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Book club questions for Catch and Kill by Ronan Farrow covers all the key events in this chilling nonfiction story. Be sure to check out my review of the book first.
In 2017, a routine network television investigation led Ronan Farrow to a story only whispered about: one of Hollywood’s most powerful producers was a predator, protected by fear, wealth, and a conspiracy of silence. As Farrow drew closer to the truth, shadowy operatives, from high-priced lawyers to elite war-hardened spies, mounted a secret campaign of intimidation, threatening his career, following his every move, and weaponizing an account of abuse in his own family. All the while, Farrow and his producer faced a degree of resistance they could not explain — until now. And a trail of clues revealed corruption and cover-ups from Hollywood to Washington and beyond.
This is the untold story of the exotic tactics of surveillance and intimidation deployed by wealthy and connected men to threaten journalists, evade accountability, and silence victims of abuse. And it’s the story of the women who risked everything to expose the truth and spark a global movement.
Both a spy thriller and a meticulous work of investigative journalism, Catch and Kill breaks devastating new stories about the rampant abuse of power and sheds far-reaching light on investigations that shook our culture.
Book Club Questions for Catch and Kill
- How much did you know about Ronan Farrow and his investigation into Harvey Weinstein prior to reading this book? Have you read his original New Yorker article?
- What do you think are some of the factors that drove Ronan to work on this piece about Weinstein? What impact did his sister’s abuse have on Ronan intent on making sure these victims were heard?
- The story is told in parallel timelines in parts: one with Ronan trying to uncover these stories and the other with Weinstein attempting to halt the coverage. What were your thoughts as you read both sections?
- As Ronan continues his investigation, he gets plenty of calls and a huge interest in what he was working on—with some trying to hint that he shouldn’t investigate too much. For instance, on page 103, Tom Brokaw talks with Ronan about how he should “stick to your guns.” When he find out the story is about Weinstein, Brokaw’s demeanor completely changes and he calls Weinstein a friend. Ronan thinks to himself, “Shit. Is anyone not friends with this guy?” Let’s discuss this exchange and how everyone in the entertainment and news orbit seemed to have some connection to Weinstein.
- How was Weinstein able to get away with the abuse for years?
- Let’s discuss why NBC execs stood in Ronan’s way. Why do you think they were afraid of Weinstein? Do you think they assume the story would never be published?
- It began with one woman and eventually many women step forward to tell their stories of abuse and harassment by Weinstein. Once these women told their stories, nothing’s been the same. Let’s talk about all of this.
- Ronan starts to suspect he’s been followed and he is in a huge way by an army of spies called Black Cube. They didn’t just trail Ronan but also all the women who Weinstein suspected would talk to Ronan. How mindblogging was all of that to read about?
- The New Yorker agrees to publish Ronan’s story and he has to reach out to Weinstein for comment. On page 170, Weinstein says to him, “You couldn’t save someone you love, and now you think you can save everyone.” He really said this. You’d think he was pointing a detonator at Aquaman. What did you think about this exchange?
- What do you feel are some of the key takeaways of the book?
- Do you think workplaces, including Hollywood and news organizations, are becoming more safer now that stories like this are public? Or do you think little has changed? Let’s talk about our perspectives.
What to Read Next
Thanks for checking out book club questions for Catch and Kill! Here are some more recommendations for what to read next.
She Said by Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey
She Said by Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey is from the Pulitzer Prize-winning reporters who broke the news of Harvey Weinstein’s sexual harassment and abuse for the New York Times. I think it’s important to read both books because each of their articles had a huge impact.
For many years, reporters had tried to get to the truth about Harvey Weinstein’s treatment of women. Rumors of wrongdoing had long circulated. But in 2017, when Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey began their investigation into the prominent Hollywood producer for the New York Times, his name was still synonymous with power. During months of confidential interviews with top actresses, former Weinstein employees, and other sources, many disturbing and long-buried allegations were unearthed, and a web of onerous secret payouts and nondisclosure agreements was revealed. These shadowy settlements had long been used to hide sexual harassment and abuse, but with a breakthrough reporting technique Kantor and Twohey helped to expose it. But Weinstein had evaded scrutiny in the past, and he was not going down without a fight; he employed a team of high-profile lawyers, private investigators, and other allies to thwart the investigation. When Kantor and Twohey were finally able to convince some sources to go on the record, a dramatic final showdown between Weinstein and the New York Times was set in motion.
Nothing could have prepared Kantor and Twohey for what followed the publication of their initial Weinstein story on October 5, 2017. Within days, a veritable Pandora’s box of sexual harassment and abuse was opened. Women all over the world came forward with their own traumatic stories. Over the next twelve months, hundreds of men from every walk of life and industry were outed following allegations of wrongdoing. But did too much change—or not enough? Those questions hung in the air months later as Brett Kavanaugh was nominated to the Supreme Court, and Christine Blasey Ford came forward to testify that he had assaulted her decades earlier. Kantor and Twohey, who had unique access to Ford and her team, bring to light the odyssey that led her to come forward, the overwhelming forces that came to bear on her, and what happened after she shared her allegation with the world.
In the tradition of great investigative journalism, She Said tells a thrilling story about the power of truth, with shocking new information from hidden sources. Kantor and Twohey describe not only the consequences of their reporting for the #MeToo movement, but the inspiring and affecting journeys of the women who spoke up—for the sake of other women, for future generations, and for themselves.
To order the book on Amazon, click here.
Three Women by Lisa Taddeo
When I was thinking about what to recommend after reading Catch and Kill, Three Women by Lisa Taddeo immediately came to mind. This is a nonfiction story that explores desire, heartbreak and infatuation.
In suburban Indiana we meet Lina, a homemaker and mother of two whose marriage, after a decade, has lost its passion. Starved for affection, Lina battles daily panic attacks and, after reconnecting with an old flame through social media, embarks on an affair that quickly becomes all-consuming. In North Dakota we meet Maggie, a seventeen-year-old high school student who allegedly has a clandestine physical relationship with her handsome, married English teacher; the ensuing criminal trial will turn their quiet community upside down. Finally, in an exclusive enclave of the Northeast, we meet Sloane—a gorgeous, successful, and refined restaurant owner—who is happily married to a man who likes to watch her have sex with other men and women.
Based on years of immersive reporting and told with astonishing frankness and immediacy, Three Women is both a feat of journalism and a triumph of storytelling, brimming with nuance and empathy. “A work of deep observation, long conversations, and a kind of journalistic alchemy” (Kate Tuttle, NPR), Three Women introduces us to three unforgettable women—and one remarkable writer—whose experiences remind us that we are not alone.
To buy Three Women on Amazon, click here. Check out my book club questions here.