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Patrick Radden Keefe’s SAY NOTHING

Updated: Feb 19



This was one of those books I’d missed and only discovered by chance. The minute I started reading it I was completely hooked. Patrick Radden Keefe, a journalist for The New Yorker, takes the unsolved disappearance of a mother of ten in Belfast 1972 to create a narrative that tells the history of The Troubles unlike anything I have read before. Deeply personal while at the same time encompassing the whole of the conflict this is a book worthy of all the accolades it has already received.


Keefe begins with the story of Jean McConville and the events that led up to her disappearance and the possible reasons behind it. He then tells the story of her ten children left behind, waiting for their mother to return. She never does. Through Jean’s disappearance Keefe then brings in the story of three others who are all intimately linked to the events that took place in 1972 and continued to take place over the course of the next forty plus years.


The first is Dolours Price. A young woman who went from marching for the civil rights of Catholics in Northern Ireland to being an active member of the Provisional IRA. Dolours Price led the unit who were responsible for bombing the Old Bailey in London as well as countless other executions and operations against British forces, Protestant paramilitary groups, suspected collaborators and civilians. The second is Brendan Hughes, a commander in the Provisional IRA and right-hand man to Gerry Adams who through the weight of guilt and time begins to turn against the rules he upheld for so many years. And lastly Gerry Adams himself. The charismatic IRA leader turned politician who disavowed his past life in pursuit of his ideology and ultimate goal. Keefe paints a fascinating picture of a man far removed from the picture in which he sees himself showing the contradictions and lies that shaped both the conflict and the peace in Northern Ireland.


Patrick Radden Keefe weaves all these stories together brilliantly, capturing the changing tide of The Troubles from the 1970s to the 1980s to the ceasefires and the peace agreements of the 1990s and on through the 2000s and up to the present day. He dramatically paints a picture of life on both sides of the conflict and the changing attitudes of each side and each individual. At the same time he never loses sights of Jean McConville’s story. Forgotten by the RUC but never by her ten children who went on to live hard and brutal lives as a result of her disappearance. Long after peace is reached the ramifications of the lives lost, the lives disappeared, live on in the memories of those involved and those left behind. Keefe shows how the Good Friday Agreement made a tragic error in not attempting to reconcile with the past or the crimes and injustices that were perpetrated in the name of the conflict.


This is an absolutely fascinating account. Dolours Price’s story in particular was fascinating to learn about but also the wider consequence of peace and what it means twenty years later. The heart of the story is a tragic mystery and like all good mysteries there are twists and turns until the final pages. This was the perfect book to start my new year of reading and I cannot recommend this book highly enough.



Title: Say Nothing

Author: Patrick Radden Keefe

Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers

ISBN: 9780008159269

Length: 198.0 millimetre

Width: 129.0 millimetre

Subtitle: A True Story Of Murder and Memory In Northern Ireland

Format: PaperBack

Category: European , Military

Publication Date: 19/08/2019

Pages: 528

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