This is a highly readable book by Noah Hawley. The story told starts on a foggy night when a private jet with some very influential and important people, their wives and two children, an artist on the road back from alcoholism and the air crew on board, took off from St Martha’s Vineyard with the destination being New York. Somewhere during the flight it crashes. The only survivors we know of are the artist and a four year old boy. We flash back to each passenger and their life before the fall and return to the survivors and their life after the fall. It was suspense at its best.
Before the Fall While most of his writing was lyrical some jarred. There were numerous examples of telling, not showing and this, I found, annoyed me greatly. Why did he need to, at the end of the first chapter, write “… none of them has any idea that sixteen minutes from now their plane will crash into the sea.” There were a number of similar examples throughout the book. Why didn’t he build the tension and show us it happening. In retrospect, these tellings, I think , were a very successful strategy, convincing me that the narrator was unreliable and allowed me to sustain hope throughout.
Hawley’s character construction was skilful and as a reader I certainly became involved positively with some and negatively with other characters. The human traits he gave his characters are one that were easily recognised by me as the reader. It was this connection that drove the novel forward and although I was slightly disappointed with the ending (I can’t say more as it will spoil it for anyone who decides to read it) I was also disappointed it was over. I wondered at how my mind could just ignore some pointers because of my own desires.
It was also a story of greed – from the wealthy wanting more, the poor wanting what the wealthy had and the greed of the media. It examined ploys of the media in creating the truth they wanted rather than the truth as it existed. I have always worried that now that news is 24 hours a day that there simply isn’t enough news to fill it up. This book went part of the way to me deciding I am right in that thought. It was a story of desire, the ability to sink to the depths and rise above them, the value of family and the nature of art and creation, memory and identity. Above all it showed the power of hope.
One of my favourite parts was the descriptions in the Chapter ‘Blanco’ and the conclusions Scott, the artist, puts forth as he ponders about the world he is in and the crash he survived. He suggests that perhaps he is a ghost. What did happen on that plane? What happened to the other passengers? If you want to know you’ll have to read it yourself.