she became outraged at what she saw as his personal opportunism and backing down from the goals of a united, independent Ireland; she felt that the peace treaty meant all of the deaths and sacrifices had been for nothing. Worse still, Adams publicly denied, over and over again, any connection to the IRA. Leaning heavily on Dolours's various interviews, lectures, and published writing, Keefe not only gives us a view of the initial solidarity and ultimate infighting in the IRA but teases out what might have happened to Jean McConville and fifteen others of the disappeared.

If you're looking for an exciting true crime story, this probably isn't it; you'll get too bogged down in the politics and footnotes. But if you are interested in Irish resistance movement of the 1970s and beyond, Say Nothing is a fascinating read.
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LibraryThing member Othemts
Say Nothing is a history of The Troubles, a 30-year conflict in Northern Ireland among paramilitary forces of Republicans who wanted a united Ireland, Loyalists who wished to remain part of the United Kingdom, and the British military forces, ostensibly sent to Northern Ireland to keep the peace, but instead responsible for numerous atrocities. Keefe's narrative gives a broad overview of The Troubles and the ensuing peace process after the Good Friday Agreement of 1998. But he also focuses in on one incident that offers a window into the deep wounds and layers of memory of The Troubles.

In December 1972, a widowed mother of ten children, Jean McConville was abducted and murdered by the Irish Republican Army. According to the IRA, McConville was an informer for the British Army or a "tout" and was "disappeared" for her offenses. Her children were separated and suffered abuse in orphanages. As adults they continued to pursue justice for their mother.

Intertwined with the McConville story are the stories of two members of the IRA. Dolours Price, with her sister Marian, became a prominent IRA volunteer, partly because they were young, attractive women, who were imprisoned for their role in a bombing and participated in a lengthy hunger strike. Brendan Hughes was an IRA commander and military strategist who organized the Bloody Friday bombings of July 21, 1972, the IRA's biggest bombing attack in Belfast. Later, Hughes lead the first of two major hunger strikes by Republican prisoners in Long Kesh prison.

Another key figure in the book is Gerry Adams, the leader of Sinn Fein, the political party associated with the IRA. Adams is famed for his contributions to the peace process by willing to be flexible with the goals of Republican ideology. But this book reveals that he achieved his political aims by consistently denying any involvement in the IRA in the 1970s. Price and Hughes, both of whom claim they were ordered to commit atrocities by Adams, find a deep betrayal in how Adams washes his hands of guilt for the crimes they still struggle with.

A major factor in this history is The Belfast Project, an oral history project conducted in the early 2000s by Boston College. Former members of Republican and Loyalist paramilitaries (including Price and Hughes) participated in the project under the belief that the recordings would be kept secret until after their deaths. When the existence of the tapes became known, a legal battle ensued as UK authorities tried to use them to prosecute cold cases, including the murder of Jean McConville.

Keefe is an American writer with a journalistic writing style who offers empathy (but not without judgment) for the many figures in the history. The narrator, Matthew Blaney, lends an authentic Northern Ireland voice to the narrative.
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LibraryThing member Stbalbach
Keefe has written an excellent way to learn about the Irish Troubles of the 70s-90s, when there was a low-grade war in Northern Ireland resulting in the 'Belfast Syndrome', Bobby Sands, London bombings, hunger strikes and various other now iconic images. The murder mystery at the heart of the narrative keeps it humming while a sort greatest hits parade of people and events of the Troubles-era flickers by. The focus is on the Irish Catholic resistence. I had no idea about the level of violence and atrocities that occurred. I listened to the audiobook narrated by a northern-accented reader and this gives an added dimension, the reading worked out very well on all levels and is highly recommended, some reported speeding to 1.2x helps.… (more)
LibraryThing member Shannon_Perry
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.
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LibraryThing member ChuckNorton
On April 18, 2019, journalist Lyra McKee was fatally wounded by gunfire while covering a riot in the Catholic neighborhood of Creggan in Derry. She was standing next to a police Land Rover, but the New IRA, which admits that it was their gunfire that killed her, says that she was not the target and has apologized for her death. Her death has been condemned across the political spectrum in Northern Ireland, the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland and her funeral was attended by the prime ministers of both Ireland and Britain. She had investigated the disappearances of victims during the grim period of recent history in Northern Ireland known as "the Troubles".

