Friday, June 10, 2016

Before the Fall by Noah Hawley: Information vs Entertainment

With the all the buzz about Noah Hawley's Before the Fall I got in a NetGalley request at the last minute and the publisher quickly responded. Two days later I had finished the novel.

Yes, it is that good a read. I gave up going to see Love and Friendship so I could finish the book.

The book begins with a private plane that crashes into the ocean. One man survives and rescues a child. The rest of the book explores, person by person, each passenger 'before the fall', alternating with the investigation and lives of the survivors. This stretches the suspense and drives the reader.

So, its a good beach read and will soon a movie coming to a theater near you.

No, wait, there is more to Before the Fall than plot-driven suspense. Hawley uses the story to explore the role of television journalism and its propensity to manipulate news--to drive profits via increased viewers, even at the expense of the innocent.

Scott Burroughs is climbing back up from a complete meltdown. His early promise as an artist was frittered away with partying and playing the field. Only after reaching rock bottom and dealing with his alcoholism was he able to recreate himself. His sister had drowned as a child. Scott's new series of paintings probes the disasters that await us.

At the farm market Scott had an informal friendship with a wealthy mother and wife, Maggie Bateman. Maggie learns Scott is going into New York City to organize a show of his paintings on the same day her family are taking a private plane there. She invites him to tag along. Eighteen minutes after take-off the plane dives into the sea. Scott thinks he is the only survivor, and as a swimmer hopes to make it to shore. Scott hears Maggie's son JJ calling, and with grit and determination he miraculously saves them both.

Scott should be considered a hero, or a victim of a terrible disaster. To Bill Cunningham, David Bateman's television network star, Scott is an opportunity. Cunningham is arch conservative, a bulldog, who promotes his opinion as 'news.' He begins a campaign that questions if Scott is the villain behind the tragedy. Scott's heroism arises again as he takes arms against notoriety. Even imperfect failures can be heroes.

I was glad to have read this novel and will recommend it to my book club as a great discussion book. Those who like a character or plot driven novel will like it, and it will spark discussion of contemporary media/news practices.

I received a free ebook from the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for a fair and unbiased review.

Before the Fall
Noah Hawley
Grand Central Publishing
$26 hard cover
ISBN: 9781455561780

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