Say Nothing: A True Story Of Murder and Memory In Northern Ireland Paperback – 22 August 2019
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TIME’s #1 Best Nonfiction Book of 2019
‘Say Nothing rightly won this year’s Orwell prize for political writing. It is a superb piece of reportage and writing … It is a book that could become worryingly relevant again.’ Times, the best current affairs and politics books of 2019
‘In this meticulously reported book – as finely paced as a novel – Keefe uses McConville’s murder as a prism to tell the history of the Troubles in Northern Ireland … A searing, utterly gripping saga.’ New York Times, best books of 2019
‘Breathtaking in its scope and ambition… Keefe has produced a searing examination of the nature of truth in war and the toll taken by violence and deceit… Will take its place alongside the best of the books about the Troubles’ Sunday Times
‘A horrible, chilling tale and I’m glad someone has at last had the guts to tell it. There have been, thus far, only two good books to emerge from the Troubles. This is the third.’ Jeremy Paxman
‘A gripping and profoundly human explanation for a past that still denies and defines the future… Only an outsider could have written a book this good … If conclusions are possible, Radden Keefe’s is that everyone became complicit in the terror… I can’t praise this book enough: it’s erudite, accessible, compelling, enlightening. I thought I was bored by Northern Ireland’s past until I read it.’ Melanie Reid, The Times
‘An exceptional new book, Say Nothing explores this brittle landscape to devastating effect.’ Wall Street Journal
‘Keefe’s narrative is an architectural feat, expertly constructed out of complex and contentious material, arranged and balanced just so… This sensitive and judicious book raises some troubling, and perhaps unanswerable, questions.’ New York Times
‘Vivid and rightly shocking… Say Nothing is an excellent account of the Troubles; it might also be a warning.’ Roddy Doyle
About the Author
Patrick Radden Keefe is a staff writer at the New Yorker magazine and the author of two critically acclaimed books, The Snakehead and Chatter. He received the National Magazine Award for Feature Writing in 2014, was a finalist for the National Magazine Award for Reporting in 2015 and 2016, and is the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship and an Eric and Wendy Schmidt Fellowship at the New America Foundation. A former Marshall scholar, he holds Master’s degrees from Cambridge University and the London School of Economics, and a law degree from Yale. He lives in New York
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- Item Weight : 460 g
- Paperback : 528 pages
- ISBN-10 : 0008159262
- ISBN-13 : 978-0008159269
- Dimensions : 12.9 x 3.35 x 19.8 cm
- Publisher : William Collins (22 August 2019)
- Language: : English
- Best Sellers Rank: #30,651 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Gives an overall picture of a war that most of people outside of Great Britain might not be aware about.
It's a real page turner, and I didn't even skip a line while reading it.
Definitely worth reading.
Top reviews from other countries
The IRA and its members often had a romantic and heroic place in the media, people who were willing to go to extreme lengths in the name of religious and cultural freedom. But those years happened well before 9/11 when terroristic violence, unfortunately, became a common crime. Reading Say Nothing perhaps exposed some of my own religious and cultural bias (I am an Irish Catholic), and forced me to see all the sides--the British, the Loyalists, the IRA--in a more objective light.
If I have any critique at all of the book, I would say that I wished it had moved a bit faster. I sometimes found myself having to refer to my mental roster to recall who was who, particularly as the time periods shifter frequently.
The complexity of the subject and of the groups and characters involved has produced many books which deliver a piecemeal picture that in many respects fails to get to grips with what is essentially a tragedy that happens over a small geographical area, including people who become well-known and who know other people from the same places: Dolours Price, Seamus Heaney, Gerry Adams, Freddie Scappaticci, and so on. This book presents the claustrophobic nature of the Troubles like no other I've read, creating a believable picture of a society cowed into silence and sectarianism by sheer proximity and social pressure. Nobody can speak out because everyone is afraid of the consequences, whether from the security services, neighbours, or local paramilitaries, and consequently, secrets abound and continue to contaminate even the present day.
