Hello everyone, and welcome back to The Bookworm’s Fantasy! I hope you’re all doing well. Today I’m posting my review of Nathan Filer’s fantastic debut novel, ‘The Shock Of The Fall’. This is my third time reading the book, and it is without a doubt my all time favourite book! So I figured it was definitely time to share my review. Keep reading to discover my thoughts…
‘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 all of these books.
** TRIGGER WARNING ** This novel explores the theme of mental illness, particularly schizophrenia, in great detail. The subject of grief and loss is also explored throughout the book.
‘The Shock of the Fall’ is Nathan Filer’s debut novel, and was published in January 2014. Since then, he has also published the non-fiction book ‘The Heartland: Finding and Losing Schizophrenia’ (June 2019). Nathan Filer is a registered mental health nurse and poet, and he now lectures at Bath Spa University.
‘The Shock of the Fall’ was awarded the Costa Book of the Year in 2013. It has received rave reviews, from the likes of Daily Mail: “Both funny and painful … you’re going to love it”, Daily Telegraph: “Bittersweet and wonderfully etched” and Observer Magazine: “A compelling story of grief, madness and loss.” Fellow authors also praised the novel, such as S.J. Watson: “Shocking, harrowing and heartrending” and Jo Brand: “One of the best books about mental illness.”
‘The Shock of the Fall’ tells the story of Matthew, whose entire life is turned upside down after the death of his brother Simon. Matthew begins to fall into a downward spiral, and it’s clear he will never recover from Simon’s death. But what really happened to Simon that night?
The narrative is told from the first-person perspective of Matthew throughout. The narrative consists of both handwritten diary entries and entries typed via a typewriter, as well as letters. The reader is given an in-depth, intrusive insight to Matthew’s complex thoughts, feelings and behaviours. The narrative contains many time jumps, including scenes narrating the past (i.e. Simon’s death) and the present (i.e. Matthew’s hospitalisation). Overall, the narrative contains a complex structure, but is still relatively easy to follow.
Of course, Matthew is my favourite character in the novel. He’s a deeply emotional, troubled character, and he feels responsible for Simon’s death. He begins to suffer with schizophrenia – a complex and cruel mental illness – which manifests itself upon the grief and loss he suffers. Matthew is funny and intelligent, and he is an exceptionally strong character. I felt many emotions whilst reading Matthew’s narration – from sadness to laughter, and everything in between. He is an extremely well-written, three dimensional character, and his resilience in terms of fighting his mental illness is truly inspiring.
Matthew’s grandmother, presented to the reader as “Nanny-Noo”, is a lovely, kind-hearted lady. She regularly visits Matthew in his flat and takes care of him, smoking secret cigarettes together. She soon begins to realise that Matthew’s illness is taking over his life, and he needs urgent help. Matthew’s parents are not especially present in his adolescent life, with both suffering from overwhelming grief for their son Simon. It’s clear that they also blame Matthew for his brother’s death, and they struggle to help Matthew with his mental health issues.
Other characters in the novel include: Jacob (Matthew’s best friend), Annabelle (a childhood friend), and various fellow psychiatric in-patients and mental health professionals. There is a relatively small cast of characters in the novel, but all are vital to Matthew’s story.
** TRIGGER WARNING ** (I apologise for any spoilers here.) This novel explores the mental illness schizophrenia in great detail, including episodes of psychosis, dissociation, hallucinations and self-destructive behaviours. The protagonist Matthew is eventually admitted to a psychiatric hospital, and there we see many other patients who are suffering from complex mental illnesses. Matthew is extremely frank in his descriptions about his hospital stay, so the depiction of psychiatric hospitals is overall fairly negative. The theme of grief and loss is also explored throughout the novel, as experienced by Matthew, his parents and other family members. These issues are all explored with appropriate sensitivity, but if you feel that any many trigger a negative experience, I suggest you skip this book.
As the narrative motors onwards, Matthew’s behaviour becomes increasingly concerning, and his mental state completely deteriorates. Matthew decides to face his demons one last time – and the reader eventually finds out what happened to Simon on the night of his death.
So, let’s talk about the ending! There’s an extremely dramatic end scene, in which the truth about Simon’s death is finally revealed. The end scene is shocking and compelling, and I definitely couldn’t have anticipated the resolution. The novel ends on an ambiguous, but uplifting, note, suggesting a sense of closure for Matthew. It is a deeply emotional and moving end to a truly captivating story.
Overall, I highly recommend this novel to those of you who enjoy fictional books about mental illness, particularly if you are interested in reading a book with a schizophrenic narrator. I absolutely adore this book and I believe that it is exceptionally well-written. I couldn’t fault it if I tried! I urge you all to go out and read this book – I promise you won’t regret it.
Happy reading 🙂