I have to admit that I committed the cardinal sin of buying this book without really knowing what it was about. The only information that I had to go on was that this book had won the 2013 Costa Book of the Year award. I figured that, if my favourite brand of coffee shop liked the book, it was probably a fair bet that the book might actually be worth reading.
Buying a book based on your favourite brand of coffee could have proved to be a recipe for disaster, yet I am delighted to say that this is not the case. This book, from start to finish, was a delight to read.
The Shock of the Fall is a story narrated by Matt Homes, a man who we come to learn suffers from mental illness. This much is obvious in the disjointed way that Matt narrates his own story, sometimes jumping from childhood memories to the present day and back again. Rather than being jarring, this actually makes Matt’s story all the more riveting and appealing.
Because of Matt’s jumbled thought processes, we only catch snippets of information, like pieces of a puzzle that we are slowly able to put together. It’s not until the last third of the book that the reader begins to understand what happened to Matt and his family a decade ago and how much that one event has shaped everything that came after.
Matt has a mental illness, yet it is also clear to see that has inability to grieve for his brother’s tragic passing has only served to exacerbate his condition, bringing him to the point that he becomes a ward of the state for his own protection.
Although my description of this book is frustratingly vague, I am wary of not giving too much away in terms of the plot. Instead, I would encourage people to know as little as possible about what happens in order to get a unique perspective into the workings of a disturbed mind.
Matt seems to define himself by his mental illness, yet he is so much more than a diagnosed condition. This is something that the author, Nathan Filer, tackles well and does in such a way that doesn’t seem moralistic. The book raises some fascinating questions about how mental illness is perceived, not only by the person diagnosed with a condition, but also their family and society in general.
Matt’s perspective gives the reader a unique insight into social care and its many benefits, while also not sugar-coating the fact that much more could be done to make the system more user-friendly. I defy anyone not to take a look at themselves and how they view those around them with a mental health condition and question whether they underestimate the real person inside – the person behind the illness.
This is a book unlike any other that I’ve read and its unique style is something that I really enjoyed. You would expect most books to go from A to B to C etc. yet The Shock of the Fall starts at R, heads back toward D and ends up somewhere near P. Rather than making the book impossible to read, it makes the reader desperately want to know what happens next and what happened all those years ago.
I would definitely recommend this book to anyone who likes quality, well-crafted fiction. Some may find the subject matter a little disturbing or outside of their comfort zone, but I would urge anyone to at least pick this book up and give it a try. You may find The Shock of the Fall a shock to the system, but that might actually be a good thing. Challenge yourself and your perspective on mental health and you may just end up surprising yourself….
Check out Nathan’s website http://nathanfiler.co.uk/