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The Shock of the Fall
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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 8 October 2017
This novel is unlike anything I have ever read. There is a particular style to the writing which I got used to fairly quickly but it may not be to everyone's taste. The theme is a very ambitious one for a debut novel, any book writing about mental illness is going to be a challenge, but the author pulls it off. It tells the story of a boy and his struggles coming to terms with the death of his brother when they were both young kids, the guilt, helplessness and solitude of grief. For the author to write so authoritatively about psychiatric institutions reveals both his occupation before writing this novel and also a very obvious compassion when dealing with the challenges of metal illness.
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on 14 January 2016
When I started reading this, I felt like giving this 5 stars, however I had to drop this rating towards the end of the book. It is a story about a man who is mentally ill, yet being told from a perspective that makes Matt seem human and just another person with no obvious discrimination against him. The author also included famous brands and activities we do every day such as characters coming back from Tesco instead of the made up brands we usually read about, which for me added some realism. The book is quite disjointed and has random lines of thought popping up, and it feels like we really are reading the thoughts of someone who is mentally ill at times and was a refreshing read.

Towards the end however, Matt was getting back on track - he went back to the health centre, got his injections and was assured that the support would continue. He also arranged a memorial service for his brother, which should have provided him some closure about his brother's death. Yet the book suddenly seemed to get even more disjointed at this point when he should have been getting better and have more normal trains of thought, and was annoying to follow.

Just before the start, there is a note that says "Different fonts are used in this novel and will enhance the reading experience" - to me this seemed to imply that it may have different fonts to imply his mental state, but in reality it was the difference between being on a computer at the health centre and using a typewriter when at home, and I did not feel that it enhanced my reading experience.

Overall, it is an interesting read, but I probably will not read it again.
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on 10 March 2016
This is an emotional book, heart-wrenching in places, and it really made me think about my own life and relationships. There were moments when I wanted to cry, because the heartache, guilt and remorse were so vividly portrayed.

The characters are skilfully written, in a simple but stark manner, with the protagonist, Matthew, portrayed as a gentle, kind and confused young man who is suffering tremendously under the weight of his disabled brother’s death and his own encroaching mental deterioration.

The writing style is fluid and accessible, although the narrative jumps around a lot, disjointed in places, which can be slightly difficult to follow (though I know this was intentional – as a means of portraying the protagonist’s schizophrenic mind).

For me personally, I thoroughly enjoyed the earlier parts of the book, when Matthew was younger and his illness was developing. The opening chapter is very powerful and dragged me right into the story. However, I began to lose interest in the final part of the book. There was a lot of repetition and it began to drag once everything had been resolved and the book just kept on going! I felt that the plot should have converged on a final moment of closure, instead of continuing on to explain the ‘aftermath’ which I felt was unnecessary.

I listened to this on audiobook and the voice actor was perfect for this book. He spoke clearly, was easy to understand and gave a genuine warmth and personality to each character.
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on 11 November 2015
This story is narrated by Matthew, a man suffering from Mental Health issues retelling his life and how he got to this point. It goes through various points in his life - the death of his brother, how he was treated after, his first encounter of the real world and his spiral into schizophrenia. I am by no means an expert on schizophrenia, but this book felt utterly convincing. To the side affects his suffered, the changes when he was not talking his medication, the genetic relevance to the disease and the relationships he made as a result.

This was one of those books which stops you in your tracks and makes you see the world around you. It helps you understand how mental health can affect us all, how you can make progress but you may slip back but that is okay. How funding into outpatient treatment is declining and all in all schizophrenia aside, he is a likeable person and just like us.

