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The Shock of the Fall

by Nathan Filer

Matthew is a 19-year-old whose life has been blighted by the death of his beloved elder brother. Simon had Down's Syndrome and, although he was killed in a terrible accident when they were children, Matthew blamed himself, and that perception has contributed to his mental illness. THE SHOCK OF THE FALL is his account of what happened and a record of his developing schizophrenia.

Mental illness holds a strange position within western society. Although it afflicts one in four people in the UK for example, during the course of their life, it still carries a heavy social stigma. And while it is fair game for comedy (in a way which would be considered tasteless and insensitive in terms of physical disease) and is evident in our casual use of words like nuts, mental, bonkers, barking, etc., sufferers of mental disease tend to be kept out of sight. They are certainly not, with the exception of exploitative reality shows and sensationalist storylines in soaps, given fair representation within mainstream media. It is refreshing then to read a novel which seeks to give a voice to a young man with schizophrenia and does so with great understanding and compassion.

Nathan Filer has worked for many years as a psychiatric nurse and his experience gives the novel its authenticity. Sometimes this is evident in Matt's wry observations of life on the ward: for example, his irritation with drug company promotional give-aways, "I counted three mugs, a mouse mat, a bunch of pens, two Post-It note booklets and the wall clock all sporting the brands of different medicines. It's like being in prison and having to look at adverts for fucking locks."

I read the novel on my, quite basic, e-reader and, having since seen a hard copy, I would recommend reading the actual book in order to make the most of the various fonts and the pictures.

THE SHOCK OF THE FALL is a wonderful, absorbing, poignant and moving novel and deservedly won the 2013 Costa Book of the Year Award.

Published by the Borough Press, 320pp.

Clare Chandler

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