One night in December 1972, Jean McConville, a mother of ten, was abducted from her home in Belfast and never seen alive again. Her disappearance would haunt her orphaned children, the perpetrators of this terrible crime and a whole society in Northern Ireland for decades.
In this powerful, scrupulously reported book, Patrick Radden Keefe offers not just a forensic account of a brutal crime but a vivid portrait of the world in which it happened. The tragedy of an entire country is captured in the spellbinding narrative of a handful of characters, presented in lyrical and unforgettable detail.
A poem by Seamus Heaney inspires the title: ‘Whatever You Say, Say Nothing'. By defying the culture of silence, Keefe illuminates how a close-knit society fractured; how people chose sides in a conflict and turned to violence; and how, when the shooting stopped, some ex-combatants came to look back in horror at the atrocities they had committed, while others continue to advocate violence even today.
Say Nothing deftly weaves the stories of Jean McConville and her family with those of Dolours Price, the first woman to join the IRA as a front-line soldier, who bombed the Old Bailey when barely out of her teens; Gerry Adams, who helped bring an end to the fighting, but denied his own IRA past; Brendan Hughes, a fearsome IRA commander who turned on Adams after the peace process and broke the IRA's code of silence; and other indelible figures. By capturing the intrigue, the drama and the profound human cost of the Troubles, the book presents a searing chronicle of the lengths that people are willing to go to in pursuit of a political ideal, and the ways in which societies mend – or don't – in the aftermath of a long and bloody conflict.
About the Author
Patrick Radden Keefe is a staff writer at The New Yorker, a senior fellow at The Century Foundation, and the author of The Snakehead: An Epic Tale of the Chinatown Underworld and the American Dream and Chatter: Dispatches from the Secret World of Global Eavesdropping. He writes about legal issues, crime, national security, and foreign policy. (And pop culture occasionally, too.) In 2014, Patrick received the National Magazine Award for Feature Writing, for his story "A Loaded Gun."
The recipient of a Marshall Scholarship, a Guggenheim Fellowship, and fellowships at the Cullman Center for Scholars and Writers at the New York Public Library and the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, Patrick has been a finalist for the J. Anthony Lukas Prize and the Overseas Press Club's Cornelius Ryan Award for Best Book on International Affairs. Patrick grew up in Dorchester, Massachusetts and went to college at Columbia. He received Masters degrees from Cambridge University and the London School of Economics, and a JD from Yale Law School.
"Keefe's gripping account of the Troubles is equal parts true-crime, history, and tragedy. His incisive reporting reveals the hidden costs of the Troubles, illuminating both the terrible toll of the conflict, and how it continues to reverberate today. A must read."
"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."
"Patrick Radden Keefe uses the old Irish phrase, "Whatever you say, say nothing", to suggest and to say just about everything. His great accomplishment is to capture the tragedy of the Troubles on a human scale. A bracing, empathetic, heartrending work of storytelling."
"Meticulously reported, exquisitely written and grippingly told, this is a work of revelation. Keefe not only peels back, layer by layer, the truth behind one of the most important and mysterious crimes of a terrible conflict; he also excavates the history of the Troubles and illuminates its repercussions to this day."