Author: Nathan Filer
Genre: Fiction > Contemporary
Synopsis: ‘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.’ Debut novel about one man’s descent into mental illness, following the death of his brother in childhood.
Would I recommend? Realistic portrayal of mental illness, so if you’re into that, I’d suggest you pick this up.
Check out this book’s Goodreads page!
You know when there’s a topic you simply can’t avoid? Suppose if it’s a book revolving around an awesome bromance, and you know you have to pick it up? Or if it has a well-done love triangle (how often do you get those, huh?), and you’re rushing to get your hands on it? Well, books that revolve around mental illness are the ones that call to me. Mental illness is often stigmatized, it is often overlooked and there are too many stereotypes surrounding it. Books that contain discussions and accurate depictions of mental illnesses are beyond important, and so, these books call to me from the shelves.
The Shock of the Fall was one of these books. Ever since I heard its subject matter, I knew I had to read it. I hadn’t heard much about this novel, but the things I had heard pushed me to pick this up as soon as possible. I wouldn’t say I was disappointed with it. I read it in one sitting, and there were some parts that really moved me. I thought the writing was beautiful too. I thought the portrayal of mental illness was realistic and brutally honest. But the book – for me – lacked a plot, which is why I give it three stars.
Like I said earlier, this book lacks a wholesome plot. It follows the story of Matthew whose older brother died in a childhood incident. The trauma of his brother’s death pushes Matt into a downward spiral into mental illness, and much of the book focuses on how Matthew is forced to cope with his illness in a world that never stops for him.
This book is perfect for you if you want something meaningful, something that will give you insight into mental illness (I’m not going to tell you what mental illness Matthew suffers from because it is definitively declared much further into the book.) But if you’re looking for a story that has mental illness as a part of it, I don’t think this is the right one. I enjoyed how Filer portrayed the psychology of Matthew’s state. I was especially impressed with how Filer effectively projected the intense feelings of paranoia, anxiety and helplessness. The beginning of the novel, when we see Matt’s world from a child’s eyes, was captivating, and I found myself turning the pages as fast as I could. Towards the 40% mark, things started getting a little too slow for my liking. And as Matt’s condition deteriorated, the book started getting a bit confusing, and while I appreciate the correlation between the two, I don’t always love having to concentrate to figure out what’s going on.
I liked how Filer doesn’t give too much away, though. You’re constantly wondering what happened and/or what happens next. The moment Filer chose to reveal these details was perfectly paced; as a result, I really enjoyed the ending. I thought there was a profound beauty to it. The book wrapped itself up very nicely, and although there are some things that I would change throughout the book, the ending isn’t one of them.
There is a very small cast of characters in this book. It’s written from the point of view of Matthew- he’s basically writing down his thoughts and experiences while in a psychiatric clinic/hospital, and since his thoughts and experiences revolve mostly around his mental health, he’s the only person that matters in the novel. We do see his parents, his grandmother, his brother and a friend here and there, but they make minimal albeit meaningful appearances. Because their presence was so minimal, I can’t say if I particularly liked them or not, but I did appreciate how real they seemed even though they had small roles to play.
I liked how Nathan Filer made sure that his readers felt empathy towards Matt rather than pity. Reading from the perspective of a person who’s going through a very difficult time often makes you feel sorry for them, and this feeling of pity often makes me feel like these characters are not multi-dimensional. Matt had a very nuanced personality, and Filer portrayed it by showing us Matt’s role in different settings and situations, which gave him layers. In the end, I understood Matt. I liked him, and I got him, and I wanted to help him but I didn’t feel sorry for him.
One of the strongest points about this book is how Nathan Filer writes. I refuse to believe that this is his debut, because it was so poignantly written. Again, his portrayal of mental illness was heartfelt, real and brutally honest. He set up a very strong voice for his protagonist from the very beginning, and this voice was consistent. I enjoyed how he revealed tidbits of information at just the right moment. And his writing flows beautifully. He has a poetic quality to it, and I underlined so many lines from this novel that completely took my breath away.
“Simon had hypotonia. He also had microgenia, macroglossia, epicanthic folds, an atrial septal defect, and a beautiful smiling face that looked like the moon.”