STARRED REVIEW
March 2019

Say Nothing

By Brad Parks
The New Yorker staff writer Patrick Radden Keefe’s gripping, revelatory and unsettling account of McConville’s murder and its reverberations throughout the 30-year spasm of violence known as the “troubles,” which left 3,500 dead in its wake.
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Jean McConville was 38 years old in December 1972 when a masked man kidnapped her from her flat in a bleak housing project in Belfast, Northern Ireland. Her 10 children, some of whom were clinging to her legs as she was dragged from her home, never saw her again. It was soon rumored that McConville, a Protestant once married to a Catholic, had been snatched—and probably executed—by the outlawed provisional wing of the Irish Republican Army because she was an informer.

So begins Say Nothing: A True Story of Murder and Memory in Northern Ireland, The New Yorker staff writer Patrick Radden Keefe’s gripping, revelatory and unsettling account of McConville’s murder and its reverberations throughout the 30-year spasm of violence known as the “troubles,” which left 3,500 dead in its wake. To tell the story, Keefe delves into a long and devastating history of open and hidden conflict, parts of which remain entombed within the IRA’s code of silence. With visceral detail, he describes life in the embattled neighborhoods, where suspicion and betrayal festered on all sides. Keefe also offers compelling portraits of some of the leading figures in the conflict, among them Gerry Adams, who helped broker the 1998 Good Friday Agreement that brought an end to armed conflict. He went on to preside over Sinn Féin, sometimes called the political arm of the IRA.

But the most riveting figure in this narrative is Dolours Price. She and her younger sister, Marian, were radicalized as students after a peaceful march for union with Ireland was violently attacked. Described as having a quick tongue, flaming red hair and a peacock personality, she was chosen by Adams for an elite squad. She played a part in McConville’s abduction, organized a car bombing attack on London and, when imprisoned, led a hunger strike that inflamed the romantic revolutionary imagination. But as a true believer, she, along with others, was devastated when Adams first denied that he was ever in the IRA and then brokered a peace agreement that did not include the unification of Ireland. She was, allegedly, not an inherently violent person, and she was left wondering what it was all for. Which is one of the most profound and unanswerable questions this searing book will leave in a reader’s mind.

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Say Nothing

Say Nothing

By Brad Parks
Dutton
ISBN 9781101985595

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