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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A heart-breaking story of mental illness
Sometimes things happen in our lives that change who were are and what we believe. Sometimes it’s wonderful things and you see yourself in a whole new light and the world seems a better place than it was before.
Sometimes things happen to us that shatter and divide our lives and nothing is ever the same. The person you are after bears little or no resemblance...
Published 7 months ago by The Girl Who Loved To Read

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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Shockingly dull
Matt Homes is a young man from Bristol with schizophrenia, writing out his life story which centres around the death of his Downs Syndrome brother when they were children. As Matt's narrative progresses, we learn there's more to his brother's death than he initially lets on and that this is why he carries around feelings of guilt.

The Shock of the Fall is a...
Published 11 months ago by Sam Quixote


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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A heart-breaking story of mental illness, 7 July 2014
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This review is from: The Shock of the Fall (Paperback)
Sometimes things happen in our lives that change who were are and what we believe. Sometimes it’s wonderful things and you see yourself in a whole new light and the world seems a better place than it was before.
Sometimes things happen to us that shatter and divide our lives and nothing is ever the same. The person you are after bears little or no resemblance to who you are today.

“The Shock of the Fall” is all about those things. The ones that alter our lives in an instant, and leaves a completely new set of rules and a new identity behind when its over. We meet Matt who is in the middle of the most defining moment of his life and while he is telling us the story of what has happened in his past, he manages to draw us into the world that he inhabits today.

“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.”

I first saw this book at a layover in a London airport and knew the second I saw that cover that I wanted to own and read it – and now that it’s on my shelf, I often find my eyes being drawn to its pretty spine and I’m very pleased that I took a chance on a book that I knew absolutely nothing about.

So, what is it about? Well, that’s a bit difficult to explain actually. It’s about family and loss and growing up and mental illness. Not in a “story of your life” sort of way, but rather running along all the strands that make up who we are and the people we love – our lives. “The Shock of the Fall” takes a very intimate look at what happens when those strands come undone – when the structure we assume is in place supporting our lives is suddenly changed and how once one strand is missing, the whole unity slowly comes apart.
But it is also about how we can go from being lost and unwound to becoming whole again. A different person and in a different life than where we started, but not necessarily worse. How the people we love can be lost and almost destroyed, but also put together again despite the direst of circumstances.

I was very positively surprised by “The Shock of the Fall”, which was really nothing like what I had thought it would be (despite the lack of clear expectations). I think I had expected a type of tragic, family ghost story, but instead I got a young man’s “One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest” – albeit with a decidedly less depressing ending.

I’m not usually very keen on what you might call “human interest” stories – I don’t care much honestly about the true struggles of this and that person. And I generally find that bad endings for the character makes for much better story endings.
However, “The Shock of the Fall” was really lovely. Actually, that might be a strange word to use, because it is tough and filled with mental illness and loss, but I really think the author managed a perfect balance between despair and optimism in telling the story of Matt and Simon.

So, the only reason this book is just a new “really, really good book” and not a new “favourite book” is simply the genre and perhaps my own state of mind when I read it, but I will give it my warmest recommendations and tell you to go ahead and read it as soon as you can.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Shockingly dull, 4 April 2014
By 
Sam Quixote - See all my reviews
(TOP 100 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: The Shock of the Fall (Paperback)
Matt Homes is a young man from Bristol with schizophrenia, writing out his life story which centres around the death of his Downs Syndrome brother when they were children. As Matt's narrative progresses, we learn there's more to his brother's death than he initially lets on and that this is why he carries around feelings of guilt.

The Shock of the Fall is a character portrait rather than a narrative driven book - unfortunately, for a character piece, I never really felt like Matt had much of a well-defined character to start with; it's sketchy at best and oftentimes feels uneven. The best work Nathan Filer did with Matt was show how his brother's death devastated his life but how much of that life was due to that haunting event or his own schizophrenia is unclear.

I have no experience with schizophrenia so I can't say whether Matt's behaviour is realistic or not, or even when or how the illness manifests throughout the narrative, but I was never sure whether his actions were the result of personal trauma or mental illness.

