Nathan Filer’s novel, The Shock of the Fall, has won the 2013 Costa Book of the Year Prize and has gone on to be a bestseller, receiving praise from critics and celebrities incl
Nathan Filer’s novel, The Shock of the Fall, has won the 2013 Costa Book of the Year Prize and has gone on to be a bestseller, receiving praise from critics and celebrities including Jo Brand who described it as “beautifully written.”
Having finished it in under three days, I can fully agree that it deserves to have won such popularity and critical acclaim.
Filer’s work deals with difficult issues and is an insight into the character of Matthew Homes, who is overcome with guilt about his brother’s (Simon’s) death. It is not until further into the novel that we find out exactly how it happened and why Matthew feels culpable.
It is often difficult to prolong suspense and withhold informations such as this which is often mentioned and is a regular topic of Matthew’s musings. However, it is written in such a way that I was desperate to continue reading rather than resorting to flicking forward until finding out how Simon passed away.
Filer writes about the issue of mental illness and (although briefly) the topic of learning disability sensitively. The narrative is wonderfully written, the personal tone when Matt directly addresses the reader makes you feel as if you having a conversation with him, involved in his thought process and experiencing his emotional turmoil.
Not only do we step into Matt’s world through a conventional narrative, but a change in font means we are reading his thoughts as he types them on a typewriter and dispersed throughout are drawings and letters, which break up the novel and provide information in a different and realistic way.
Touching and funny with memorable characters
Despite the potential for the novel to be a bleak and dark read, the witty observations and humorous quips Matt comes up with are splattered throughout the novel and create a much needed lightness of tone. It is when Filer’s ability to incorporate comedy (albeit black humour) into such subject matter is masterful and provides the variety we all crave from a novel.
Matt’s voice is touching and emotional, not least because he become a very real character through the way he seems to converse with the reader by asking us questions and assuring us he is doing his best to describe his reality to us. Minor characters don’t fail to evoke an emotional response either, and it is particularly Aunt Jacqueline, who is mentioned rarely, who intrigued me.
She formed so clearly in my imagination due to the simple yet effective description: [she] “dresses all in black and talks too much about magic and spirits, and will never not smoke, even at children’s parties.”
The ending, however, is most impressive. Finishing a work on such difficult subject matter cannot be considered an easy task. The ending must be realistic (therefore Matt cannot simply recover) but not so bleak that the reader feels deflated. Filer manages the balance brilliantly, the ending is a recognition of the fact that it the beginning of a different phase, and we are left with an uplifting and hopeful ending.
The Shock of the Fall is an exhilarating and incredibly moving novel. At times, it is difficult to feel hopeful for Matthew, he even admits that “mental illness turn people inwards.”
Yet, it has been described by many as perceptive and honest, which can come as no surprise given that Nathan Filer used to be a mental health nurse.
Wonderfully written with compelling characters and wry, witty observations which lighten the overall perceptive and realistic tale makes this a much recommended book. If you read nothing else this summer, read this (the book, not this review).
What do you think? Have you read The Shock of The Fall? Have your say in the comments section below.
Image: Phil Bambridge