Book Review: Say Nothing

40163119Title: Say Nothing: A True Story of Murder and Memory in Northern Ireland
Author: Patrick Radden Keefe
Genre: Nonfiction – True Crime
Publisher: Doubleday Books
Publication Date: February 26, 2019
Pages: 464
Format Read: ebook
Standalone or series: standalone
Where I got the book: NetGalley ARC
Date finished reading: February 27, 2019

Goodreads Description: 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.

My Review: This was not what I thought it would be, but it was great in a whole different way. It was an intensely dramatic way to tell the story of true crime, war and conflict in Northern Ireland.

When the book starts it introduces Jean McConville, a 38-year-old single mother of 10, who was abducted from her home in December of 1972. She disappears and is never heard from again. Then the book randomly switches to introduce another character, Dolours Price. I kept thinking, “why am I reading about Dolours? What does she have to do with the Jean McConville’s abduction?” However, as the story continues and Price’s story continues, I found myself being pulled in. The author goes into the details of Price’s activism and her need to fight for rights in Northern Ireland, which led to her involvement in the peaceful protest march from Belfast to Derry. This peaceful march did not have a peaceful conclusion as the marchers were beaten and brutalized by loyalists as they reached Derry. This event really changed Dolours Price’s life forever and led her to become one of the most infamous IRA (Irish Republican Army) members in its history. The incident at Burntollet Bridge was so incredibly moving that I had to know how her story ends.

It turns out that to understand Jean McConville’s disappearance, you really have to understand the Troubles between England and Northern Ireland. You really get to experience the result of when peaceful marches are not enough and how violence changes people. This story lets you see inside the lives of multiple IRA members, including Gerry Adams, Brendan Hughes, Dolours Price, Marian Price and others.  You also get to experience what life was life in Northern Ireland – “routine bombings could make life impossible.” The author, Patrick Radden Keefe, sums up this story very eloquently:

“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.”

This book was so horrifying, and yet I could not put it down. I needed to know what happened to each and every one of the characters involved, including Jean McConville, and without giving any spoilers, there was indeed a connection between her and the IRA. I just hope Jean McConville’s children can find some peace, and that there will be peace in Northern Ireland.

My Rating: ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