Tuesday, 24 June 2014

The Shock of the Fall- Book Review

"I have an illness, a disease with the shape and sound of a snake. Whenever I learn something new, it learns it too … My illness knows everything I know. This was a difficult thing to get my head around."- The Shock of the Fall

The debut novel from Nathan Filer, the first drafts of the book were written while simultaneously completing a course in creative writing. Fortunately for him, the hard work paid off in the form of a 2013 Costa Award for best first novel. I'd wanted to read this book for a while, mainly due the subject matter of mental illness. While there are many books written about schizophrenia, this one is told from the character's perspective. 

The story itself is refreshing - from the perspective of 19 year old Matt, the book reads as a stream-of-conciousness as he attempts to make sense of his world through writing. Delving into his own life story, the book begins with the death of his brother, Simon and follows his descent into mental illness. Unfortunately, I read the book on my kindle, but I am told that in the printed version, there are many doodles and scribbles as well as different fonts to show a glimpse of Matt's character. 

The characterisation was one of my favourite things- the people that edge in and out of Matt's life are very real, and have their own flaws to content with as well as his. He is particularly occupied with his mother's behaviour after the death of his brother - dosing herself up on anti-depressants with a constant state of anxiety while his father remains passive. This provides a great insight into the starting point that sparked Matt's illness and his reactions from then on. 

Contrary to its bleak subject matter, there are moments of humour. The family members in particular are very well thought-out as characters and the book is enriched with mundane conversations and subtle humour that leaves you thinking: 'my family are just like that!' 

A great book with a sensitive subject matter, it offers an exciting and gripping read as well as an inspirational tale of the resilience of one man. A must-read for anyone interested in mental illness.