I have so many thoughts and feeling about this book. This review won’t be logical, and I apologise if it descends into my nonsensical ramblings of how much I adore it. Because adore it I do. Adoration, admiration, excellence, importance, poignancy; these are all words that come to mind when thinking of The Shock of the Fall.
The novel is about Matthew. Matthew has a disease that ruins lives and cannot be seen. He introduces it early on with words whose brilliant have echoed round my head for days:
‘I have an illness, a disease with the shape and sound of a snake. Whenever I learn something new, it learns it too. If you have HIV or Cancer, or Athletes Foot, you can’t teach them anything…But my illness knows everything I know.’
He has schizophrenia. Oddly enough he’s not an axe murderer. He hasn’t escaped from an asylum covered in blood and muttering under his breath. Matthew is a nineteen year old man who is ill, and trying to learn to live with an illness that the medical community know very little about.
Nathan Filer is a registered mental health nurse, and this is obvious throughout the novel. I work for a mental health organisation whose main area of research is the causes of schizophrenia (an extremely neglected and underfunded area – but I digress) so to see someone exploring the known causes of this illness; genetic predisposition, trauma in early life that’s not dealt with, excess smoking of cannabis, is brilliant.
It’s also an incredibly real portrayal of the British mental health system. Of how it works, the powers people have and do not have, the way that the illness is currently addressed. These additions to me just reinforced how much Filer wanted to write a novel about the reality of schizophrenia, and of mental illness
It’s a stigma challenging novel. We’ve all seen the horror movies where someone with a mental health condition is the epitome of evil. The reality is that more violent crimes are committed against people with severe mental illness than by them. They aren’t the axe wielding maniacs of the film industry; take a look at the Time to Change advert called ‘Schizo.’ This is another stigma challenging piece of brilliance. I’ve not ever seen a real perspective of schizophrenia, and it’s fantastic that there now is one, and on top of that, it won the costa award 2013.
At its core, the book is about a tragic accident that changes lives and leaves a trail of damage in its wake. You feel for all the characters, and it’s an incredibly sad piece. Everyone tries to cope with the death Simon, and then Matthew’s illness. They all try their best in different ways, and the author has explored the way people deal with tragedy and mental health issues in others so well.
I will stop rambling now, but I’ll end with this. Please read this book.