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 Redden Keefe’s Memorizing Book
Keefe’s memorizing 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 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 out 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.
Kirkus Review Of Say Nothing
Half a century after the fact, a cold case in Northern Ireland provides a frame for deeply observed history of the Troubles.
In 1972, though only 38, Jean McConville was the mother of 10, trying to raise them on a widow’s pension in a cloud of depression-a walking tale of bad luck turned all the worse when she comforted a wounded British soldier, bringing the dreaded graffito “Brit lover” to her door. Not long after masked guerrillas took her from her home in the Catholic ghetto of Belfast; three decades later, bones found on a remote beach were identified as hers. These events are rooted in centuries of discord, but, as a New Yorker staff writer Keefe (The Snakehead: An Epic Tale Of The Chinatown Underworld And The American Dream, 2009,etc.) recounts the kidnapping and killing took place in the darkest days of the near civil war between Catholics and Protestants. Another Belfast graffito of the time read, “If you are ‘e not confused you don’t know what’s going on,” and the author does an excellent job of keeping an exceedingly complicated story line on track. At its heart is Gerry Adams, who eventually brokered the true between warring factions while insisting that he was never a member of the IRA, whose fighters killed McConville “Of course he was in the I.R.A., said an erstwhile comrade. “The British know it. The people on the street know it. The dogs know it on the street.” Yet as this unhappy story shows one of the great sorrows of Northern Ireland is that naming murderers, even long after their crimes and even after their deaths is sure to bring terrible things on a person even today. Keefe’s reconstruction of events and the players involved is careful and assured. Adams himself doubtless won’t be pleased with it, although his cause will probably prevail. As the author writes, “Adams will probably not live to see a united Ireland, but it seems that such a day will inevitably come”-perhaps as an indirect, ironic result of Brexit.
A harrowing story of politically motivated crime that could not have been better told.
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