What I mean is, was the point of the novel about a person coming to terms with a traumatic childhood experience or about someone dealing with mental illness, and if so, why have these two unconnected elements side by side - what's the reader supposed to focus on? I guess given the way the novel ended, it was about Matt coming to terms with his brother's death, but what that has to do with his schizophrenia is unclear. Did he even need to have schizophrenia? Maybe the hallucinatory sequences wouldn't have had as much weight if he did, but what a contrived reason to have that illness if that was the point!

It's an easy to follow narrative but a very dull one. Filer uses his own experience as a mental health nurse to inform the novel and the passages set in the treatment centre were convincing. If there's one element that stays with you, it's the clear picture of mental health treatment in England today, and how soul-draining it is for patients.

But other than that, there's no plot to follow, few other characters, and a narrator with very little personality or much to say. It's an extremely slow read despite being relatively short and the "reveal" of his brother's death happens about 60 pages before the end when it should've been the conclusion of the book - those last 60 pages were a real slog only to build up to an overly sentimental, corny Hollywood-esque ending.

At best this reads like a Young Adult novel that's trying a bit too hard to be literary or a creative writing assignment completely devoid of feeling or insight. After the novel is a brief interview with Filer and I noticed when he was asked "were you reading any books during the writing process" he mentions Catcher in the Rye and Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time, which is really telling. Parts of the book - like the typewriter font pages - read like Holden Caulfield's voice, where Matt's character suddenly becomes very biting and he turns into a whiny teenager, while other parts of the book are more matter-of-fact and observational as if Christopher Boone were speaking. There are even pointless doodles thrown in a la Curious Incident!

The Shock of the Fall is a very shallow novel that wears its influences too obviously to be taken seriously as an original or thoughtful work. It tries some strange stylistic tricks like drawings or font changes to little effect and for no reason - variety maybe to distract the reader from the dull prose? - and rather than be moved by Matt's story, I was frequently bored or unclear as to what the point of many scenes were.

This book won the 2013 Costa Prize but I shouldn't be surprised that this prize-winning novel is awful. I mean, who knows how to pick out great literature better than a judging panel made up of the lead singer of Texas, an actress who was once in a George Clooney movie, and a TV presenter, for a prize sponsored by a coffee chain?
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183 of 204 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Highly recommended, 12 May 2013
By 
Welsh Annie (Wetherby) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: The Shock of the Fall (Hardcover)
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When reading at the weekend, I have some rules - I can read before getting up, but must not sit down with it again until after lunch. With this wonderful book, I tore up the rulebook and read it in one glorious sitting.

I was absolutely fascinated by this story narrated by Matthew Homes, a teenager suffering with mental illness in the wake of the sudden death of his brother Simon. For a difficult read in terms of subject matter, this is an easy and flowing read - a strange comment maybe, with the fragmented time frame, the different typefaces, and the dips into and out of Matt's mental illness, but it was all accomplished so effortlessly. There are lovely touches of humour, acute observations about life and human behaviour, and a set of exceptionally well drawn subsidiary characters.

I particularly liked Matt's parents - the tableau presented of them sitting as a family watching Eastenders, the father's awkwardness with his "mon ami" greeting and secret handshake, and the mother's attempts at home schooling after Simon's death (where Matt was forced to make deliberate mistakes to get her attention). His grandmother, Nanny Noo, is also a wonderful creation - calling at Matt's every other Thursday, cooking pasta bake, smoking one of her menthol cigarettes from the kitchen drawer, and already familiar with mental illness elsewhere in the family. I also loved the use of letters - Denise's attempts to get Matt to attend his medical appointments, and particularly the wonderful invitations.

It's hard to believe this is a first novel, so accomplished is the writing - but from hearing the author interviewed on Simon Mayo's Book Club, I know this book was a long time in the conception and writing, and that he continues to work as a mental health nurse. An incredibly moving read, and very highly recommended.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Quite brilliant, 28 Jun. 2013
By 
Sid Nuncius (London) - See all my reviews
(HALL OF FAME REVIEWER)    (TOP 10 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: The Shock of the Fall (Hardcover)
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For once this is a novel which justifies the publisher's hyperbolic claims - it really is terrific. I found it utterly engrossing, readable, funny, enlightening and very moving.

