The Shock of the Fall by Nathan Filer

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

I have said for quite a while now that I am growing tired of unreliable narrators. But Nathan Filer’s The Shock of the Fall was originally published in 2013 so I’m just going to sweep on past my initial judgement and crack on with the show.

I do tend to spend most of my time reading manuscripts that are not yet books, they are mostly formed and have been plopped into my inbox by either a colleague or a literary agent like a stork delivering a tiny human. For this reason I sometimes unwittingly fail to read books that are in the charts or published by other houses (unless it’s YA in which case I will always find time to stave my hunger for YA goodness). Every so often I have a mini marathon and race through books to catch up on titles that I have missed. The Shock of the Fall is definitely one of those titles, although it was the Costa Book of the Year 2013, I hadn't had time to wedge it into my reading pile until now.

It took me all of a day and a half to read, I whizzed through it like a Grand National champ.

Matt, the protagonist is in therapy, for what, or for how long, you don’t know. As the words tumble on to the page, more layers of the complex nature of Matt’s psyche begin to form and the vulnerable and chaotic world of a patient living with diagnosed schizophrenia develops into a clearer image of a young man broken by grief.

Matt was a bright young boy who looked up to his big brother Simon. Inseparable and co-dependent, the boys were separated by only a couple of years and an extra chromosome. Simon had Down’s Syndrome and had a fatal accident on a family holiday. A child shaken by guilt and struggling to wrap his mind around the concept of loss, Matt develops behavioral problems that hint at an undercurrent of mental health issues which in turn leads to a life punctuated by therapy and involuntary hospital admissions.

The Shock of the Fall is by no means a light read, yet surprisingly it is hard to slow the pace. The disjointed narrative is admirable,  brave, rhythmic, cyclical and repetitive. An insight into the struggles for both families and patients living with mental health issues, with a broader look at how cuts to mental health units and the NHS has a direct impact on patients that would otherwise slip through the net without a diagnosis. Nathan Filer's examination of the redefinition of a family clinging to each other through the storm of the death of a child is both sensitive and delicately placed.

If I could give this book six stars on Goodreads, I would.

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