Two weeks ago, I finally got to read Nathan Filer‘s The Shock of the Fall which won the Costa Book Award in 2013. Thank you Nina from Nothing But N9erz for this wonderful novel that has been on my wish list for months.
Synopsis quoted from The Borough Press¹:
‘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.’
There are books you can’t stop reading, which keep you up all night.
There are books which let us into the hidden parts of life and make them vividly real.
There are books which, because of the sheer skill with which every word is chosen, linger in your mind for days.
The Shock of the Fall is all of these books.
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.
Nathan Filer’s The Shock of the Fall is set in contemporary England. The scenes that build the base for Matthew’s (the main character’s) mental illness have a very dark feel to them that makes you anxious to your bones. Most settings in the book make you uncomfortable either because of the people who interact within these settings, the settings’ construction, or because of the memories Matthew connects with these places. This is great, as the settings mirror how Matthew must feel.
Matthew, the novel’s main character, turns from a grieving boy into a young man who isn’t able to cope with his feelings on his own. Mr Filer manages to create a very believable character and in the end, he supports this believability by showing us one of the reasons for Matthew’s problems that most readers, just as Matthew’s parents, probably haven’t noticed all along. And while we’re talking about parents, Matthew’s mother is another character that holds a lot of potential. She lost one of her sons and now she has to protect the one that is left. But just as things start to get interesting, Mrs Homes disappears from the novel’s focus.
The Shock of the Fall gives us insight into the mind of a young man with mental illness who tells us his story. But Matthew doesn’t immediately give away what happened to his brother years ago in that rainy night. This way, Mr Filer is able to maintain a certain level of suspense, although I don’t think the story would have needed it. Matthew’s routines and his thoughts alone are worth the read. If you are interested in coming-of-age stories and books with protagonists that have mental illnesses, this poignant novel is for you.