Say Nothing: Book summary and reviews of Say Nothing by Patrick Radden Keefe

Say Nothing

A True Story of Murder and Memory in Northern Ireland

by Patrick Radden Keefe

Say Nothing by Patrick Radden Keefe X
Say Nothing by Patrick Radden Keefe
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  • Published Feb 2019
    464 pages
    Genre: Biography/Memoir

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Book Summary

From award-winning New Yorker staff writer Patrick Radden Keefe, a stunning, intricate narrative about a notorious killing in Northern Ireland and its devastating repercussions.

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. From radical and impetuous I.R.A. terrorists 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 but betrayed his hardcore comrades by denying his I.R.A. past - Say Nothing conjures a world of passion, betrayal, vengeance, and anguish.

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Book Awards

  • award image National Book Critics Circle Award, 2019

Reviews

Media Reviews

"Starred Review. Keefe deftly turns a complicated and often dark subject into a riveting and informative page-turner that will engage readers of both true crime and popular history." - Library Journal

"Starred Review. A harrowing story of politically motivated crime that could not have been better told." - Kirkus

"[A] moving, accessible account of the violence that has afflicted Northern Ireland...Tinged with immense sadness, this work never loses sight of the humanity of even those who committed horrible acts in support of what they believed in." - Publishers Weekly

"Meticulously reported, exquisitely written, and grippingly told, Say Nothing is a work of revelation." - David Grann, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Killers of the Flower Moon

"[This] gripping account of the Troubles is equal parts true-crime, history, and tragedy ... A must read." - Gillian Flynn, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Gone Girl

"Patrick Radden Keefe uses the old Irish phrase, 'Whatever you say, say nothing,' to suggest and to say just about everything. Keefe's great accomplishment is to capture the tragedy of the Troubles on a human scale. By tracing the intersecting lives of a handful of unforgettable characters, he has created a deeply honest and intimate portrait of a society still haunted by its own violent past. Say Nothing is a bracing, empathetic, heartrending work of storytelling." - Colum McCann, New York Times bestselling author of Transatlantic and Let the Great World Spin, Winner of the National Book Award

"Patrick Radden Keefe has the rare ability to convey an intimate story that powerfully illuminates a much larger one.  Combining the skills of an investigative journalist with the storytelling power of a suspense novelist, Keefe brilliantly represents the menace and intrigue that devastated Belfast during The Troubles, and shows the course of ordinary lives headed toward inevitable and awful collision. By turns gripping and profoundly revelatory, Say Nothing shines a brighter light on Northern Ireland's tragic past than any history book." - Scott Anderson, New York Times bestselling author of Lawrence in Arabia

"A shattering, intimate study of how young men and women consumed by radical political violence are transformed by the history they make, and struggle to come to terms with the blood they have shed, Say Nothing is a powerful reckoning. Keefe has written an essential book." - Philip Gourevitch, author of National Book Critics Circle Award winner We Wish to Inform You That Tomorrow We Will Be Killed With Our Families and The Ballad of Abu Ghraib

"Smart, searching, and utterly absorbing, Say Nothing sweeps us into the heart of one of the modern world's bitterest conflicts and, with unusual compassion, walks us back out again along the road to reconciliation. This is more than a powerful, superbly reported work of journalism. It is contemporary history at its finest." - Maya Jasanoff, author of the National Book Critics Circle Award-winning Liberty's Exiles and The Dawn Watch

"Say Nothing is a piercing inquiry into the nature of political violence and its aftermath, by one of the best reporters in the United States. In this beautifully written book, Patrick Radden Keefe delves into the heart of the IRA, chronicling the worst years of the Troubles and the ghosts that continue to haunt Belfast even now that the fighting is over. Faulkner had it right: 'The past is never dead. It's not even past.'" - Peter Bergen, author of Manhunt: The Ten-Year Search for Bin Laden From 9/11 to Abbottabad

This information about Say Nothing was first featured in "The BookBrowse Review" - BookBrowse's membership magazine, and in our weekly "Publishing This Week" newsletter. Publication information is for the USA, and (unless stated otherwise) represents the first print edition. The reviews are necessarily limited to those that were available to us ahead of publication. If you are the publisher or author and feel that they do not properly reflect the range of media opinion now available, send us a message with the mainstream reviews that you would like to see added.

Any "Author Information" displayed below reflects the author's biography at the time this particular book was published.

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Author Information

Patrick Radden Keefe

Patrick Radden Keefe is a staff writer at The New Yorker and the author of The Snakehead and Chatter. His work has also appeared in The New York Times Magazine, Slate, New York, and The New York Review of Books. He received the 2014 National Magazine Award for Feature Writing, for his story "A Loaded Gun," was a finalist for the National Magazine Award for Reporting in 2015 and 2016, and is also the recipient of an Eric and Wendy Schmidt Fellowship at the New America Foundation and a Guggenheim Fellowship.

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