This is the story of Matthew, a young man who suffers from schizophrenia. It is narrated by Matthew himself and one of the most striking things about the book is the brilliant authenticity of his narrative voice. I am no expert on schizophrenia, but to this layman it felt and sounded utterly convincing, shifting in tone according to his medication and whether he is taking it, capturing things like Matthew's anger, wit, bitterness and sadness with remarkable vividness and painting an unforgettable picture of the things which happen to him. It took me right inside that young man's head and gave me a wholly believable picture and understanding of what he is going through and why he behaves as he does.

The story is superbly told. The structure is fragmented as Matthew writes in various places and states of mind and we get his history woven into descriptions of what is going on as he writes. Again, this is excellently done and really adds to the feel and sense of the book rather than just being a novelistic trick. Other characters and places are brilliantly painted and he captures (and sometimes excoriates) the language and types of speech of others (especially medical staff) extremely well. I found the whole thing compelling in that way where I felt very glad to have half an hour free to read some more.

I think there's always a worry with a book like this that it is using a Big Subject and a Clever Narrative Voice to market a mediocre novel. This does nothing of the kind: it avoids mawkishness, it is never sentimental and it treats its subject with respect even when being very funny about it. The whole thing is intelligent, honest and compassionate.

Comparisons with Mark Haddon are inevitable. This is a different story from The Curious Case but I genuinely think it is as good - and I know that's really saying something. This is one of the most involving and memorable books I have read for quite some time. Very, very warmly recommended.
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91 of 104 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent, 25 July 2013
This review is from: The Shock of the Fall (Hardcover)
I saw this book in a book review in a magazine and thought I'd give it a go. I was pleasantly surprised when I started reading the novel.

It's striking and quirky, the novel is written from the point of view of the main character and it allows the reader to really see into the depths of his character and how he was able to spiral into mental illness. I thought the way that the author depicted this downturn into his character to make him end up in an mental unit was well expressed and clear. The guilt that he felt about his brothers death was touching and the way that the scenes after his death and how his family went on living were really sad and very realistic.

One of the reasons why I think it is so effective is that the author previously worked as a mental health nurse so he was able to impart specialised knowledge of dealing with people with mental illness and mental deterioration.

I loved this book and am so glad that I took a chance on it and would certainly recommend it to anyone.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A masterful combination of poignancy and humour, 25 Mar. 2014
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This review is from: The Shock of the Fall (Paperback)
I’m not someone who always reads book prize winners, or necessarily enjoys them if I do; judges look for slightly different things than I do, I suppose. But Nathan Filer’s 2013 Costa Book of the Year is both prize-worthy and very readable.

I didn’t know much about the book before reading it – the blurb doesn’t give much away and I trusted a recommendation without reading any online reviews – and it’s one of those where the pleasure comes in part from the suspense and from uncovering its layers in good time. So I’m going to try and review it without saying too much about the story itself.

What I will say is that this is a sensitive, touching novel that achieves that difficult combination of poignancy and humour with apparent ease. It is a story that touches on parent-child relationships and sibling bonds, on mental health issues, on disability and on the nature of grief. It touches on all of these without becoming heavy-handed, contrived or trite. It made me want to cry on seemingly every other page without ever actually causing me to shed a tear – I can’t quite articulate why this feels like an achievement, but it does.

The narrative in The Shock of the Fall is, for me, its stand-out feature. Matthew’s voice is distinctive and real, and endearing even as it is confusing. It takes a little time to get to grips with what is present-day narrative, what is recent memory and what is more distant flashback, and I’d suggest reading this in paperback as I did a fair bit of flicking backwards and forwards to re-orient myself. Rather than being frustrating, though, this really helps to get inside Matthew’s head. I also love that Matthew acknowledges that his memory is often flawed (first person narratives so often pretend that this isn’t the case, when we all know that memory is rarely accurate); the very fact that his narrative is unreliable makes it more real and more impactful. The emotional connection is strengthened even further by Matthew directly addressing the reader – he tells you he thinks you’ll like his brother, he helps you get to know his Nanny Noo, he apologises for repeating himself – and adopting at times a very confessional tone.

