The Shock of the Fall by Nathan Filer, published May 2013 by Harper Collins.
Read: June 2014
Genre: Contemporary/Mental Health/Adult
Goodreads Synopsis: ‘I’ll tell you what happened because it will be a good way to introduce my brother. His name’s Simon. I think you’re going to like him. I really do. But in a couple of pages he’ll be dead. And he was never the same after that.’ There are books you can’t stop reading, which keep you up all night. There are books which let us into the hidden parts of life and make them vividly real. There are books which, because of the sheer skill with which every word is chosen, linger in your mind for days. The Shock of the Fall is an extraordinary portrait of one man’s descent into mental illness.
I found this to be a really fascinating read that could also be very difficult in places. This was partly because of the sadness of the story, and partly because of its complexity – the story is told by Matthew, the protagonist, who is suffering from schizophrenia among other mental health problems and his versions of events can be… jumbled.
The book covers two time periods, which is cleverly set apart by the font. When Matthew is 19 he begins to develop his mental illness and writes about his life on a typewriter, at 21 he writes on a computer during his hospitalisation. It’s no great spoiler to know that Matthew’s brother is dead (it’s right there on the blurb!) and this book really looks at the death of Matthew’s brother and the subsequent effect it had on his life.
Although the book is written during two distinct time-periods, Matthew spends the novel recounting his life from a young age, and his train of thought can be difficult to follow. The book could even be considered “writing therapy”, a style of therapy often called free-writing where a person just writes whatever comes into their head as a way to vent and make sense of things. Matthew sometimes talks directly to the reader, “I didn’t tell you where I live yet. It probably doesn’t matter, but I’ll tell you now, because then you can have some pictures in your mind as you read. Reading is a bit like hallucinating. Hallucinate this:” and sometimes you get the distinct feeling that you are invading someone’s private thoughts.
When I got into this book, I really couldn’t put it down. Matthew’s “voice” is quite unique and I was intrigued by this mish-mash story, wanting to read on to find out what happened. The author, Nathan Filer, is a registered mental health nurse, which I think helped in creating the sense of realism in this novel. It definitely isn’t rainbows and butterflies, and it doesn’t take an overly fictional and easy approach to the very serious mental health issues the protagonist faces, it’s raw. Real.
“I have an illness, a disease with the shape and sound of a snake. Whenever I learn something new it learns it too…My illness knows everything I know.”
It’s difficult to tell you exactly how I feel about this book without giving away what secrets are left in the plot. The book has no real mysterious elements, or possibility for spoilers. We know the shocking events going into it. Instead, it’s more the unravelling of a mind and the attempt of a young man to put his back together again. It may not be the most fast-paced and action packed book I’ve read, but it packed a punch and it’s worth a read. On a completely shallow note that only my fellow Book Geeks will understand, it’s also worth noting that the hardback is simply gorgeous.