In "Say Nothing: a True Story of Murder and Memory in Northern Ireland", Patrick Radden Keefe explores the subject of disappearances of victims of the conflict from multiple points of view. He tells a searing account of the Troubles in which he concentrates on a few individuals, some ot them victims, others perpetrators, and others who could be considered to be both. Representing the victims is the McConville family of Belfast. One night in December 1972, masked gunmen burst into their flat in the Divis housing complex and dragged away Jean McConville, mother of ten, while her terrified children tried to cling to her legs. They never saw her again. Eventually, the word came out that she had been executed by the "Provos", the Provisional IRA, for allegedly using a radio provided by the British Army to report on Catholic resistance activities in her neighborhood to the Protestant enemy. This was not likely. The true cause of Jean McConville's death was probably that she was reported to the Provos by her spiteful neighbors for the crime of having taken pity on a wounded British soldier during a gunfight in Divis Flats. She had heard the soldier pleading for help in the hallway and had gone out to comfort him, an act of mercy for which she was branded a traitor by the neighbors who scrawled "BRIT LOVER" across her door. Even after the cease-fire that ended the Troubles, the IRA generally refused to disclose the location of those victims, like Jean McConville, who had been abducted and taken to an unknown location, shot, and buried in an unmarked grave. Only a quarter century later would her remains be found on a lonely beach in the Irish Republic and identified by her surviving children by the presence of the blue "nappy pin" which she always wore attached to her clothing.

Keefe also looks at the Troubles through the eyes of the combatants. He follows the life of Dolours Price, an idealistic young woman who starts as a civil rights activist for Catholic rights in Northern Ireland, attempting to follow the non-violent example of Dr. King in America, but who gets severely beaten by Protestant thugs during a peaceful march on the outskirts of Derry. She then enlists in the IRA, along with her sister Marian, and they become dedicated soldiers in the Republican cause, or terrorists, from the Loyalist and British point of view. She spends much of her youth in prison and demonstrates her devotion to the cause with an hunger strike that endangers her life and damages her health.

While soldiers like Dolours Price were willing to risk their lives for the cause and to carry out the brutal orders of IRA commanders without mercy, she and others came to resent politicians like Gerry Adams, leader of the Sinn Fein party, who never admitted he had been a member of the IRA, although everyone knows he was. Adams helped negotiate the uneasy peace that ended the Troubles, but as the title of Keefe's excellent book shows, "Say Nothing" means that the truth of the hatred and violence in Northern Ireland remains mostly untold.
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LibraryThing member annbury
A great read. You would think that there is nothing to add about the Troubles
but Keefe manages to come up with something new. i had no idea that Rea
was married to an IRA girl, nor that Thatcher was such a b-----, nor that
BC held all of the transcripts of the Troubles. The southern Irish got a bad deal - England still ruled in the North, the constitution of the Republic now
allows divorce and will not hold out for a united Ireland. The Protestants got
everything they wanted. My father was born in Belfast, he was a catholic,and tells this story. He had joined the British army to fight in WW1 at 14. One night, he went into the linen store owned by his parents in uniform (the Connnaught Rangers ,all catholic then). A prod spotted him and the next night the store was firebombed.
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LibraryThing member Hagelstein
Patrick Radden Keefe examines the Troubles in Northern Ireland through the lens of the Belfast Project, a series of interviews and oral histories with former (and maybe current at the time) IRA members, collected at Boston College, among other sources. He focuses on a few main IRA figures, Dolours Price, Gerry Adams, and others, while touching on a large number of people involved. The kidnapping and murder of Jean McConville, believed by some to be an informer for the British Army, plays a large part.

