Book Review : Before The Fall

Noah Hawley’s latest book, a New York Times Bestseller, is a different kind of book. How? Let’s see.
Synopsis : Scott Burroughs is a formerly-washed-up and reformed-alcoholic painter who’s gets a chance to travel on a private jet from Martha’s Vineyard to New York with two very influential people and their families. The plane crashes 18 minutes into its journey, with Scott and a young 4 year-old boy the only survivors. Scott swims all night to save them both. A multi-agency federal investigation and media spectacle ensue and Scott examines his unique relationship with the boy.
When I started reading this book, I was sort of glazing through the first 40-50 pages. That initial part is good, but it felt very clichéd and didn’t quite hold my attention the way I’d have liked it to. The book seemed like a jumble of various genres at that point, like the author was trying to decide which way he should take it. Fortunately, he made up his mind pretty fast after that.

The author has written this book in a back-and-forth style. We get a chapter on the events occurring in the present followed by one where we are given a sneak peek into the lives and minds of one of the victims onboard the flight. There are a few chapters that focus purely on Scott’s paintings.
The character of the right-wing newscaster Bill Cunningham and his whole shenanigan seemed to me to be inspired in large parts from Howard Beale in Sidney Lumet’s 1976 film Network.



There are a good many threads (red herrings?) here, considering that a mysterious plane crash can give rise to seemingly endless questions. How did it crash? Was there some sabotage? How did a penniless painter end up on a private jet? What was his role here? Was he really a hero, or the villain? What would happen to the boy? Sift through them, and you find the real story beneath.

The novel is about a lot of things, chief among them the way we deal with loss and disaster in our lives. It’s also about the constant media speculation around the newsmakers. Like how, once you’ve stumbled in the limelight of 24*7 news, you apparently lose your right to privacy. Throw in a measure of surveillance and inter-agency tiff, with a gravy of redemption to stew things, and you have a book that’s cooked up just right. A tad more focus on either the human aspect or the thrill might have helped the book achieve literary glory. As things stand, it oscillates between greatness and mediocrity but ultimately settles somewhere in-between.

Verdict : You might be thinking, how is this book different then? Its different because it takes the premise of a thriller and then uses that to examine human psychology and relations.  A few things are, as I already mentioned, clichéd. But overall, this one’s satisfying. Not un-put-down-able, but a nice read nevertheless.

P.S. – Mr. Hawley is the showrunner of the hit TV series Fargo and he has already announced his plans to adapt this book, for TV/film. Now that’d be interesting.

Genre : Thriller, Mystery, Drama, Fiction

Rating : 3.5/5

Have you read Before The Fall ? Share your views and thoughts on the book (and the review) in the comments section.

Thanks for reading.

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12 Comments

  1. Interesting! Sounds like a book I’d enjoy. Funny – after you mentioned you were reading it, one of my coworkers started talking about this book. Seems it’s a popular one right now! Great review!

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Great review 🙂 Now after reading the book, I completely agree with your thoughts about how “A tad more focus on either the human aspect or the thrill might have helped the book achieve literary glory”. Totally agree here – it either needed to be all human character-based tale, or he needed to amp up the thriller part. Interesting that it is going to be made into a movie. I wonder if they will change the reason for the crash; I’m not sure that will play all that exciting on the screen. But perhaps if the film is done in a very quick paced, back-and-forth way, and with perhaps Scott & the boy’s survival in the ocean intermixed throughout the entire movie (rather than just in the beginning), that will amp up the suspense. I’ll be interested to see the movie and who they cast as Scott. They’ve got to get the casting of Scott right, otherwise the movie won’t work.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. I don’t think they are going to change the reason for the crash. They will use the back-and-forth storytelling style though. It is how the book has been written and it’ll also allow for some tension. They can cut out or add some parts to make it more suited to the screen. And yes, Scott’s casting has to be spot-on!
          Thank you for rereading this and the wonderful words.

          Liked by 1 person

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