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Before the Fall – A Fun Summer Read If You Enjoy Thrillers & Mysteries

beforefall

Before the Fall by Noah Hawley
First published on May 31, 2016
Grand Central Publishing
Source: ARC from the publisher via Netgalley
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“On a foggy summer night, eleven people-ten privileged, one down-on-his-luck painter-depart Martha’s Vineyard on a private jet headed for New York. Sixteen minutes later, the unthinkable happens: the plane plunges into the ocean. The only survivors are Scott Burroughs-the painter-and a four-year-old boy, who is now the last remaining member of an immensely wealthy and powerful media mogul’s family. As the passengers’ intrigues unravel, odd coincidences point to a conspiracy. Was it merely by dumb chance that so many influential people perished? Or was something far more sinister at work? Events soon threaten to spiral out of control in an escalating storm of media outrage and accusations. And while Scott struggles to cope with fame that borders on notoriety, the authorities scramble to salvage the truth from the wreckage.” Source: Hachette Book Group.

3heartrating

Review:

Before the Fall captures the spirit of ‘beach reading’ perfectly: it is a feel-good, semi-philosophical, mysterious page-turner about an event that I’m sure horrifies most people: a plane crash. A story that titillates and keeps the reader engaged through an atmosphere saturated with all the known pleasure-pain triggers: the devastation wrecked by tragedy; the ambiguity and uncertainty of love; the thirst for money and power; the journey into finding personal meaning in a chaotic, senseless world.

The story begins with the crash of a small private jet; on board: two monied families (a media company exec and a financial giant), flight crew, security, and an artist, invited last-minute by one of the wives). All perish upon impact into the Atlantic except the artist and the 4-year old son of the media executive; through a series of coincidences (or good fortune, or luck, or fate) the artist, a former swimmer, is able to find their way back to land. He is hailed as hero (he saved the boy! he swam for miles in the dark!) or possibly a traitor or criminal (how did he escape? why was he on the plane?)

Overall, Before the Fall is an entertaining read, a thriller in the vein of books that I definitely need once in a while to unwind from the demands of life and adulthood. It’s also quite well written and much more thoughtful than others in the genre.

Still, I did not always find this book compelling or interesting in any unique way. (Some thrillers that fall into the 4-to-5-heart category for me are anything by Michael Crichton or Michael Connolly). As I tried thinking of ways to capture its essence for this review, my overwhelming reaction was, just, “eh.” It was definitely fun, but I didn’t care much about it while I was reading; it was analgesic in effect, not spurring any great emotions or excited realizations.

Usually my reviews are born in some extreme passionate and personal reaction – I read as a form of meditation, and see reviews as a mirror into my/the reviewer’s heart, as much that at least as an appraisal of the work itself. This review is difficult to write because I have 0 feelings about Before the Fall-I am completely agnostic. Still, I know this isn’t extremely (at all?) helpful to anyone reading this, so here’s an attempt at spelling out some aspects that did not work for me:

* I did not find the meta-structure of the novel to be cohesive; the story did not seem to be threaded in a narrative, holistic way. For example, we have an omniscient narrator; segments of the book jump randomly back and forth in time, and we know what people were doing and thinking before the crash, in a way that isn’t connected to anything going on in the present. Take Memento, the famous movie that popularized this unfurling backwards of a storyline- events in this case are connected through this guy’s memory; in Before the Fall, there is no reason why we all of a sudden are presented with a past conversation-these are just random “God” moments.

* There was an overabundance of pontification. 50% of this novel consists of Hawley’s omniscient narrator making philosophical proclamations such as: “Once anointed a hero by your fellow man, you lose the right to privacy. You become an object, stripped of some unquantifiable humanity, as if you have won a cosmic lottery and woke one day to find yourself a minor deity.” While I may agree on most of these insertions, I don’t much care for fiction books that predominately tell over showing.

* Hawley’s world is not one I inhabit, or one I think or read much about-that of celebrities, financial gurus, artists, money, power and feel-good, fairy-tale endings. Basically, it felt a bit too Hollywood for my taste: all-ritzy/red-carpet/starving-artist-with-wealthy-patron/world-of-private-jets…

 

13 comments

  1. The synopsis of Before the Fall was interesting enough, but then you described the book as a “feel-good” novel even though it about a mystery surrounding a plane crash that killed all but two people, and that’s what actually made me want to read this novel. It’s kind of a challenging idea to fathom, so I kind of want to read the novel myself to see how that’s even possible.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Jackie – you are so right, that makes very little sense. Yikes! I guess what I really mean is that the underlying messages are very hopeful (like, I didn’t feel the book explored the heart-wrenching loss related to the deaths, but focused on the artist and him “finding himself” in the light of the event). But that’s just my reading/personal preference, and I tend to like darker stuff… I also know quite a few people who *loved* this book, like all of my GR friends who’ve read it 🙂

      I very much look forward to reading your thoughts on this if you do decide to read it!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. So when I first read about this book I immediately discounted it because of the plane crash – some things I just can’t (willingly) read about. Was that part harrowing?

