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on 6 January 2017
Title: The Shock of the Fall

Author: Nathan Filer

Genre: Contemporary


'There was the shock of the fall and the blood on my knee...'

A book with a schizophrenic protagonist is a delicate balancing act. One which Filer excels at.

Matthew - our point-of-view narrator - is a complex, realistic character. He doesn't fall head-long into stereotypes, but neither is his illness ignored.

He is mentally ill. He is also a nineteen-year-old boy in Bristol. One who wants to tell his own story, thank you very much.

He wants people to listen to him - even if he's not making much sense, he still wants to be heard. And it's the characters who listen to him - even if they ultimately disagree with his opinions - who Matt prefers.

Because people with mental illnesses don't just want to be talked at, over, or around. They want you to hear them out, even if you make decisions that go against their wishes, they'd still like their wishes to at least be acknowledged.

We want you to understand that we are not children. We are adults who are ill.

If you made a decision for a cancer patient without at least listening to their opinion, there would be uproar. Make a decision for a mental health patient without asking their opinion? Meh.

But Filer explains this without ever explaining it. He simply allows the character to tell his story, and places the reader in Matt's shoes for a while.

Not that he paints Matt as an angel - far from it. He's not some martyred saint. He's a real person, with all the flaws and quirks that brings.

He's not pitied, but neither is he demonised. And that is an incredible achievement.

And I love the non-linear structure.

We experience the story as Matt does - with flitting thoughts as he moves from one train of thought to another. We experience his present as well as his past, complete with complaints at people reading over his shoulder.

This is an excellent book guys. Read it.

(This review originally appeared on Diary of a Reading Addict (DORA))
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on 1 May 2017
is is so clever, creative and well-written that it had me captivated throughout- not often that I feel so positive about a book....

despite the heavy and serious subject matter, it avoided being gloomy and even was a bit funny in parts- more darness than light but still a good mix.

Was surprised to read after I finished it, that the author is a professor of creative writing which often means, from other books I've read by creative writing graduates, that they are full of too many words which are over-blown and unneccessary- no such problem as it is very tautly written and sparing with the use of laguage.

The voice of Matt was totally authentic and consistent between his various ages. Some of the mantal health workers and teams were shown in all their myriad forms including real sensitivity and care as well as the dreadful PC language which has infiltated our care services.

Also thought his parents and Nanny were done so well too- not heavy- handed at all but sketched in lightly but totally believably whilst keeping,rightly, the main focus on Matt.

loved the use of different fonts which was a very different and useful device.
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on 27 April 2014
A tender tale of a boy, Matt Homes, whose childish prank goes horribly wrong on a family caravan holiday, and the dire circumstances that plague him for the next 10 years. The narrative is rather inventively and sensitively told through a collage of the character's personal writing, drawings, correspondence, as well as flashbacks, and the reader would do well to pay heed to the recommendation to choose the publisher's font if you were to read this on an e-reader. The different fonts and occasional illustrations act as signposts to the story and are as much of the text as the words on the page.

Matt is sensitively portrayed, though hopelessly unreliable as a narrator, in the vein of Salinger's Holden Caulfield (whom Flier acknowledges as an influence for Matt's character in an interview appended at the end of the book), or even Fitzgerald's Nick Carraway, as he tries to confront the truth of his actions, and as he struggles with feelings of guilt. He acknowledges that "we don't get to choose what we keep" at various points in the novel as he pieces together vignettes formed by his spotty memory, that blocks out the trauma of the inciting event that Flier withholds from the reader, creating much suspense.

That Flier is a registered nurse who researched quite a bit on mental health gives the novel some gravitas as he explores the inner workings of a disturbed Matt, and presents him from the inside out, so the reader understands the reality of his world. My only gripe with this otherwise brilliant work is the unevenly paced denouement, where perhaps in an attempt to be cathartic, had a sense of being too sweetly resolved.
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on 11 September 2017
This is a story about Matt and his older brother Simon. Simon dies when, as brothers do, they were out playing childish games. The effect on the family is devastating but in the case of Matt it is the beginning of a spiral to madness.
This book is worth reading simply to experience the creative writing used by the author. Cleverly it is Matt who is writing his story and in doing so becomes to understand his own mental illness.
Recommended. To enjoy fully set your Kindle to publishers fonts
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on 9 March 2014
My own family has been touched by mental illness, with a sister who experiences schizophrenia, and a father (now deceased) who had severe depression, so this for me was a much read, and a poignant one at that, having recently re-established contact with said sister.

It was for me then a somewhat difficult and challenging read, written as it is from the perspective of the experiencer. I choose to use this word rather than sufferer because of its negative conations. We are introduced to Matt and his brother Simon, who has Downs syndrome at the beginning of the book, on a typical seaside family holiday. The title of the book comes from what happens next when Matt encounters a young girl who is burying her doll - it later turns out this doll is symbolic of the girls mother who has herself recently died. Matt reaches out to comfort the girl and falls, and the story goes on from there. I will not say too much more as it would only act as a spoiler.

The book though focusses very much on the effects that Matt's illness has on him - its symptoms and its causes, most of which only become clear towards the end. This is why I found it as times such uncomfortable reading, but I persevered and am glad that I did.

There is no happy ending for Matt, and he does not get miraculously better, but he does in his own way come to terms with what happened to his brother and the role that he played in this. In the process of doing this he also manages to mend relationships with the rest of his family and help them.

I can see exactly why this book won the Costa Prize and cannot think of a more worthy winner. This for me would also unhesitatingly be 5 stars.
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on 24 March 2014
I liked this book very much. I felt so much sympathy for Matt and could almost feel his frustration with the mental health system. What really struck me was the patients being referred to as "Service Users" completely dehumanising them. My mother was in a residential home several years before she died and the carers there were told that the residents should be called "service users" and not residents. I was appalled and had a word with the head of the home and the social service department to ask if they realised that the residents in their care considered the home as their homes and for most it would be the last home they had.
I would certainly recommend this book.
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on 12 May 2017
The story was ok but I was never convinced that I was reading the words of someone suffering from a serious mental illness. It was a bit cheesy.
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on 30 August 2017
There are no huge moments in this book, even though (having very recently and suddenly lost my wonderful dad) death is huge; and likewise mental health is a matter that is intense and should be taken seriously. Nevertheless ,in this book there is a gentleness and calmness and an acceptance of the human spirit, with its strengths and its faults, that shows together we can stumble on.
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on 14 February 2014
Bought this book as it was the Costa Coffee Book Award winner.
This is an excellent read. So much so that I was sorry when it was finished.
It is well written, in the first person, and is totally absorbing once started.
Made me laugh and cry throughout.
I would definitely recommend this book.
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on 30 March 2015
I wasnt fond of the writing style, it reminded me of 'The Incident of the Dog in the Night Time', I found the way that was written was unenjoyable too.
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