I grew up in the north of England, in a social setting very similar in its lack of affluence, its divisions and its religious and ethnic allegiances, and it's horrifying to me that I can imagine a similar situation in my home town, except for the fact that history makes no claims on the lives of individuals in the same way as it does in Belfast.
I hope this book will set the bar for increasing openness about the past and that more families will eventually find closure and peace.
My caveat about the value of the book is that for those who may not closely read and assimilate the information in the relevant pages, for example 274 and 333, the casual reader may reach the conclusion that the paramilitary republican groups were the initial, and the sole, perpetrators of violence. Sifting the books' contents closely, one does find elements which negate that conclusion. On page 274 we learn that loyalist groups, supported by members of the British state, killed "hundreds" of civilians. On page 333, this charge is reiterated and the refrains, "What about Bloody Sunday?" and "What about Bloody Friday?" are charged as if in justifying one action by another. Further there are suggestions that the authorities may have tended to rely more heavily on transcripts that revealed violence by republicans than those of loyalists, perhaps because the latter might reveal the role that those authorities had played in league with the loyalists' causes.
The complex nature of this tragic time should not be reached shallowly by readers' impressions. I call for greater balance in leading to understanding what drove these events. In 2010, I visited the Bloody Sunday museum in Derry not long after British officials finally officially acknowledged that their earlier defense of the actions leading to the death of 14 individuals engaged in a peace march had not been accurate. Finally, after more than three decades, it was admitted that 14 innocent and unarmed peace marchers were mowed down, some killed by a shot in the back while running away, by a military acting without justifiable provocation. The author did well characterize the disproportionate violence by the authorities in his account of the marchers who were met by authorities at Burntollet Bridge but here the outcome was not as mortal even if it fueled the subsequent violence in reprise.
Personalizing the victim who was the widowed mother of 10 and following through with descriptions of the impact on her children might cause many readers to assign all the blame for The Troubles on the IRA. Having heard the story of an adolescent school girl who was killed by a rubber bullet from a military gun, her blood cleaned off the sidewalk by the mothers in the neighborhood, I had acquired a personal acquaintance with this victim of the authorities. By also personalizing the victims of violence that was brought by authorities, among these, the little girl hit by the rubber bullet or the 14 peace marchers who were intentionally killed, the author may have been able to achieve better balance. Surely, too, the author might have personalized a few of the victims among the "hundreds" that were killed by the loyalists? Knowing the innocence of those victims and the impact on their loved ones that followed from their senseless killing would have provided the balance that many readers might benefit from. Personalizing only one victim has rendered imbalance.
A close reader already acquainted with the events may not have needed a balanced rendering but those readers, so informed, may not have needed to read the book. I only "down-star" my rating because of concern that blame needs to be balanced so that cause is understood and change can be embraced. Staying in a B&B in Derry, we met a South African who was there to consult on Truth and Reconciliation. That program involves divulging guilt to achieve reconciliation. What can the perpetrators and victims of violence in Northern Ireland learn when there is balance among the blameful?
It's in the third section that the 'memory' of the title comes in as Keefe explores the post-Good Friday Agreement narrativisation and the personal and national reckoning that has and still is taking place in Northern Ireland. Indeed, the whole topic has an added urgency given the implications for NI of the Brexit vote - something that barely raised a murmur in the pre-referendum hustings.
Keefe traces the tragedies of Northern Ireland, almost completely focused here on Belfast, from the outbreak of the Troubles in 1969, the escalation through the 1970s, the bombing campaigns in London, the Thatcher years and the H-block/hunger strikes in the 1980s through to the rise of Sinn Fein and the current peace agreement. He makes it personal and while it may not be neutral (there are barely any mentions of loyalist paramilitaries - as Keefe acknowledges in his notes) it does recount tragic tales of both the British soldiers and their republican enemies.
Interspersed with this history is the story of Jean McConville, a widowed mother of ten, who was 'disappeared' by the Provisional IRA in 1972. It's only at the end that her story becomes integrated with Keefe's overall narrative - so if you're looking for a 'true crime' account of this case it's best to look elsewhere.
Detailed, humane, fluently written - this is utterly gripping and a timely reminder of our recent past.