Nathan Filer takes a creative approach to his narrative, making use of different fonts (depending on where Matthew is typing his story), other views (in the form of letters), and illustrations. In the author interview at the back of the paperback edition, he describes Matthew’s story as a ‘crumpled stack of writings and drawings … waiting to be found’ rather than as a neatly bound book. While he couldn’t realise his dream of everyone reading Matthew’s story in raw manuscript form, some of his narrative choices really bring to life that sense of a manuscript that is part stream-of-consciousness and part planned narrative. Added to this is the charming humour that Matthew brings to what is unquestionably a sad tale.

Matthew, though, is not the only noteworthy character in The Shock of the Fall. The secondary characters are equally vivid, real and complex; nobody is perfect and nobody is caricature-flawed. I found Matthew’s mother Susan particularly interesting. Her grief is never addressed head-on, but is ever-present and plays a huge role in Matthew’s own story. I found his relationship with her – charted from the day before the central tragedy, through home-schooling and health concerns, to the present day – really moving. His father is not quite so significant a character in terms of shaping the path of Matthew’s life, in my opinion, but again it is a moving and bittersweet relationship as they valiantly attempt to keep the little things stable without ever really addressing the big things. I was glad for Matthew that he had his grandmother (Nanny Noo) as a relatively constant and unchanging presence in his life. She is a lovely character, bringing a real warmth to the novel as she does to Matthew’s life.

I’ve read many comparisons of The Shock of the Fall to The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, and if we’re just looking at subject matter it’s perhaps also similar to The Silver Linings Playbook and 600 Hours of Edward. But I’d more strongly recommend this to fans of The Fault In Our Stars and Tiny Sunbirds, Far Away – both of which also tackle sensitive, tragic subjects with grace and careful humour. It is perhaps not quite such a young adult read, like The Fault In Our Stars, but I say that because of the slightly more confusing and complex structure and narrative, which doesn’t give much away explicitly and makes it a slightly harder read, rather than because of the story itself.

This is definitely one I’ll be recommending. I’d also recommend reading the author interview. I usually do anyway, but often find them a bit boring, predictable or pretentious. In this case, I really enjoyed the insight offered by Nathan Filer into the writing of this lovely book.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A Good Read, 30 Mar. 2014
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This review is from: The Shock of the Fall (Kindle Edition)
The Shock of the Fall was a fast-paced, interesting look at a family tragedy and it's repercussions through the eyes of mental illness. Whilst it was an insight into a chaotic and troubled mind of the young narrator Matthew, the story itself didn't have much intreague or compexity. I thought it was a good read but not amazing.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Curious Dog for grown ups, 28 Feb. 2014
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This review is from: The Shock of the Fall (Kindle Edition)
An excellent insight into an individual's struggles with mental health issues underscored by a mystery plot worked backwards. Clearly written by someone with close dealings with the issues surrounding modern mental health care, it doesn't pull any punches. I likes the creative use of fonts to create and sustain mood.
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22 of 25 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Stunning.., 15 Feb. 2014
By 
Mel R "MAR" (Gloucestershire UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Shock of the Fall (Kindle Edition)
I was totally gripped by this book from page 1. The story seems simple...a journey through mental illness..sounds dire?? Not at all!! The writers style is beautiful, full of pathos and humour and pithy philosophical insights. Lots of quotes to highlight. Recommended without reservation.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A refreshingly orignal landmark novel, 29 Jan. 2014
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This review is from: The Shock of the Fall (Paperback)
Absolutely engrossing from the very first page. Filer writes very clearly about the bewildering complexity of schizophrenia, guilt and bereavement which is a staggering feat for a writer. You find yourself gradually immersed in Matthew's altered perception of reality which makes this such an utterly, compelling work of fiction. It's nostril-flaringly funny, but with moments which are profoundly moving, yet without being corny. There are no boring bits too - every sentence on the page lends clarity to characterisation and plotline. For me, Filer ranks as high as other writers in the literary canon like Kurt Vonnegut, Hilary Mantel or Jean Rhys for skillfully offering the reader an insight into mental health issues. No other novel I have read so far features, all at one time, a character with trisomy 21 (Down's syndrome), the experiences of a young carer and his mum, or the demise of the NHS. For this, I salute Nathan Filer for bringing us the new and the 'now' - The Shock of the Fall is definitely one to tell the grandchildren about.
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The Shock of the Fall
The Shock of the Fall by Nathan Filer
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