1 review

Say Nothing: A True Story of Murder and Memory in Northern Ireland
by Patrick Radden Keefe

Published: 2019-02-26
Hardcover : 464 pages
10 members reading this now
53 clubs reading this now
4 members have read this book
Recommended to book clubs by 1 of 1 members

"A masterful history of the Troubles. . . Extraordinary. . .As in the most ingenious crime stories, Keefe unveils a revelation — lying, so to speak, in plain sight."
Maureen Corrigan, NPR

From award-winning New Yorker staff writer Patrick Radden Keefe, a ...
No other editions available.
Add to Club Selections
Add to Possible Club Selections
Add to My Personal Queue
Jump to



"A masterful history of the Troubles. . . Extraordinary. . .As in the most ingenious crime stories, Keefe unveils a revelation — lying, so to speak, in plain sight."
Maureen Corrigan, NPR

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.

Editorial Review

An Amazon Best Book of March 2019: Many a writer has attempted to parse the 400 years of colonial/sectarian violence that preceded the Troubles in Northern Ireland. But Say Nothing shows young paramilitaries compelled by more recent, deeply personal history: an aunt who lost her eyes and hands while setting a bomb, peaceful marchers ambushed and stoned on a bridge. With no dog in the race, an outsider such as Keefe can recount with stark, rousing clarity the story of an IRA gunman trying not to scream as a doctor sews up his severed artery in the front room of a safe house while a British armored tank rumbles outside. Or describe how Jean McConville, a widowed mother of ten, came to be suspected of being an informer, a charge which led to her being taken from her home by the IRA one night in 1972, her young ones clinging to her legs. Hastened to her grave by a bullet to the back of her head, her bones lay buried on a remote beach for thirty years, years during which her children were left to live and work alongside neighbors they suspected, yet dared not accuse, of being responsible for her death. With the pacing of a thriller, and an intricate, yet compulsively readable storytelling structure, Keefe’s exhaustive reportage brings home the terror, the waste, and the heartbreaking futility of a guerrilla war fought in peoples’ homes as well as in the streets. And he captures the devastation of veterans on both sides, uneasily enjoying the peace that finally came while wondering if they had fought the good fight or been complicit in murder all along. --Vannessa Cronin, Amazon Book Review


No Excerpt Currently Available

Discussion Questions

1. A saying at the time of the Troubles went, “If you’re not confused, you don’t know what’s going on." The times were certainly confusing: for those on the outside of the conflict, let alone those on the inside. Does Patrick Radden Okeefe clear up the confusion for his readers—for you? In what way has reading Say Nothing increased your understanding of Northern Ireland's decades-long (many say centuries-long) struggle?

2. Keefe has zeroed in on the murder of Jean McConville. Given the level of brutality and carnage that took place for so long, why might the author have used that particular episode as the opening of his book?

3. In what way would you describe (as some reviewers have) Say Nothing as a murder mystery?

4. Which individuals—in this book of real life people—do you feel more sympathy for than others? What about those individuals whose actions disturbed you? Despite all the carnage, are you able to find any humanity in those who committed acts of violence? Does it matter that they acted in service to a cause, one they believed in passionately?

5. Follow-up to Question 4: Dolours Price and others feel that the signing of the 1998 Good Friday Agreement took away any justification for the bombings and abductions she had participated in. How would you answer her?

6. What is the significance of the book's title, "Say Nothing." What are the ways that phrase resonates throughout the book?

7. Since the peace accord, a "collective denial" has washed over the Belfast society. Is this obfuscation, a hiding of sorts, beneficial? Has it lead to a genuine, settled peace? Would an open reconciliation, through confession and forgiveness, work? What are the varying points of view, including yours?

from Litlovers

Notes From the Author to the Bookclub

No notes at this time.

Book Club Recommendations

Member Reviews

Overall rating:
by Marcia R. (see profile) 06/20/23

by Jill R. (see profile) 11/05/22

by Michelle A. (see profile) 07/26/22

by Kim R. S. (see profile) 04/25/21

by Terri C. (see profile) 02/19/21

  "Although it reads like a novel, it is excellent non-fiction"by Gail R. (see profile) 12/11/20

Say nothing, Patrick Radden Keefe, author; Matthew Blaney, narrator
This book is captivating because it reveals a piece of history concerning the conflict between Britain, the Protestants a
... (read more)

by Billy T. (see profile) 09/26/20

by Beverly S. (see profile) 09/09/20

by Anna D. (see profile) 08/14/20

by yosa y. (see profile) 05/09/20

Great introduction on the disappearance of Jean McConville, however it spirals into a parallel of the price sisters and confusingly introduces you to many figures and their entire life autobiography in... (read more)

Rate this book
Remember me

Now serving over 80,000 book clubs & ready to welcome yours. Join us and get the Top Book Club Picks of 2022 (so far).



Get free weekly updates on top club picks, book giveaways, author events and more
Please wait...