I received Before The Fall in exchange for an honest review.
On a summer night, a luxurious private jet awaits its privileged passengers in Martha’s Vineyard. It’s a short, simple hop over to New York City – one which has been carried out countless times before. But this time, things are different. Just moments into the flight the plane plunges into the sea, leaving only two survivors.
Before The Fall felt like a story made up of many fragments, and unfortunately those fragments just didn’t quite fall into place for me. Hawley’s chapters weave between the present-day crash, aftermath and the days before the fall, exploring multiple characters’ thoughts, feelings and backgrounds – sometimes spanning all the way back to childhood. I couldn’t help but feel I was experiencing an information overload and, whilst every chapter is beautifully written, there were so many different pieces to the story that I found it difficult to connect with the characters and sift the key facts and plot twists from the information which frankly felt a little irrelevant.
The only adult survivor of the crash is Scott Borroughs, a fascinating character whom I would have liked more from. A struggling painter, he was on the plane by sheer chance through a friendship formed at an island market, and naturally there’s plenty of speculation around how he came to board the fatal plane and – perhaps more importantly – why, out of all of the respectable adults on board, he was the only one to survive.
Scott’s relationship with the second survivor, JJ, is beautifully written. JJ is the four-year-old son of the extremely wealthy couple, Maggie and David Bateman, suddenly orphaned in the light of the recent events. The pair’s epic swim for survival from the wreckage to shore is heart-wrenching stuff, and the tentative relationship which forms in the aftermath is truly touching.
Whilst Scott and JJ were undoubtedly the stars of this novel for me, there’s another character who demands attention. TV anchor Bill Cunningham, who worked with David Bateman at his successful TV news business, appoints himself as the figurehead of the aggressive media investigation into the events surrounding the crash. Through Bill, Hawley successfully captures everything which is troubling about the power these brash, arrogant public figures can hold, and the role the media plays in inflating opinions and inciting outrage in the general public.
Before The Fall had me feeling a little torn by the end, it’s a thoughtful tale which raises some interesting points about human nature, but just not what I was expecting. The plane crash at the heart of the novel is more used as a vehicle for the writer to deliver his meditative, considered thoughts on human relationships and modern society, rather than an integral piece of plotting. This story was not the page-turning literary thriller I was hoping for, but I’m sure to some readers it will represent something even better.