Patrick Radden Keefe’s delve into the history of the Irish Troubles is immensely readable and formative. This isn’t a topic that particularly grabs my attention and as such is one I know very little about. I can recall, as a child, hearing about Ireland or seeing snippets in the news but it wasn’t much on my radar and perhaps even less so as an adult. I have, however, read a few novels from Irish authors in recent years and it’s clear that the history of the Troubles is at the heart of a lot of Irish literature, whether or not it’s a large part of the plot. (A book like Anna Burns’ Milkman definitely comes to mind.) Say Nothing is a book that kept appearing on lists by other book bloggers and seemed to be receiving rave reviews across the board so when I saw that it was available at my local library I decided to give it a go.
Keefe centres his story around the disappearance of Jean McConville. A thirty-something widow with numerous children, she seems like a minor character, not someone who would have much influence in a political struggle. But one night she is taken from her home, in front of her children, and never heard from again. There is no body, nothing to provide closure to her loved ones.
Along with the story of Jean and her children, Keefe weaves in the history of the political struggles of Ireland. He does so in a very informative but fascinating way, introducing such polarizing figures as Dolours Price and Gerry Adams. The book covers decades of Irish history, bringing us up to the very present day. It never bogs down in details or left me feeling confused. This is honestly my favourite way to learn about something, through a narrative non-fiction like this.
If this were a novel, we would have been provided with a neater ending. Since this is real life, Keefe outlines the details that are known but it’s easy to see that there is plenty to still be revealed in the future. Many of the people featured in the book are still alive; this is very recent history, and there are stories that will not be made public until after their deaths’.
If you’re a fan of true crime, you want to learn more about Ireland in the 20th century, or you’re simply a reader who enjoys an excellent narrative non-fiction, I can highly recommend Say Nothing.