Rachel's Reviews > Nothing But an Unfinished Song: The Life and Times of Bobby Sands

Nothing But an Unfinished Song by Denis O'Hearn
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's review
Sep 14, 2011

really liked it
bookshelves: history, ireland, non-fiction
Read from March 24 to September 09, 2011

Why would someone voluntarily decide to starve himself to death? It's a slow, horrible, painful way to die, so one can imagine he would have to feel that he had a very good reason. This book attempts to delve into what, exactly, was going on in Bobby Sands' mind when he decided to go on a hunger strike while imprisoned for his involvement with the IRA. Why he decided to do so even knowing that the English government would certainly not back down, and he would die. What he hoped to accomplish, what he was afraid of, what gave him the conviction to see it through to the end.

That being the case, and given that the subject of this book is, in fact, dead, and the author had to try to piece his motivations together by talking to Sands' friends and family and reading the communications he was able to have smuggled out of the prison and into the hands of his friends on the outside, this book does a pretty good job of what I believe it sets out to do. If I'm honest, it was a hard book to read, because it's really pretty scary, and made even more so by the fact that it's true. The IRA was responsible for the deaths of innocent people, and that's pretty tough to justify. But the British government, and Margaret Thatcher in particular, had a hell of a lot of blood on her own hands. So to look at the question of just what happened in Northern Ireland from different angles is important to understanding how these things could take place, how the situation could escalate to such a level, and could result in such tragic loss of lives.

I don't agree with everything he did, but reading this book, I felt for Bobby Sands. I felt for his family. I could see how someone might feel compelled to take part in this war, and then take every road he took toward trying to demonstrate that his actions and the actions of his friends were not based on common criminality, but on a genuine struggle for the survival of his family, his culture, his community. I looked at the struggle with new eyes. I learned some things. If you're interested in recent Irish history, it's a good read.
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