Say Nothing Book Review
Usually, when they sit down to write novels, authors have some vision that guides the writing process. For the most part, this vision is clearly communicated and properly developed. However, in some few and exceptional instances, the author’s vision becomes larger than what they had designed. This is the case in Patrick Keefe’s Say Nothing: a True Story of Murder and Memory in Northern Ireland. While it takes readers through an investigation into a woman’s murder, the book also explores the Troubles, one of the darkest periods in the history of Northern Ireland.
As stated in the introduction above, Keefe dedicates much of his novel to guiding readers on an investigation into the murder of a mother, Jean McConville. The murder is believed to have occurred during the Troubles. As Keefe indicates, the mother was disappeared. By focusing on the experiences of this woman, Keefe helps his readers to understand that Western nations are not immune from some of the heinous and cruel practices that are more common in the developing world. His novel should serve as a warning that human cruelty is boundless.
By exploring the death of McConville, Keefe inadvertently raises the issue of the horrors of war. Reading the book, individuals begin to recognize that during violent conflicts, the rules of humanity are suspended. The fact that one is a widow with children does not seem to matter to those who murder her. More importantly, Keefe plays a crucial role in highlighting the death, sorrow and pain that defined the Troubles. This was a moment when people in such cities as Belfast turned on their neighbors and abandoned their humanity.
How victims of political violence are often forgotten is another theme that Keefe addresses in the novel. He suggests that little effort was committed to finding McConville and establishing the circumstances around her murder. Sadly, the case of McConville is not isolated. Hundreds of thousands of individuals remain unaccounted for today. Keefe’s novel should challenge authorities to spare no expense in delivering justice to the victims of political violence and conflict. Finding bodies, offering decent burials and pursuing murderers are just some of the steps that nations can take to honor the memories of the victims.
Keefe’s novel is indeed enlightening as it reveals some key details of the Troubles. However, this book should be considered with caution and some skepticism. Some of the allegations that Keefe presents in the novel are rather wild. For instance, he suggests that a prominent politician in Northern Ireland is behind the murder of McConville. He does this and fails to present any solid evidence. While reading the book, individuals should treat it as a work of fiction instead of an accurate retelling of history.
While some of the elements of the novel lack credibility and their accuracy is questionable, this book sets itself apart for its objectivity. Instead of identifying victims and villains, the novel leaves it to readers to form their own judgments. For example, members of the Irish Republican Army (IRA) are not portrayed as murderous villains or courageous patriots. Instead, the novel focuses on the actions and motivations of the different actors involved in the Troubles. Readers feel trusted to make up their own minds about these actors.
As advised above, readers should be cautious as they engage with Say Nothing. However, even as they exercise caution, they should appreciate the tremendous amount of research that Keefe must have conducted. Most of his assertions and speculations are supported by such solid evidence as transcripts. His reliance on evidence indicates that Keefe had tremendous respect for his readers. He must have understood that his readers would expect him to provide credible and solid evidence to substantiate the claims that he presents in the novel.
It is important to advise readers to understand that they will be confronted with difficult ethical questions as they read Say Nothing. Whether violence is ever justifiable is among these questions. Keefe does not pose the question directly. Instead, by highlighting the struggles and pain of those who resorted to violence, he suggests that there are circumstances where the use of violence is morally acceptable. The novel is more than a mere record of the history of Belfast. It is also a crucial tool for helping readers to reflect on complex moral and ethical issues.
Say Nothing is dark, disappointing and depressing. It presents humans as evil and murderous. However, this novel also indicates that humans are complex. While they are capable of unspeakable cruelty, they can also love and forgive. For instance, Keefe describes how members of the IRA who had committed serious atrocities later confessed and preached forgiveness. The transformation of these characters clearly shows that Keefe set out to present humans as difficult to understand but beautiful and sensitive at their core.
Keefe’s novel is primarily targeted at those who wish to gain a better understanding of the Troubles and the impacts that it had on families across Northern Ireland. However, the book can also enlighten the ugliest humans-politicians. It portrays them as selfish and evil hypocrites. Hopefully, as they read the book, politicians will become sensitized to consider how their recklessness affects the very people whose interests they should be defending.
In conclusion, Say Nothing should be part of the history curriculum in Northern Ireland. This novel offers accurate and verifiable details about the Troubles. It achieves this by following the life and tragic death of a young mother, one of the thousands of people who lost their lives in the Troubles. More importantly, the novel warns about political conflict. While these conflicts are often presented as worthy causes, they are nothing more than the projects of political figures with selfish agendas.