REVIEW: Before The Fall by Noah Hawley

On an ordinary but stormy day, a private jet travelling from Martha’s Vineyard crashes into the ocean. Everyone except for a small boy and an artist who shouldn’t really have been on the plane are killed. After the crash everyone wants to know, why did the plane crash and why did the wealthy men and women on board die while a failed artist with a drink problem survived?

What follows in an investigation into the people on the plane. Onboard were billionaires with connections to worldwide politics, protected constantly by security guards. Yet the wealthy did not survive other than little JJ who is now an orphan and a billionaire. Could the crash be an act of terrorism? Revenge? Or just a terrible tragedy with Scott Burroughs, the so far unsuccessful artist, survival being nothing more than a coincidence?

I was expecting a twisting thriller with a fast paced plot and that is definitely what I got. This novel would make a great film as it has many layers, diverse characters and the plot keeps up momentum until the end. I didn’t figure out where the novel was going until the last fifty pages or so and even then the novel still managed to surprise.

I enjoyed the layout of the novel, moving between different times and perspectives and felt this worked really well. The characters can’t always be trusted and this only added to the atmosphere of the novel.

The novel also explores some big themes, such as money and its effect on us, our understanding of power and social order and how we change and develop because of our own individual experiences of life. Yet, at it’s heart this novel still focuses in on relationships, whether romantic, platonic or the close bond of family. It is really clever how Hawley manages to juxtapose scenes of disaster with ordinary, every day life. Hawley seems to suggest that it is death, accidents, destruction, which act as the leveller between the very wealthy and the poor. It is only the unlikeable characters who are more concerned about money than the human tragedy of the accident. Hawley looks at the way news channels and newspapers, journalists and viewers react to these events. The way that the survivors are held aside from society, becoming something other through the experience of inadvertent survival. The disaster becomes commercialised, a way to gain viewing figures and push a political narrative.

This book is marketed as a thriller, a mystery novel. However, this book looks at what it means to be human in the modern day of constant news channels, mass materialism and the constant surveillance and suspicion of terrorism. It is a very well written, enjoyable book. But more than that, it will make you stop and think far more than you perhaps expect it too.



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