Patrick Radden Keefe (2018)

As good a narrative history of the Troubles as any you’ll find. It skips the broad brush in favour of the effects on three groups of people: the children of Jean McConville, the best-known of the “disappeared”; the coterie around Gerry Adams and Dolours Price; and the authors and interviewers of the Boston College project that captured (and partially revealed) the activities of many of the protagonists on both sides of the divide.

From one perspective this is the right level. The terror campaign – Republican and Loyalist – has had a lot of exposure in terms of the events, but less in terms of the victims (and perpetrators). It’s important to realise how many of those intimately involved came to regard “the struggle” as purposeless in retrospect, and to renounce the violence they had once embraced. Martin McGuinness is the best-known example of this, but there are surprisingly many more.

From another perspective, however, it’s less satisfactory in that there’s a lack of closure, a continuing lack of agreement about who did what, knew what, and decided what. It will probably need another twenty years before there’s a consensus, and in the meantime this is the most illuminating exploration.

4/5. Finished Friday 3 April, 2020.

(Originally published on Goodreads.)