This the best historical non-fiction I’ve read in awhile. It might be the best book I’ll read this year. Patrick Radden Keefe takes a subject as serpentine and fraught with strong emotions as The Troubles in Ireland and presents it in a clear concise that is powerful but never melodramatic. He uses the kidnapping and murder of Jean McConville, a widowed mother of ten who was pulled from her apartment by masked men in 1972 and never seen again until her body was discovered in 2003, as a framing device for his narrative. It was an open secret who was responsible for McConville being “disappeared” but no one come forward to give her children closure.
The bulk of Keefe’s narrative starts in the late 1960s when many of the major players in this story became radicalized. He covers the rise of now well know IRA tactics such as bombings and prison hunger strikes. As the story reaches its conclusion in the 2010s, many who committed atrocities for the cause wonder what it was all for when peace is achieved but Ireland remains divided. Jean McConville’s now grown children demand answers from those who almost certainly ordered and committed the murder of their mother. The stories of everyone involved are compelling and heartbreaking.
I knew almost nothing about The Troubles in Ireland going into this book and I certainly wouldn’t call myself an expert after reading it. But I’d highly recommend it for anyone who wants to know more. The book is both broad in its view and intimate in its telling.