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.
on 1 June 2015
I read this a while back last year, however, I'm still raving about it. What a beautifully written, evocative and emotional story.
It's narrated by Matthew, the main character of the book who suffers from a mental illness. Tragedy strikes in his family at an early age, and this is the story of his struggle to overcome the guilt and loss he has been living with ever since his brother died.
Filer writes this novel in such a way that you cannot help become emotionally entwined with the story and indeed it's characters - they made me laugh, angry, sad and were at times, very thought-provoking.
Being a Psychology student, I cannot fault the account given by Filer about Matthew's struggle with Schizophrenia (of course, each sufferer has their own account of what it's like to have a mental illness), however, I felt like it was very accurately written and sensitively dealt with.
All in all, and in my own opinion, of course, this book is absolutely faultless. The mystery of how his brother died (which isn't revealed until nearer the end of the novel) absolutely grips you and doesn't let go. Each character is so raw and real you cannot help but empathize with each and every one of them. I couldn't put this book down.
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.
on 25 July 2013
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.
on 15 February 2014
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.
on 22 March 2015
I loved The Shock of the Fall. It’s one of the best books I’ve ever read and will stay with me for a long time. Filer offers one of those rare novels that makes you fall in love with the characters, the world and the story. This novel reached deep inside my chest and squeezed my heart so hard I could hardly breathe. The Shock of the Fall is a brave novel written in the first person by someone who is diagnosed as schizophrenic as a teenager, telling the story of how their down’s syndrome brother died when he was 8 years old and how the grief affected him and his parents. I loved Matthew’s voice and how real and heart-breaking it was at times. I love the different styles used in the novel (i.e. using a different font or a hand-written letter) to show Matthew’s mental state at different points in his recovery. I love it when writers use characters who are mentally ill or have a condition like down’s syndrome. These often make the best books because they force the reader out of their comfort zone and such books stand out from the millions published every year. I finished The Shock of the Fall at work, sitting in the canteen and crying like a baby, grateful it was Sunday and there was nobody else around. The Shock of the Fall is breath-taking and I can’t wait to see what Filer writes next.
on 17 January 2016
Overall, this was a book I admired more than I enjoyed. The author did an amazing job of developing a beliveable narrative from the point of view of a teenager with schizophrenia. The main character was fully fleshed out, rather than just a vehicle for his illness, but at the same time, the story gave a real insight into the disease and how his mind works. I was also impressed by the non-linear narrative - the narrator's thoughts jump around and the story goes where they go, so that it's not always entirely clear what's happening right now, what's a short-term memory and what's an anecdote from long ago.
As a story though, it was extremely depressing and grim. I don't mind that sometimes, but here, there didn't seem much room for change. Furthermore, the narrative went on and on, with little plot or change in circumstances. Towards the end, there's something that the author seems to treat as a revelation, but I'd not just already worked this out, I'd sort of assumed we were already meant to know this, so it was a huge anti-climax.
Three stars for the clever writing and well-developed character, but not one I'd recommend in a hurry, other than to those with a particular interest in mental illness.
on 12 March 2014
I was given this book by a friend, read it in two days - couldn't put it down.
The way Filer writes is mesmerizing, drawing you into Mathew s dark world. As someone who has been a 'service user' in I found his descriptions of secure units very accurate.
Well worth a read, we done Nathan - what a fabulous debut, can't wait for more.
This novel tells the story of Matt, who suffers from a bipolar disorder. His brother Simon died in childhood as the result of a tragic accident, and the story of Simon's death (and Matt's part in it) is interwoven with Matt's own story of growing up and then learning to lead an independent life.
I really wanted to like this book. Written by a registered mental health nurse, who obviously knows his subject, it has all the ingredients for a good read, but in the end, it never really engaged me. There was simply too much dodging back and forth in time and place; different fonts and (once or twice) different points of view. The story rambled on, and in fact could have ended at any point. Once or twice, I thought that maybe I might enjoy it after all, but in the end, I became bored with it, and for me, it failed to deliver.
This novel has already been acclaimed, and I may well be a lone voice; but I want to write an honest review, and I cannot recommend this book.
on 28 August 2014
I apologize straight from the start if what I am about to say has already been said by the other five-star reviewers here; but The Shock of the Fall is such an extraordinary book, it deserves as many stars as it can get.
Nathan Filer has, quite simply, written the perfect novel. This is an absolutely superb book, everything about it is exquisite: the plot with its twists and turns, the characterization, the suspense (the book is about grief, the descent into madness, guilt, confusion, love-hate family relationships, tragic but unavoidable misunderstandings, isolation and alienation . . . and yet a page-turner at the same time. That in itself is a fantastic achievement already!); and then, there is the writing itself.
Ah, the writing. This novel is so amazing, so beautifully written and it sneaks up on you, what with the writer being so completely unpretentious at the same time. No 'rosy fingers of dawn' here, no pointless paragraphs, characters, happenings - and this is why I consider it perfect. Not a single word in it is superfluous; everything is crisp, tight, elegant in its simplicity which nevertheless must have taken an enormous amount of work to achieve. Hugely important and often harrowing scenes, intense emotions, the whole tragedy of human life are rendered in incredibly laconic sentences which pack such a punch, you can't help but be impressed even as you weep. We, the readers, are given just about enough to figure out shock and horror, pain, bereavement, feelings of helplessness and alienation, all by ourselves. This is 'show not tell' at its best. One has the impression The Shock of the Fall might have started as a 900-page manuscript and, through painstaking re-writes and skilful editing, has become the highly polished gem it is now.
Perhaps it's best if I follow Filer's lead and end my review now, I am running out of superlatives anyway, and I have already said 'exquisite'. So, in conclusion, I warmly advise you to read this book, and pay attention from the very start. It is a thing of beauty even though a happy read it ain't. (Personally I am baffled by the reviews, here on Amazon and by professional critics + blurbs on the book itself, which claim this novel is funny! I found not a single funny moment in it, but then again, I am an exceedingly sensitive soul.) This book will break your heart but it will make you think . . . it's wonderful in every way.