The Shock of the Fall is first novel by Nathan Filer, who is a trained mental health nurse, mental health researcher and also writes for newspapers mostly covering mental health, human rights and other issues that are of his interest and care. Mr Filer also lectures Creative Writing at a University level.
The Shock of the Fall was first published in 2013 and covers his interest in mental health care, shows world from the patient side and also adds a bit on budget cuts government has introduced.
The story takes place in Bristol and talks about Simon, who was born with Down syndrome, but lives his life in a loving family and if you would meet him, he would just make you happy – he’s the sun of the family. The family changes, when Simon dies in an incident and they cannot really get over losing him. Years and years Simon’s brother Matt blames himself for the accident and in his late teens develops a mental illness which starts to control his life and everything he hears, sees or does. The Shock of The Fall is an insight into Matt’s life while he is getting treatment.
This is a very heavy subject and I would like to say that all my critique goes to a fictional story with fictional characters and not to any patients, relatives or sufferers in other ways.
The book left me a bit emotionless, I felt like it was not deep enough and that Matt’s feelings, thoughts and hallucinations were not described as detailed as they could be. We are getting in his head, feeling what a person with a mental illness would feel, so I thought that we didn’t go all the way in, that the author was easy on us and didn’t show us the worst of the illness. I’m not a masochist, but, if we would see it completely, we could pain, cry and understand it better and the aim to raise the awareness would be fulfilled.
The illness itself is not named until almost the end of the book. I had no information or knowledge of mental issues before this book, so I was struggling, because I had no label to put over everything that happens. Around middle of the book, I broke down and went to the author’s website to find the name of what Matt had and then do a research of main symptoms (I actually still think that it was a good idea to do that). From that moment my ride was a lot smoother and it was easier to take the book in. People sometimes need labels, this was one of those situations.
I understand that the repetitiveness is a part of the style and way Matt tells his story and I didn’t mind that, but the jumps in time though, sometimes really made me confused. I didn’t understand what is happening and in which time are we again. I didn’t feel like Matt was experiencing something like that, his thoughts seemed solid and organized, so the jumping must be just for an effect from the author’s part, which annoyed me greatly.
The whole book moves towards naming the mental illness Matt has and uncovering the death of Simon. After the dramatic beginning I was kind of waiting for something as dramatic to be the cause of Simon’s death, but I am sorry, if I sound bold, but his death wasn’t very interesting. Though I liked the question it left and, if that really was a smile on his face in the last moments of his life. Nice touch that leaves you thinking.
I was sad that the author didn’t go deeper into the Down syndrome which Simon was born with, because I think that there was so much space to show the patience and love from his parents, the care and just so much work they had to do, it is a wonderful thing the author described as not all families manage to survive something like that and I think that going deeper into this matter would be encouraging and educational. But I also understand that format the author chose might not be proper for Simon’s story. Perhaps there can be a second part?
So, yes, I understand how this sounds, I am not a fan of the book, but I want a sequel for the brother. Well, honestly, it would be a completely different matter. I don’t really know what is Mr Filers expertise in other fields, so perhaps that is a bit too much to ask.
But I really enjoyed the last pages of this book and how it all ended with the party and packing, there were no descriptions of what happened next, nothing that would make me think that the author just tried to make his novel longer, it was perfect and I was thankful for that because that gives me chance to imagine what happened next, as well as saves me from boring descriptions (let’s be honest, most books end with one long, boring ending chapter).
The one thing though that bothers me is – what happened to Thomas? He appeared in the story from nowhere and we never found out what happened to him. Honestly I started to think that he died, when all the nurses went around being sour, but as I found out the reason for that wasn’t Thomas. He was also a part of this story, but we just forget about him? Jacob and Ernest really did not interest me as much as Thomas.
This book reminded me slightly of the Shutter Island. If you haven’t seen it, please do, it is brilliant! But unlike the film, this book received two stars from me on my goodreads page. I was lingering between two or three, so yeah. I don’t know to whom I should suggest this book. I already did suggest it to my friend, who’s a nurse and has always been interested in the topic. I don’t know, if she will like it. I am happy that I read it, it is a fast read really and it gave me something I cannot really put my finger on. Once again it shows a bit more of what happens around us, what we don’t see in our everyday lives. I think it could be suitable to new adult/adult genre readers…
Have you read this book? What do you think happened to Thomas? Do you think that memorial resolved some of the problems and hanging onto the pain? Let me know what you thought of the book!