Say Nothing: A True Story of Murder and Memory in Northern Ireland by Patrick Radden Keefe
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.
This book was so good. I genuinely did not stop talking about it the entire time I was reading it. I would bring it up in every single conversation I had. But it was just so good.
I didn’t know a ton about the Troubles going into this book, other than a general idea of what they were. And this book did a really great job breaking everything down and introducing the main players. I was heavily invested in the members of the IRA and thought their story was wild. I mean, Gerry Adams literally being arrested for being in the IRA, and then flat out denying it when he became a politician? Margaret Thatcher saying “then perish” to a bunch of hunger strikers? Dolours and Marian Price? Their mother asking to keep Marian’s mugshot photo? Jean McConville’s kidnapping and murder????? Wild. I genuinely could not stop telling everyone about it.
The book was also super well-written. It was a little dramatic at times for a non-fiction, but it made it compulsively readable. The audiobook is narrated by a man with a really strong Irish accent, which might make it hard to understand some things, depending on how quickly you listen to it. I personally loved it because every morning on my commute to work, I got to listen to an Irish man narrate history at me.
If you enjoy true crime, you definitely need to pick this book up. It’s got everything: kidnapping, murder, bombings, hunger strikes in prison, mystery, wack politicians. I cannot recommend it enough.
So those are my thoughts! Have you read this book? What were your thoughts? Do you plan on reading it? Let me know!
Thanks for reading! xx