before the fall book review feature shutterstock art

Read This Book … But Not On A Plane!

***

ON OUR BOOKSHELVES

***

NOVEL: Before the Fall

AUTHOR: Noah Hawley

YEAR OF PUBLICATION: 2017

REVIEW:

This one’s a thriller…you’ll want to read it on a beach, or late at night in bed (you’ll stay up late to find out what happens), or on the train (you might miss your stop if you get too absorbed in the story), but definitely not on a plane. A small private jet crashes on a trip from Martha’s Vineyard to New York City, with two survivors, JJ Bateman, a four-year-old boy (now the sole heir to a huge fortune), and the man who saves his life, Scott Burroughs, an unsuccessful artist, swimming with the child on his back for miles in the night to make it to shore. Before the Fall is about what happens next and the relationships between the two traumatized survivors and the others impacted by the tragedy, this alternating with the backstories of the people who died, as the investigation takes off and the suddenly famous hero becomes the object of suspicion.

***

Before the Fall is also very much a book of the moment…it holds up a mirror to our society and shows us a lot of what is truly ugly: the 24-hour news cycle’s pernicious effects, toxic masculinity, wealth inequality, scandal mongering, the perils of celebrity, violence and the threat of violence, fake news. It puts me in mind a bit of Eric Bennett’s A Big Enough Lie with its implicit criticism of our current cultural preoccupations. But it’s not entirely a cynical project; there’s room for hope here, as Scott navigates his way through this crisis (and delivers a very satisfying comeuppance to a bully in the process).

***

This could (and I hope will) make a fine film. But for now, read the novel. The best writing is towards the beginning, the powerful description of the desperation and force of will that saved two lives, the disorientation of being lost at sea. The end of the story is perhaps a bit rushed, leaving a few loose ends. Or perhaps I’m just being greedy: I would have liked another hundred pages to find out what else happened and how Scott and JJ were doing after the firestorm of publicity died down.

***

RATING (one to five whistles, with five being the best: 3 Whistles

***

HOW TO PURCHASE: Amazon

***

Lead-In Image (Man On Wing) Courtesy of Sergey Nivens / Shutterstock.com

***

Laura LaVelle is an attorney and writer who lives in Connecticut, in a not quite 100-year-old house, along with her husband, two daughters, and a cockatiel.

Laura can be contacted at laura@newswhistle.com

***

ALSO ON OUR BOOKSHELVES:

A Countess Below Stairs, Eva Ibbotson

A Man Called Ove, Fredrik Backman

A Patchwork Planet, Anne Tyler

A Room With a View, E.M. Forster

An English Murder, Cyril Hare

An Infamous Army, Georgette Heyer

Americanah, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Anne Of Green Gables, L.M. Montgomery

Bleak House, Charles Dickens

Blue Highways, William Least Heat-Moon

Bonjour Tristesse, Francoise Sagan

Books for Living, Will Schwalbe

Bunker Hill, Nathan Philbrick

Burmese Days, George Orwell

Cannery Row, John Steinbeck

Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant?, Roz Chast

Charlotte’s Web, E.B. White

Cloud Atlas, David Mitchell

Cloudstreet, Tim Winton

Cockpit Confidential, Patrick Smith

Cold Comfort Farm, Stella Gibbons

Diary of a Provincial Lady, E.M. Delafield

Doctor Jazz, Hayden Carruth

Ed Emberly’s Drawing Book of Animals, Ed Emberly

Endangered Pleasures, Barbara Holland

Envious Casca, Georgette Heyer

Fever Dream, Samanta Schweblin

Foreign Affairs, Alison Lurie

Gaudy Night, Dorothy L. Sayers

Go Set a Watchman, Harper Lee

Good Poems, Garrison Keillor

Gowanus Waters, Steven Hirsch

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, J.K. Rowling, John Tiffany, & Jack Thorne

Heads in Beds, Jacob Tomsky

Here is New York, E.B. White

Hide My Eyes, Margery Allingham

Home Cooking: A Writer in the Kitchen, Laurie Colwin

Hyperbole and a Half, Allie Brosh

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, Maya Angelou

If on a winter’s night a traveler, Italo Calvino

Letters to a Young Poet, Rainer Maria Rilke

Lexicon, Max Barry

Longbourn, Jo Baker

Madeleine’s Ghost, Robert Girardi

Malice Aforethought, Frances Iles

Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand, Helen Simonson

Missoula: Rape and the Justice System in a College Town, Jon Krakauer

Mother Night, Kurt Vonnegut

My Life in France, Julia Child with Alex Prud’homme

Never Let Me Go, Kazuo Ishiguro

Nineteen Eighty-Four, George Orwell

Notorious RBG, Irin Carmon & Shana Knizhnik

One Summer: America 1927, Bill Bryson

Out of the Blackout, Robert Bernard

Parnassus on Wheels & The Haunted Bookshop, Christopher Morley

Plotted: A Literary Atlas, Andrew DeGraff

Possession, A.S. Byatt

Reflections on a Gift of Watermelon Pickle…and Other Modern Verse, Stephen Dunning, Edward Lueders, and Hugh Smith

Ringworld, Larry Niven

Rose Madder, Stephen King

Sanditon, Jane Austen and Another Lady

Selected Poems of Langston Hughes

Seven Brief Lessons on Physics, Carlo Rivelli

Straying from the Flock: Travels in New Zealand, Alexander Elder

Super Sad True Love Story, Gary Shteyngart

The Annotated Alice: The Definitive Ed., Lewis Carroll & Martin Gardner (with original illustrations by John Tenniel)

The Cuckoo’s Calling, Robert Galbraith

The Dancer of Izu, Kawabata Yasunari

The House with a Clock in Its Walls, John Bellairs

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, Rebecca Skloot

The Love Affairs of Nathaniel P., Adelle Waldman

The Man Who Mistook His Wife For a Hat, Oliver Sacks

The Martian, Andy Weir

The Missing Piece, Shel Silverstein

The Modern Kids, Jona Frank

The Monogram Murders, Sophie Hannah

The Mother & Child Project, Hope Through Healing Hands (ed.)

The Phantom Tollbooth, Norton Juster

The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, Muriel Spark

The Secret Art of Dr. Seuss, Theodor Geisel (illustrator), Maurice Sendak (introduction)

The Snowy Day, Ezra Jack Keats

The Swans of Fifth Avenue, Melanie Benjamin

The Tender Bar, J.R. Moehringer

The Translator, Nina Schuyler

The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry, Rachel Joyce

The Unrest-Cure and Other Stories, Saki

The Weird World of Wes Beattie, John Norman Harris

The Westing Game, Ellen Raskin

The Women in Black, Madeleine St John

They Call Me Naughty Lola, David Rose

Thing Explainer, Randall Munroe

Ways of Seeing, John Berger

What If?, Randall Munroe

When Breath Becomes Air, Paul Kalanithi

You Learn by Living: Eleven Keys for a More Fulfilling Life, Eleanor Roosevelt

Up At the Villa, W. Somerset Maugham

84, Charing Cross Road, Helene Hanff