    By the way, I am SO GLAD to read that you like Michael Connelly! I’ve read all of his books so far and just really love them for “fun” reading. (They’re not “fun” but I bet you know what I mean.)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. So I don’t mind reading about such awful events or watching movies based on this theme (unless I am currently flying – can you believe I first saw “Airplane” on a plane?…) My kind of harrowing is reading books about cancer or the like (which I don’t do). But definitely, if you find plane crashes awful to read about, I wouldn’t recommend this at all!

      Also – I have not yet read all of Connelly’s books but I plan to pick up more – so far my favorite by far was The Lincoln Lawyer – the premise didn’t grab me at all at first, and I was completely shocked by how much I loved it 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Ok so I have a small confession to make. I had been wondering why I hadn’t seen you around lately and I looked into it and realized that I had accidently unfollowed you!!!! I hope you didn’t think I had abandoned you!

    This is on my TBR list! Sorry it fell a little short for you. I’m curious to see what I think of it, I don’t often read thrillers…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. HI!! Thank you SO much for writing 🙂 I was wondering if I had offended in some way but didn’t want to be creepy-stalky so… Anyways yes thank you 🙂 (also I’m not sure I see you still on my list so I don’t know what’s going on, WP has been weird for me at times too, not registering likes or telling me about new comments).

      I look forward to reading your thoughts on this one. Most of my GR friends rated it at least one star higher, and I think for thrillers it’s very well-thought out, written, and not at all filled with mindless action, which is nice. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Oooh yeah Memento is a bit difficult to emulate! I prefer cozy crime to thrillers, but also like stuff like Shutter Island though uni has made it difficult not to anticipate twists. Do you like what they now call chick noir?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I do also like cozy crime to relax too,and Shutter Island was awesome (well for the genre, it’s as good as it gets at least). You know, I had no idea what chick noir was until you brought it up – I shudder at the name (ugh… I am so not a fan of “chick lit” – not the books themselves but the category), but I probably would like individual books themselves because I LOVE noir and mysteries and the description of this newish genre doesn’t sound at all bad. Do you have favorites in this genre? Or in cozy mysteries?

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I do love the setting of islands in the genre so much, somehow extra creepy. But today I watched the newest adaptation of Christie’s And then there were none, which was so good!
        Ugh yeah I hate these categorizations as well, but also not many of the books since I don’t like romance, but there are good books among them of course and had to fight against devaluing a.”feminized” genre.
        Yes those coinages! I read that somewhere, how do they come up with it and why the need to 😦 I do call other stuff dudeBro lit etc now in turn 😀 Hmm haven’t read many, but surprisingly really enjoyed Girl in the Train and Flynn’s Dark Objects, which I think are the most well-known writers put into that genre.

        Liked by 1 person

    2. It’s not letting me reply to your last comment – but OMG I did not know there was a new adaptation of And Then There Were None- one of my favorite Christies. I went through a period where I read all her books, at least a few times through and that is definitely one of my favorites.
      dudeBro LIT OMG YES. I usually call those Schwarzenegger-wannabes but your term is so much better. You are so right though about not wanting to devalue a genre that has been feminized, for some reason I had never looked at it that way (I was just mad that there was a need to feminize it). I will definitely have to read Girl on the Train – I had heard mixed reviews but I trust your opinion and that’s just what I consider “fun” and “light” when I need such books.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Yay I love her cozies too! I’ve reread them.over and over since I was 12, they are my comfort reads 🙂 Yeah it’s a BBC adapt and a 3-parter, gorgeously shot and not too bad in terms of sticking to story.
        Ahaha Schwarzenegger-wannabes I need to remember that, how apt! 😀 Yeah dudebro books are just.cool books and marketed towards humans and then there are books.for women 😦 Usually those are.all about romance but apparently we can’t have thriller either, sigh! I did love it, my first audiobook and listened to it on the bus,maybe that helped. Warning for unlikeable protagonist, but I just really.enjoyed it. Was surprised myself 🙂

        Like

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