Reflections on Say Nothing

Henry Joy has just finished reading Say Nothing and shares his thoughts. 

Buy it, borrow it or steal it!

This book is a compelling read. It ought to be read by anyone and everyone who's passionate about or overly dedicated to 'causes'; regardless of what shape or form those attachments might take.
Its a cautionary tale for the political idealist. Some might even suggest it mandatory study for activists. I'd contend it'd make for an especially useful counter-conditioning contemplation for any doctrinaire Irish Republican.

Eamon McCann speaking at Dolours Price's funeral, said after flamboyantly professing to have loved her for forty years:
If Dolours had a big fault, it was perhaps she lived out too urgently the ideals to which so many others also purported to be dedicated. She was a liberator but never managed to liberate herself from those ideas. Sometimes we are imprisoned within those ideals.
Patrick Radden Keefe reassuringly takes us by the hand through, an occasionally, horrendous landscape. He introduces us to, and familiarises us with, a plethora of prisoners; some who served the hardest of hard time and others allegorical captives of circumstance, place and time. His narrative brings the reader from the early beginnings of street protest right through the epoch of The Troubles finishing in the current political torrents of Brexit. As we're guided through a labyrinth he introduces us not only to well-fleshed-out protagonists but also likewise to many supporting players. The account essentially centres around the lives and deaths of two very different Belfast women, with the narrative continuing into the ensuing fallout. The overall result is a book which is a journalistic tour de force.

Overall its a gripping study, an emotional exploration of the impacts of conflict at several levels; physical and moral injury for protagonists and innocents alike. In the end though, as the author suggests, not all pigeons will come home to roost.

The cozy idealistic 'just world hypothesis' falls yet again and ... is harshly revealed once more as fallacy.

Patrick Radden Keefe, 2018, Say Nothing. Publisher William Collins. ISBN-13: 978-0008159252

⏩ Henry Joy is a frequent commenter on TPQ.


  1. The reviews for this make it my likely Christmas read, thanks HJ, the first of many articles from you I hope, don’t restrict your annecdotes to just the comment section.

  2. Henry Joy - glad that you tried your arm at a review and held your own style! Patrick Keefe will have a chuckle at the way you phrased your endorsement.

    Thanks for posting it on TPQ - a lot of people are enthralled by the book. I suppose it is hard not to be if the subject matter interests us to begin with. It really is a gripping book: one of those works that becomes a lighthouse for those trying to navigate their way through the turbulence of the times.

  3. AM, I like the lighthouse imagery, it contrasts with books by pirates setting their false lights, the wreckers of history.

  4. I'm about two thirds into the book so I will not comment much on it yet, although it did amuse me when the author described AM as a Hulk of a man, not sure if that is an insult or a compliment. I agree with Henry Joy this book is a compelling read, and the guy writes beautifully, I will reserve my judgement on whether its a journalistic tour de force until I have finished reading it.

    Having said this I enjoyed reading Henry's review.