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Summary

A shocking true story of murder, extreme politics and the deep scars left by the Troubles in Ireland of the 1970s and the human consequences. A taut tale of murder, extreme politics, institutionalised violence and the deep scars left by such turmoil. 

In this powerful, scrupulously reported audiobook, 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 Irish 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 she was 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.

©2018 Patrick Radden Keefe (P)2018 HarperCollins Publishers

Critic reviews

"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)

"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. 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. A bracing, empathetic, heartrending work of storytelling." (Colum McCann)

"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)

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Immense, powerful, exquisite and raw.

I haven't 'connected' to a book in a long time as I have this one. It's beautifully crafted, it pulls no punches, but doesn't glorify, justify or condemn the history. I remember the horrors of the Troubles as a child, hearing it on the news, and this is a perfectly pitched perspective on a few characters involved.
If you read or listen to one non-fiction book this year, make it this.

10 people found this helpful

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too much history not enough psychology of maniacs.

Not so much a book about the missing Jean Mcconville but another fantasy to appeal to IRA sympathiser or Irish Americans (likely those who emptied their pockets into the NORAID collection boxes).
What we want is an unambiguous, honest approach to detailing the story of the disappeared. The truth about the utter brutality of a terrorist organisation who kept their communities in utter fear. Whether that be the humiliation of tar & feathering, knee capping, or as in the case of Jean a brutal beating prior to being put to death; moreso than any unionist controlled government.
The troubles are over, theres newspaper archives and released government papers to give a narrative. Let's get into the psychology of mans inhumanity to man (or woman).

6 people found this helpful

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A very good read

This book was not what I expected. I had read a review and thought I would give it a try. It’s not usually what I would choose, not to mention I didn’t really have any interest in learning about ‘the troubles’ but this book totally captivated me. I cannot recommend enough . It is a true story which enables the listener to gain an insight into real events.

6 people found this helpful

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touts know the rules!

enjoyed this story. have to agree with an earlier reviewer that the narrator annoyed me with some of the basic words that he mispronounced like the river foggon (faughan), drinking in a shebben (shebeen), solicitor pat finnegan (finucane) and others, although it was mostly ok
although he only gets a fleeting mention, the worst of the old ruc in the form of drew harris has yet to materialise

4 people found this helpful

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IRA Biased

Narrator is clearly heavily biased to the Republican side of events giving the impression of swash buckling, happy go lucky freedom fighters, Interesting to learn about the dark history, but i'll stick to a more balanced view in future.

3 people found this helpful

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Fascinating history

Superb book. The first one of its kind I've read or listened to and I couldn't stop listening. This is how non-fiction should be written.

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Totally Biased

Couldn’t finish this book. Imagine the Manchester Arena bomber being portrayed as a romantic hero then you’ll catch my drift. Anti- British pro IRA propaganda which even asserted blame for Jean McConvillles murder away from the provos
Shocking

2 people found this helpful

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Blood-soaked history of a Troubled island

Growing up in Scotland in the 1980s and ‘90s, I was always aware of the Troubles, and of the risks posed by the IRA, but didn’t know much about the detail. I remember the Brighton Bombing and dubbed-over Gerry Adams on the TV news. Keefe’s book neatly weaves together two stories: those of the IRA’s Dolours Price, and Jean McConville, the mother who was ‘disappeared’ by the terrorists as she was believed to be an informer. It’s a clever contrast. Price became disillusioned by the movement, while McConville’s family fought for years for justice (which remains elusive). At times, there’s a tendency towards language that will prove divisive, eg calling a terrorist a ‘soldier’; some might see this as a kind of glamorisation, or buying into the terror group’s sick perception of itself. I had some doubts about this, but not for long. The counterbalance of the McConvilles’ ordeal provides objectivity. Keefe has a theory about who pulled the trigger when McConville was murdered, and it’s a persuasive one. The Troubles claimed 3,500 lives, but at the end Keene reflects that the IRA’s goal of a united Ireland might be achieved after all — thanks not to violence and murder, but to Brexit and the strains it has placed on the bonds between Great Britain and Ireland. Indeed, he believes a united Ireland is inevitable. I don’t buy it… and his claim that Adams was a ‘sociopath’ seems to let him off a little too lightly. This is a relatively long and detailed study of the Troubles - possibly a little too long. I increased the narration speed towards the end (which greatly helped - I enjoyed listening far more at just under double speed). The narrator is clear but can be a bit halting in his delivery. That said, Say Nothing doesn’t get too bogged down with individual events and milestones; it moves on reasonably quickly. The most compelling passages are in the closing sections of the book. Keefe notes that history is ‘alive and dangerous’ in Belfast, and his description of the ‘feverish pathology’ at work in Ireland, driving its sectarian tensions - and his analysis of them - are powerful and deftly done. It’s accessible for all, regardless of your level of knowledge about Ireland, though it’d help to have some. Perhaps the greatest irony is that those who were at the forefront of the IRA’s bloody work, hunting down traitors, ultimately felt betrayed themselves - by their bosses who sued for peace… leaving them behind for lives of comfort and political respectability.

1 person found this helpful

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Brilliant telling of the modern Troubles history

A well delivered telling of some personal stories and pivotal moments in Northern Ireland's recent history. With much well-researched detail, but delivered with pace and variety - just excellent

1 person found this helpful

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Great book but terrible narration

Quite an in-depth work focussing on the Boston College tapes and interviews with Brendan “ Darkie” Hughes & Dolores Price, both former IRA Volunteers & neither will need any introduction to a student of Irish history.

Very interesting insights to the people now known as “ The Disappeared “ and also the infamous “ Stakeknife” aka Freddie Scapatticci.

An extremely worthwhile book that was only let down by some extremely poor narration on the audio book. The narrator quite often mispronounced even the simplest of words. This did not detract greatly from the book, more of a continual annoyance!

Big thank you to Mackers for his part in it all.

5 people found this helpful

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  • C. Miller
  • 22-10-20

Phenomenal

For anyone with any interest in The Troubles, this book is brilliant. I am honestly so impressed!

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  • Monika Sznajder
  • 15-09-20

An excellent book!

The book itself is everything you might want from a non-fiction text, a gripping story thoroughly researched and written by a master. On top of that the narrator does a magnificent job, the best I have heard so far - he couldn't have done it better if he was one of the people in the book telling you the story in a pub. His accent also helps make it real, I owe him a lot of what this book gave me.

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  • Anonymous User
  • 25-06-20

A masterpiece!

I loved this book; it is so well written and researched and the narration is excellent. A difficult yet fascinating history is told in a very thoughtful and masterful manner, leaving the listener with so much to contemplate. I could not stop listening and now I cannot stop thinking about the causes, meaning and consequences the troubles had. I am from South Africa and I hope that Patrick Radden Keefe will one day write a book about the south african troubles.