Well-researched and written, Say Nothing explores the futility, sorrow and generation-destroying terror of the IRA and the often unprincipled British efforts to thwart them.
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LibraryThing member RowingRabbit
Absolutely riveting. The author personalizes the Troubles by following a handful of individuals who were in the thick of it. Their stories are gripping, terrifying & sad. It's exhaustively researched (as evidenced by 60 pages of notes & a 5 page bibliography at the end) & clearly lays out the history from early 1900's to present day. Written in an unbiased & eminently readable style, Keefe presents all sides whenever possible. Highly recommend.… (more)
LibraryThing member EadieB
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. This book captures the intrigue, the drama and the profound human cost of the Troubles. It is a searing chronicle of the lengths that people are willing to go to in order to pursue a political ideal, and the ways in which societies mend – or don’t – in the aftermath of a long and bloody conflict. Say Nothing conjures a world of passion, betrayal, vengeance, and anguish. I found this book most interesting and I learned a lot about the conflict that I never knew. Highly recommended.… (more)
LibraryThing member Bodagirl
This was billed as true crime, but the bulk of the book is focused on several individuals in the IRA. While the connection between the IRA and the murder is clear, the politics and history of the Troubles overshadowed the victims to such an extent that I would classify this as more history than true crime.
LibraryThing member breic
I haven't been particularly interested in the Troubles, neither side being particularly sympathetic and the whole scale being rather small. I read this book hoping to learn more about it, and hopefully to develop an interest. I did learn a lot. Unfortunately, it largely confirmed my prejudices. How small these people are. Maybe that is what makes this an interesting case study, that you can delve into the minds of all the major players, and perhaps extrapolate bigger lessons about peace.… (more)
LibraryThing member Eliz12
Brilliant.
LibraryThing member nancyjean19
If you like facts, you’ll love this book! Though ultimately satisfying, at times I felt like the details skewed a bit too far from the semi-central murder. Definitely well researched and mostly engaging, but perhaps it could have used a bit more grounding in my opinion. Or maybe a flow chart outlining how everyone was connected?… (more)
LibraryThing member Darcia
We humans are predisposed to less visceral reactions toward tragedy within the masses than toward the tragedy of a few individuals. Learning, in broad terms, about the IRA and the struggles within Northern Ireland is an intellectual experience. We feel bad, but in a distant manner. Personalizing the history with the stories of a few people who were directly involved in and/or affected by the situation gives us an emotional connection, and then we're able to truly understand and empathize. With Say Nothing, Keefe gives us that emotional connection.

All that is my long-winded way of saying I loved this book. I understand the situation in ways I didn't before, not just because I read the facts, but because I felt the impact.

The piece of history presented here is complex, and yet the author does a fabulous job, not so much of simplifying events, but of presenting them in a way that's easy to follow and keeps us engaged.

Patrick Radden Keefe is a gifted writer. I have no doubt that the research alone was exhausting, much less the process of putting it all together in an engaging narrative, and yet I never felt the weight of it. This is an exceptionally well written book that I highly recommend to anyone even remotely interested in the topic.

*I received a free copy from the publisher in exchange for my honest review.*
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LibraryThing member etxgardener
My great grandmother emigrated from Londonderry in Northern Ireland to Chicago in 1880. She was a Orangewoman and hated Catholics with a vengeance. She passed that hatred down to my grandmother who every St. Patrick's Day would hang an orange banner on ther front porch of her house that read, "ONE KING, ONE CROWN, NO POPE IN OUR TOWN." As a young child, I just thought she was nuts and she became a figure of un in my young life. That is, until I traveled to the UK in the 1970's and saw first hand what this internecine hatred had developed into. I came very close to being affected by IRA bombs in London and was subjected to having my bad and belongings searched at the entrance of every bar, restaurant, theater, or museum. The warfare of "The Troubles" thankfully ended with the Good Friday Accord of 1998, but with the specter of Brexit and the return of a hard border being reestablished between Northern Ireland and the Republic, the old tensions have started bubbling to the surface once again.

Patrick Radden Keefe's book focuses on just one bloody incident in The Troubles: the abduction and murder of Jean McConville. a widow with ten children who was accused of being an informant to the British military. Keefe looks at what drove the violence: decades of discrimination against Catholics in employment, housing and schooling in the north, the desire for a unified Ireland, and teh almost consistent flat-footed nature of the occupying British military forces. Neighborhoods were segregated and marked by fences of concertina wire and people mostly kept to their own kind and were suspicious of anyone now known to them. Residents on both sides quickly learned that there was nothing worse that being an informer and people learned to keep their mouths shut.

