Criticism & Features

Year 2019: 30 Books

Catch and Kill by Ronan Farrow: 2019 Autobiography finalist

By Marion Winik

Catch and Kill: Lies, Spies, and a Conspiracy to Protect Predators by Ronan Farrow (Little, Brown) Catch and Kill: Lies, Spies, and a Conspiracy to Protect Predators by Ronan Farrow (Little, Brown)

At the time Ronan Farrow’s Catch and Kill came out, some readers had a touch of #metoo fatigue; many had heard just about all they could stand concerning Harvey Weinstein. Ronan Farrow’s memoir is a riveting and personal story-behind-the-story that takes care to honor the voices and the sacrifices of his hundreds of sources. With it, Farrow gives added dimension and depth to our understanding of the systemic corruption and profound damage involved.
Farrow was working for NBC News when he started his research. But the bigger the story got, the more it became clear that NBC was never going to let it air. The author ended up taking his work to The New Yorker, where it was published five days after Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey broke their story in the New York Times. All three writers shared a 2018 Pulitzer Prize for public service.

As the brother of Dylan Farrow, who was allegedly molested by Woody Allen as a child, Ronan Farrow had been dealing with this issue for years. NBC actually tried to use this against him, saying he was too close to the story. As it turns out, it’s NBC that was too close to the story, trying to protect its own in-house abuser, Matt Lauer, and taking direct orders from Harvey Weinstein himself.

In any case, Farrow’s connections to the story are what make this book riveting as a memoir — they are part of the reason it is a finalist in this category. In addition to unpacking the complexities of his relationship with his sister, he documents the way the operation of the conspiracy affected his relationships and daily life. At many points it seems the only person the besieged journalist can rely on is his partner, Jon, whom he proposes to at the end of the book. The author’s voice is clear, warm, and laced with wry humor that leavens the otherwise nail-biting and infuriating story. “ I know my way around a paternity rumor,” he comments at one point, and leaves it at that.

— Marion Winik