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VINE VOICEon January 12, 2001
Social protest takes many forms. Some simply write letters. Some picket, or go on strike, risking their jobs. Some even go on a hunger strike for a few days.
The ten members of the IRA whose story is told (in incredibly moving detail) in this book take social protest to a level most of us are not familiar with. They quite literally agreed to sacrifice their lives...not in one fell swoop (like those who set themselves on fire), but in a slow, agonizing death drawn out over many weeks.
This is true dedication to a cause. Having read the book, one is tempted to view all other social protests as half-hearted. Of course, their protest only made sense because of the mass organization and widespread support the strikers had, both inside the prison and on the street. Bobby sands was actually elected to Parliment while dying!
Anyone who wants to learn about what it takes to effect change, and the pitfalls of adopting such radical tactics, must read this book.
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on February 11, 2003
This book gives a gripping and well detailed account of the 1981 Hunger Strike. Beresford is a journalist who was provided with "comms" (communications) from the hunger strikers and inmates at Long Kesh prison, and much of the book is based on these smuggled notes. Beresford does a fine job of presenting background, and of tempering views by providing background on both sides. Although I find myself in the Republican camp, I did find that he presented the situtation well. When it feels as though you are strongly backing actions and previous criminal acts by inmates and hunger strikers, Beresford depicts family members and biographies of Union/Loyalist supporters to remind us that all are human beings with families and lives who have been lost in this long-standing problem. But Beresford also engages the reader, revealing the hunger strikers as people who were seriously committed to a cause they were willing to give their lives for. The struggle over Northern Ireland is not taken lightly. Although the writing stumbles occasionally, the journalistic approach and research off-sets it by documenting a great deal. This book provides a wonderful historical picture and insight into a tragic part of history.
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on October 22, 1997
This is a great book, made so by the author's plentiful use of the prisoners' "comms." These were messages to the outside world written in tiny handwriting on pieces of cigarette paper and then smuggled in and out of the prison in various bodily orifices. This book certainly opened my eyes to just how much can be jammed up the back door (a portable radio and a camera?!) The author was given unprecedented access to these day by day records of the hunger strike by the IRA Army Council, and he makes extensive use of them. This is a powerful and moving chapter in modern history, and the writings of the prisoners' commander "Bik" -- Brendan McFarlane, who studied to become a priest before joining the IRA -- tell the story better than any historian could. My only complaint with the book is that it gets disorganized in the middle. After carefully tracing the development of the hunger strike and laying out the stories of the hunger strikers through the first four deaths, the author drops the ball. All of a sudden we're told that there are five people on strike, then a few pages later eight. This had me searching previous chapters to find out who these people were, to no avail. The author goes back and picks up the pieces for some of the hunger strikers later on, but he should have stuck with the person by person style of the early part of the book. Also, it was sort of annoying that several names of key players were spelled wrong, leading me to wonder if other details may have been wrong.
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on February 7, 2002
This is an amazing book. Peter Maas summed it up much better than I can when he said that this secret "coms" that were the smuggled writings of the prisoners (and make up much of the book) are "the Irish equivalent to the Diary of Anne Frank." It is a must read.
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on August 3, 2000
Beresford's account provides substantial insight into a truly amazing story of human sacrifice and determination. Regardless of whether you agree or disagree with what these men stood for or with the tactics they chose, you will find yourself in awe of their story. In addition, the events chronicled in this book are being widely credited as the genesis of the current peace process in Northern Ireland and, as such, have tremendous historical importance. Some readers might want to first read Tim Pat Coogan's book On The Blanket to truly set the stage for what follows.
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on December 10, 2006
"Ten Men Dead" is the story of the 10 1981 Irish Republican Army hunger strikers. All starved themselves to death protesting both the British occupation of Northern Ireland and their own treatment in Long Kesh Gaol. TMD is as much about the families and loved ones involved as it is about the 10. TMD is well researched and documented, despite the cries of at least one previous reviewer, claiming it to be "fiction". TMD is not "fiction"! In fact, author Beresford was granted extraordinary access and cooperation by the IRA high command. The powers that were allowed Beresford to research scores of "comms", secret messages smuggled in and out of Long Kesh in "body orifices" of prisoners. The comms circulated behind the prison walls in the same shadowy and earthy fashion. The author has performed a first rate job of painting the background and context of a very grim situation. TMD is fast moving and rapid reading. It maintains suspense and interest throughout, though many readers will already be aware of the outcome. A nice postscript closes the circle for some of the families and supporters. Books like TMD allow Irish Americans to stay connected with the home country without being consumed by "the Troubles". We owe it to ourselves to periodically do so. Like many,if not most, previous books and movies concerning Ireland, TMD assumes a prior knowledge of that country's strifes and difficulties. Eager readers without such insight should pick up the drift quickly enough. On a closing note, this reviewer was truly saddened by some of the reviews which follow below. The harsh and mean-spirited tone of some is a perfect example of the difficult atmosphere good people on both sides of the "the Troubles" must face every day.
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on October 11, 2001
This is the most exhaustive book on the hunger strikes I have ever read. Great detail and care went into the book, plus the extra of having IRA "comms" interspersed within the book gave quite a feeling of "being there" during the tale.
To respond to those who reminds us that these men are criminals - the book goes out of its way to record IRA murders and the families it leaves fatherless/motherless during this time frame. And also it goes into each hunger strikers background as to what led them to join the IRA. Excellent insight.
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on July 10, 2007
This is an amazing book - a riveting, heartbreaking story of the 10 hunger strikers who died a slow and painful death for what they believed. How many of us would even condiser doing this, let alone actually endure the agony (which could last more than two months) as our bodies shut down? For folks that don't understand the depth of dedication of these men, this is an excellent documentation of their deepest thoughts. I was so angry I wanted to scream, and so sad I couldn't keep from crying. These ten are definitely included in the roll of honor for Ireland's greatest men. May the rest in peace.
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on July 13, 1997
"Ten Men Dead" is one of the most troubling, inspiring, and informative books that I have had the honor to read. It looks at the 1981 Hunger strike from the political side as well as the personal.
David Beresford gives very detailed and vivid descriptions of treatment within the prison, as well as making excellent use of the hunger strikers own writings.
"Ten Men Dead" gives insight into these men and their actions. It is a must read for anyone who considers themselves educated and enlightened
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on September 2, 2001
After reading "Ten Men Dead" I understand how Maggie Thacher got the name Margaret "Bloody"Thacher. Beresford does an excellent job of showing how ordinary people reacted in extraordinary times.These were not criminals as the British wanted them labeled.They were everyday men from middle class families who had incrediable courage, and acted on their belief's. A moving story, well told and tenderly presented.
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