We meet two sisters, Dolours and Marilyn Price, who came from an IRA family and played significant roles in London IRA bombings, and probably in Jean McConville's murder. They were eventually caught, arrested and sentenced to a prison in England where they went on a hunger strike that does permanent damage to their health. We also meet Gerry Adams the leader of the Provisional IRA in the north as well as other more secondary players, all dedicated to uniting Ireland through force.

At some point, Adams decides that more can be accomplished through negotiation than violence and becomes the "revered" politician he portrays today. However, in making himself respectable, he essentially threw many of his old comrades under the bus - a point that sat well with no one.

The McConville children were eventually scattered into the Irish fostercare system - many of them enduring physical and sexual abuse at the hands of their caretakers. Even today, they frequently see the old neighbors who entered their home and took their mother away. when asked why they don't now, at last, go to the police and press charges, they talk about reprisals and say that it is just better to say nothing.
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LibraryThing member Vantine
Compelling narrative non fiction that doesn’t require any real knowledge of the Troubles in Northern Ireland.
It’s more of a history of the era told through the people surrounding the murder of a mother of 10 including her children, members of the IRA, and the British police and politicians. It’s not a true crime book so go in knowing that. It’s detailed and well researched.… (more)
LibraryThing member nmele
My spouse and I have friends who lived in Belfast during the Troubles, but they rarely talk about their experiences. Reading Keefe's book prompted me to tell them that each new atrocity caused me to think of them, in the midst of the terror and the violence. Keefe does not dwell on horror but he does not flinch from unpleasant facts. Somehow, telling of the violence with a focus on the Catholic side is balanced by his accounts of how the British government treated those they captured and imprisoned. All sides are guilty of the violence, and all are victims. In my view, the person who comes off the worst is the once controversial and now largely forgotten (in the US) Gerry Adams. This book was a revelation to me and an education in how violence claims everyone who is even in proximity to such acts through trauma, mistrust, betrayal and the disappearance of friends, family and loved ones. A necessary, tragic book.… (more)
LibraryThing member sleahey
This is a gripping and disturbing nonfiction account of the war between the Protestants and Catholics, the Royalists and Nationalists, leading up to the peace that finally settled fitfully over Northern Ireland. Keefe portrays the impossibilities of day to day life during the height of the troubles, and makes the scene all the more vivid by delving into the lives of some of the soldiers and victims. By beginning with the disappearance of a mother and the affects her loss had on her family, Keefe adds a mystery to the narrative, and brings the story full circle at the end. Readers will get a sense of the motivations behind some terrible acts of violence, and the accompanying photographs make the story all the more powerful.… (more)
LibraryThing member Gwendydd
This is an engrossing account of The Troubles in Ireland, starting in the 1970s and ending on the eve of Brexit. It's a very complex and fraught subject: there are a lot of people involved, the conflicts between them can seem inexplicable to outsiders, and the issues are morally complex. Keefe doesn't shy away from any of that complexity, and yet still manages to make all of it readily digestible for his readers.

The book is meticulously researched. So much of The Troubles have been shrouded in secrecy - the titular "say nothing" is an IRA survival tactic, to the point that a lot of people never even told their closest family members that they were involved in the IRA - so the amount of detail Keefe has been able to uncover and piece together is impressive.

Keefe also does a good job of helping the reader keep track of all of the people involved. He paints vivid but realistic portraits of everyone, and provides the reader with just enough context when he hasn't mentioned a person in a while that it's easy to remember who is who and why they are important.

The Troubles are a very morally and emotionally charged topic. Keefe clearly understands the motivations of the people involved, and portrays them sympathetically without justifying or condemning their actions. There is no easy good/bad/right/wrong here, and Keefe is sensitive to that fact. Even with as complex a character as Gerry Adams, who could easily be portrayed as either a saint or a psychopath, Keefe does not pass judgement.

The book also focuses a lot of attention on an oral history project undertaken by Boston College. The college had the best of intentions: they wanted to get the people who had said nothing for decades to spill their beans, with the promise that their stories would be kept a secret until after their deaths. However, they clearly didn't think through the ramifications very well, and as soon as the British government learned of the existence of these oral histories they subpoenaed them and the college was utterly unprepared to deal with it. There are some tough lessons for historians here, which add another layer of difficult moral questions.

All of this makes for a fascinating, compelling, compassionate, and heartbreaking read.
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