Book Reviews

Book Review: Catch and Kill: Lies, Spies, and a Conspiracy to Protect Predators by Ronan Farrow

When this book was released to much fanfare, I had little desire to read it. I knew a little about the story that had spawned the #metoo movement, but I wasn’t terribly interested in all of the gory details. After reading a few glowing reviews by people I trusted, I finally decided to check it out.

This was nothing like I expected. For a book that is nonfiction, it was as much of a thriller as some detective novels I’ve read – maybe even better than some I’ve given positive reviews to in the past. I couldn’t put the book down, and when I did, I couldn’t wait to get back to it and finish it.

I give this book 5 stars. I rarely give a book 5 stars. If I could give it more, I would.

Catch and Kill tells the story of Ronan Farrow and his producer, Rich McHugh investigated sexual harassment and assault allegations against Hollywood mogul and political influencer, Harvey Weinstein. Although in Farrow’s eyes the story is about the women, it’s also the story of how the media conspires to protect powerful people like Weinstein. The book reads like a thriller, despite the fact that we all know the outcome of the investigation.

Farrow details how they began investigating the story and how hard it was to tread the line of trying to get Weinstein’s victims to open up to them while at the same time respecting how they handled the situation. Perhaps due to the issues in his own family (his sister Dylan’s sexual abuse at the hands of their father, Woody Allen) Ronan was cautious enough about how much to press these women. Most of them opened up to him in their own time and agreed to go on the record.

At first, his bosses at NBC were behind the story. As time wore on, he began to get mixed signals. He didn’t realize the can of worms he was opening in his own backyard with his investigation. Farrow also begins to get the feeling he’s being followed, even as he’s clandestinely trying to meet up with those whose story he wants to tell.

The pacing of the book is really great. Farrow intertwines certain things he finds out later with events as they were all happening. It gives the story a real menacing feel. When NBC decides to kill his story, he takes it to the magazine The New Yorker and ends up getting it published there, even if it’s without the support of the interviews he and McHugh filmed that were property of NBC. The New York Times scooped him on part of the story, but the main thrust of the sexual abuse and rape story came from Farrow’s The New Yorker article.

Farrow also interjects enough of his own observations and commentary on the events as they evolve to make it more than just a tell-all. He discusses the abuse that went on in his own family, even as Weinstein and NBC attempt to use it to discredit him. Farrow feels a good bit of guilt for not backing his sister the way he should have early on, even though they are both estranges from their father for a number of years. His regrets are evident throughout the book, and I felt impressed that he addressed this scandal head on. Though he alludes to the controversy surrounding his paternity, he never directly addresses that, though. As he says time and time again, he is not the story – the women who were the victims and who were brave enough to come forward in the first place are.

There are also funny moments, particularly when he’s interacting with his partner (now fiancee) Jonathan. His early observation in certain instances foreshadow things that will happen later on, really making this one of the best nonfiction books I can remember.

The title refers to the practice of media outlets paying for an exclusive story, then killing it. Through the course of his investigative reporting, Farrow exposes how media outlets have done this to benefit numerous people whom they then have in their pockets. The intertwining of all of this with international spies makes this a book everyone should read to get an idea how opinions about celebrities are manipulated in the world.

I wasn’t expecting to like Catch and Kill as much as I did. “Like” may not be the right term – who “likes” to read that someone like Weinstein was protected for more than two decades in sexually assaulting women in Hollywood and subsequently destroying their careers? I think it’s important to read about, though, and this book is good. Farrow is a terrific writer and a good investigator. Kudos to him for standing up to all of the pressure he was under during this.

Read it!

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