Title: The Shock Of The Fall
Author: Nathan Filer
Source: Purchased from Kindle Store
Buy it: Here
As a young boy, Matthew Homes experiences a family holiday that will haunt him for the rest of his life; it is a trip in which his beloved brother Simon loses his life. As Matthew grows up without ever coming to terms with his guilt about the events that unfolded that night, he finds himself suffering from a mental illness both comforting and worrying. Working with (and often against) the care centre, his family and his own will power, Matthew navigates his way through his own story, to an uncomfortable acceptance.
The Shock of the Fall is the winner of the 2013 Costa First Novel Award, and I can see why. The book is written from the point of view of Matthew as he recounts to the reader the events before, and after, the death of his brother - up to his eventual breakdown, diagnosis and treatment for schizophrenia.
The emotion is highly wrought throughout the book, as we are aligned with Matthew's struggles and witness his mental suffering. Despite this, there are many moments of joy too. The moments Matthew shares with his "Nanny Noo" are simultaneously lovely and heartbreaking, and the same can be said of his friendship with Jacob.
The author has himself worked as a nurse in mental health wards, and his experience in the field comes across wonderfully in his portrayal of the world Matthew inhabits. There is a lot of unflinching honesty in the representation of care centres and their staff, but also a deeper understanding of the implications and reasons why things are as they are. This personal experience from the author really gave the book a depth beyond the usual "schizophrenic" story line, in which the reader is very often only presented the world inside the sufferers head, and not the support systems around them.
I am not ashamed to admit I sobbed like a baby towards the end of the book. Characters I never even expected to illicit such a reaction from me did so with surprising effect. The book leaves things perfectly, with a sense of hope and a sense of closure. I thought The Shock of the Fall was absolutely wonderful.
The Shock of the Fall is a highly emotional read, full of honesty and wonderful characters. Living in Bristol myself, I felt possibly more aligned to the sense of place than most, but really think the sense of life in the city was well portrayed. I highly recommend this book to anyone with an interest in, or experience of, mental health - I found it to be an insightful and sensitive book and I cannot wait for Nathan Filers next novel!
Additional: I am attending an author event with Nathan Filer on April 10th. Shall post about it soon!