The Shock of the Fall – Nathan Filer

The Shock of the Fall

Publisher: HarperCollins

Synopsis from Amazon:

‘I’ll tell you what happened because it will be a good way to introduce my brother. His name’s Simon. I think you’re going to like him. I really do. But in a couple of pages he’ll be dead. And he was never the same after that.’

The Shock of the Fall is an extraordinary portrait of one man’s descent into mental illness. It is a brave and groundbreaking novel from one of the most exciting new voices in fiction.

My thoughts:

Matthew Homes is 19 years old and has been diagnosed with schizophrenia. Matthew’s decline into mental illness appears to take a hold after the tragic death of his older brother Simon, although it was never entirely clear to me whether this was the sole reason as there is a suggestion of a family history of mental illness. Simon died when Matthew was 9 and life was never the same afterwards.

Matthew has a brutally honest voice and this is a compelling and moving account of how the aftermath of a tragic event can fracture a family. Matthew’s family dealt with his brother’s death in different ways. His mother appeared to exist in a state of depression and over protectiveness whilst his father retreated into himself. Nanny Noo was the only constant in Matthew’s life, always there for him and accepting him for what he was.

The story flips back and forth in time, to the time before Simon’s death, and the years afterwards, when Matthew takes his first steps at living independently – initially with his friend Jacob when they shared a dilapidated flat, and then as his mental state deteriorated, being incarcerated in an institution; he tells of the hell of being constantly medicated and then taking more medication to counteract the side effects. Matthew is very intelligent and the repetition and boredom of daily routine whilst detained takes its toll. However he finds an outlet by drawing and writing – he has a talent for drawing and after his beloved Nanny Noo gives him a typewriter, he realises he has a story to tell. Matthew tells his story both with clarity and confusion – at times it was difficult to follow which parts were real and which were his imagination which makes the story seem even more realistic.

Simon was 12 years old when he died and had his own special needs. Matthew blames himself for Simon’s death and believes that his family blame him too – however the love they have for him shines through and one part of the story towards the end was particularly moving.

Having had close personal experience as an onlooker of bipolar and schizophrenia, I found this a very difficult book to read at times. Matthew’s actions, his illucinations and thought processes were so familiar and it is quite clear that a lot of research has gone into this book owing to Nathan Filer’s experience as a mental health nurse. It is an excellent debut novel and the author deserves every success. 


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