Matthew was a fantastic character. You went through each of his emotions with him. This is honestly one of the best books I have read in a long time, and one I highly recommend.
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on 6 January 2017
The only way to describe this book is by using the cliche words that everyone else has already used - thought provoking, insightful, moving, upsetting but with a twist of dark humour interspersed throughout. I've had this on my kindle for ages now, but I think I was put off reading it because I thought it may be a depressing read, being about mental illness. Instead I was engrossed. I don't know much about mental illness and after reading this book I feel lucky to be so fortunate, as it really is an eye opener reading the inner turmoil of a young mans descent into it. It is totally different to any other book I have read this year and I would definitely recommend it, even to readers who initially feel like me about the subject matter.
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on 1 October 2017
This wasn't what I expected from the first few pages. It is a deeply moving, very well written piece of work which moves very well through the subject's life at a pace that enables the reader to understand not only what is going on and what happened but how it is being interpreted by the people who are affected. I don't have experience of mental illness but if gives a very real insight into what it must be like for those suffering from various sorts of it and why people think as they do. I read it in two sittings, and would have finished it one if I hadn't started it so late at night.
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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 25 August 2016
For people who have not had their lives personally affected by schizophrenia or a psychotic mental illness, and would like a deeper understanding beyond a list of symptoms and vague idea about what it might actually be like, I would recommend this book. The author clearly knows his subject matter and it is appreciated by someone who could probably take a decent guess at which particular anti-psychotic Matthew is given and what dosage of diazepam the 'yellow pills' might be. Perhaps the subject matter is a little too close to home for me as it gave me no more insight than I had already but again many people know little of schizophrenia outside of lurid newspaper headlines and it's very effective at demystifying and portraying a difficult illness as it would actually manifest in a person, specifically a young man, capturing the subjective experience well. I found as a piece of literature it was very compelling and consumed it within a day or two, I disagree that it was a 'happy ending' because as the narrator says his illness returns and will continue to in future, again as in life showing how mental illness often waxes and wanes over a lifetime, no matter what medication or treatment is given. Matthew nicely personifies his illness almost as a separate entity which is something else that rang true. His description of life on a psychiatric ward was depressingly familiar, the boredom and lack of anything to do, the smoking area being the centre of patient social life... the hourly checks throughout the night time. It's very frustrating when people talk about wanting to be in a mental health ward thinking it's all fluffy cushy lovely pandering to you and your personal issues in a caring supportive environment, maybe that is true for places costing £1000 per week but certainly not for a typical NHS ward with its hardbitten staff and meagre resources. So the book is valuable for its detail and honesty there. I'm thinking of lending it to my parents as I think it could be helpful in expanding their understanding. On the whole I'm glad I read it and it's one of few books I've read that accurately portray a particular mental health condition in warts and all 'glory'
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on 17 April 2014
Emma - When Clare and I realised that we were reading The Shock Of The Fall at the same time, it made perfect sense for us to combine our thoughts and post our review on both blogs.

Clare - I have to admit I was a little disappointed with The Shock of the Fall because it just didn’t live up to all the expectations. From the positive reviews and also its Costa Book Award I was very excited, but after reading I'm just not sure how I felt. Part of me was thinking 'I feel so emotional right now' and others were saying 'really? Is this it?'

Emma – For me, I kind of agree with Clare. When we were in Waterstones together, I picked up the book, read the blurb and then said “well we know Simon dies, what’s the point of reading it?” Oh my, how wrong I was. I must apologise to Nathan because despite the blurb giving a tiny bit of the plot away, I was completely in love with his debut.

Clare - The novel is written in the form of a diary where you learn about Matthew and his life living with a mental illness; he shares all his inner thoughts and feelings. This was a nice way to express the issue and I felt it gave you a connection and understanding.

Emma – But also, I felt as if Matthew held quite a lot of information back at times. There were parts of the narrative which I had to reread to make sure I was reading it correctly, but now that I’ve finished the book, I’m starting to believe that Nathan withheld Matthew’s information on purpose.

Clare - Mental illness is a topic that is close to my heart and I know firsthand the struggles and feelings you have when trying to piece your life back together. I felt sorry for Matthew because all his problems stemmed from his brother’s death and maybe he would have coped ever so slightly if his brother was there to keep 'normality'. Personally, I felt that Matthew did try his best to live a normal teenage life, but certain things along the way hindered how you would deal with things: his brother’s death, his mother's illness and even his friend Jacob moving out of their shared flat.

Emma – At first, I was clueless to the aspect of Mental Health and as someone who suffers from MH, I found this to be quite shocking. However, it just goes to prove that Mental Health isn’t as easily spotted as someone with a mono brow. I found the plot to overall, be an incredibly beautiful read. If you have read The Perks Of Being A Wallflower, Forgive Me Leonard Peacock and The Silver Linings Playbook, then you MUST read this.

Clare - The Shock of the Fall was the type of read where you expect lots to happen and nothing does. I did find it beautifully written and you did feel like you were sat in the same room as Matthew as he told you his story. I like novels like that because it feels real and when you're living in fantasy you want things to be just that, real. I am probably one of the minority that feels this way about the book so I'd say give it a go and see how you feel. Many of my friends and fellow bloggers have loved it.
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