Monday, March 7, 2016

Review: The Shock Of The Fall – Nathan Filer

The Shock Of The Fall – Nathan Filer

'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.'

The Shock of the Fall is a debut novel about one man's descent into mental illness, following the death of his brother in childhood. Filer is a mental health nurse with a unique and startling insight into mental illness, and this book highlights a much-neglected subject.

Review: A few years ago, I went through a phase where I read tons and tons of books about characters with illnesses. I quickly burned myself out on them because they all started to feel similar. I was hesitant to read The Shock of the Fall because I’m still feeling the illness-book burnout. However, the author of this book is a nurse, so I thought he’d have a unique take on the topic.

The book’s narrator, Nineteen-year-old Matt, has been struggling with schizophrenia for most of his life. This novel is written as a document that Matt types up and illustrates. He tells the story of his brother’s death, his dysfunctional relationship with his mother, and his time in a hospital.

I think the author does have an interesting take on the illness topic. I like that we get to see the business side of running a hospital and how budget cuts impact the patients (or “service users”). The reader also gets to see how dehumanizing it can be to stay in a hospital long-term. The patients’ lives are boring. They have very little control over what happens to them. Sometimes they don’t even understand what’s happening, and the hospital workers can’t be bothered to explain.

Matt has a disorganized way of thinking, and the novel’s structure captures that well. He tells events out of order, repeats himself, and talks about things that happen only in his imagination. It’s obvious that something is not right with his mind. The story is a little confusing at first, but I got used to the structure quickly, and I ended up really liking it. The nonlinear structure shows Matt’s personality and what’s important to him.

I love Matt’s relationship with his father. At first, his father seems standoffish, but he just has unusual ways of showing his love. Instead of being affectionate, he has special names for Matt and writes messages on the walls. It’s sweet.

I think this book proved that I’m still suffering from illness-book burnout. I enjoyed the book, and I got through it quickly, but I found it predictable. It didn’t do much that I haven’t seen in dozens of other books that focus on illnesses.

Matt also doesn’t feel like a realistic nineteen-year-old to me. I was actually surprised when he said that he was nineteen because he sounds much older. I had to keep reminding myself that this is a teenager narrating.

This book didn’t blow my mind, but it’s an interesting enough way to spend a few hours.


  1. I absolutely LOVE novels about mental illness. Fortunately,I haven't reached that burn out state yet and am always looking for recommendations :P I'm always super weary of these kinds of books, it's so easy to do it wrong and display illness in an offensive way, whether that's through romanticization or simply wrong facts. I'll probably be hitting you up eventually for recs :D

    - Jen from The Bookavid

    1. I’m also super picky about illness books. There are so many terrible ones out there.

      Aj @ Read All The Things!

  2. I think that this sounds interesting. I like the fact that the hospital side of things is shown in this book. I couldn't imagine being in that kind of setting long term. Great review!

  3. I've been eyeing this one since I discovered it in Target--it doesn't sound like much of a winner, maybe I'll just pass.