The Shock of the Fall by Nathan Filar


So far 2016 has been a year for rereading old favourites. The Shock of the Fall is a more recent favourite of mine- I read it first in 2014- but I think I loved it even more the second time around.

This time, I read it for the Diverse-A-Thon so I was trying to be conscious of the ways in which mental health and mental illness is represented in the story. I’m coming from a weird perspective here… I probably most related to Nanny Noo, the knowledge of how mental illness can make its way through a family tree and wondering who it will affect next. I also see a bit too much of myself in Matthew. But anyways…

Written by a former mental health nurse and from the point of view of a nineteen year old boy with schizophrenia as he tries to cope with the death of his brother, The Shock of the Fall is beautiful. For me it’s not just the way Matthew describes his life (his illness has the shape and sound of a snake) but the way that the whole book has a lot of care taken to show us where Matthew is mentally. Typewriter when he’s home and alone, typed when he writes from the hospital computer, handwritten notes from people concerned for him, fading away when things fall apart. It’s a very visual represention of mental illness without romanticising it or vilifying it. 

It’s also a story about grief, and how it can overwhelm us. Matthew sees Simon everywhere, and his mental illness becomes a comfort after he loses him, but grief destroys his family too. It’s a theme that always gets to me, so I’m probably predisposed to love those kinds of stories, but I think this one is executed particularly well. Second time round it’s still one of my favourites.

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