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4.4 out of 5 stars2,124
4.4 out of 5 stars
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Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
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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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.
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Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
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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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.
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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.
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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.
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on 22 January 2015
I definitely think this is one of the best appropriations of a troubled, psychotic individual on the written page. The imbibing of the psyche by an author of a precocious narrator with pathology, invading his thoughts and then making him write these and his own movements in endearing first person is no mean feat, but debutante Filer pulls it off with the slickness that reminds me of Mark Haddon's similar attempt a decade back with the Curious Incident.

If there is something stopping me to praise this to the heaven, it's that I felt some of the design tropes taken by the obviously-smitten creative team working with Filer were superfluous (especially the random drawings). They gave an impression of something more being afoot than just the different typing instruments available to our narrator. Also, the smokes-and-mirrors created by the flashbacks and two intertwined tragic incidents of childhood were milked for far too long and lost my interest before the lead-up to the climax.

Having said that, I have never read a better reconstruction of the confines of an average mental health unit. Having worked in one of the East London hospitals myself, Filer through his fictional surrogate, Matthew, moves about and documents the passage of time and people with such exactitude, I felt like I was back in those corridors. All the subtle sweeps at the gone-cynical patients, resource-strapped today-here-tomorrow-nowhere initiatives, ward-round meetings, litany of labels, rampant prescribing were definitely not missed by the reader. I did come to care deeply for Matthew but am not sure if I bought the brute force of the personal tragedy and resultant relief he felt in an over-choreographed-for-finale family reunion. But a good, creative debut.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 9 November 2014
I started reading this morning...and just read and read all day till I finished (300 pages but quite quick reading.)
It's narrated by teenage Matt as he looks back on his childhood and the death of his Downs Syndrome brother (we're kept waiting till the end to find out the details on that one).
As Matt leaves school (and his grief stricken mother) and begins sharing a flat and using drugs, his brother starts to take over his thoughts...

"There is weather and there is climate.
If it rains outside, or if you stab a classmate's shoulder with a compass needle, over and over, until his white cotton school shirt looks like blotting paper, that is the weather.
But if you live in a place where it is often likely to rain, or your perception falters and dislocates so that you retreat, suspicious and afraid of those closest to you, that is the climate."

A compelling read and an insight on how it may feel to have schizophrenia...the side-effects of the medication, that cause sufferers not to take it and life in the mental health system.
I did fear it was about to have an unrealistic, 'happy ever after' ending, but Mr Filer keeps things realistic.
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on 12 April 2016
Our small book group of only six read this last month and I'm afraid it didn't make much of an impression. Some people said they thought it seemed too like the product of a creative writing course. He had certainly gone out of his way to make it as readable as possible with the changes of font and cutting backwards and forwards in time to enhance the suspense. It seemed a bit gimmicky and somewhat contrived in tying up all the loose ends. It had, however, been a great critical and commercial success, perhaps because it fits in with a new genre of writing – helping the general population understand better the lives of people with mental health problems. We have read something similar in The Wasp Factory, The Curious Incident and Vernon God Little.The book may have gently altered our ability to empathise with and tolerate madness in others. It definitely illuminated the problems with anti-psychotic medication and the critical role of family who, if too needy, can hold the sufferer back.
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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.
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