I found this lying around the house when I was running out of things to read, and thought it looked quite interesting. I recognised it from bestseller lists in bookshops and thought I’d give it a go. The Shock of the Fall by Nathan Filer tells the story of nineteen year old Matt, who develops (I’m not sure if this is the right expression) schizophrenia following the death of his disabled brother, Simon. The book flicks between past and present day, detailing this events that lead up to his brother’s death and how he coped with it afterwards.
Written entirely in first person, it shows a very interesting perspective on a decent into mental illness. Filler is a trained mental health nurse, and it is clear that he is incredibly knowledgeable on the subject. It allows the reader an insight into what is actually going on in the mind of someone with this type of illness; I suppose helping to raise awareness and understanding.
It is difficult not to compare this to The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, which I read immediately after. Both books share a similar concept (although the illnesses are different), but are executed in very different ways. Personally, I think The Shock of the Fall is much better.
Regardless of the strange, but compelling, narrative, the main story here is a really engrossing one. We are immediately told that Simon, is dead. We then begin to wonder how and why that happened, piecing clues together as we go on. It becomes clear that Matt has something to do with the death of his brother, and clearly feels guilty. It isn’t until the end, however, that we find out what actually happened. In this sense, the book is really gripping. It’s really cleverly written, in that it is clear that Matt doesn’t really want to talk about what happened and will let us know when he is god and ready. It is more about how he dealt with the aftermath, with the underlying mystery of what happened trickling along beneath that. It is really interesting to see how different members of the family dealt with the loss, and subsequently with Matt’s illness.
The narrative is really brilliant. It does get a little bit confusing at times, with the changes in time not being entirely clear, but I think that only adds to what makes it so good. You really understand what Matt is going through and how difficult it is for him to overcome his illness. What I also found really interesting, is how he doesn’t really want to get over his illness, and I can completely understand why, in a way. (I’ll not say any more, I don’t want to spoil it). The book is presented in several different typefaces to represent Matt’s use of both computer and typewriter. This adds something extra, knowing that it is supposed to be written from his own hand, almost like a diary. The text is also faded in places, and is often slightly off centre or on a slight angle to show either his ink running out, or the untidy and hastily written stack of pages he has accumulated.
This book allows the reader to gain an insight of both what it is like to have a mental illness of this nature, and what it is like to be sectioned and be on a psychiatric ward for a prolonged period of time. It helps that the characters are so good that you really care about them. Matt is such a great protagonist; you are completely and totally engrossed in his life.
I wasn’t overly excited about reading this book, but I was really pleasantly surprised. It was brilliant and really insightful. Exceedingly clever and expertly informed, I feel like this is as accurate a representation of the mind of someone suffering with schizophrenia as could be written. I highly recommend this book as both a source of information and insight, and just a really good and cleverly written story.