The Shock of the Fall by Nathan Filer: Book Review

                                                                       the shock of the fall

In his debut novel ‘The Shock of the Fall’, Nathan Filer writes frankly and honestly about mental illness, in particular schizophrenia. Praise for Filer comes from the fact that he succeeds primarily for daring to write about such a controversial issue.
The title of the book is the crux of the novel which is introduced right from the beginning: Simon, Matt’s older brother who has Down’s Syndrome, dies from the shock of a fall off a cliff top whilst on a family camping trip. Matt suffers from chronic guilt over this and this is where his mental illness stems from. Throughout the novel Filer teases us with the actual events of that night until the very end where they are relayed with great tragedy. I have read many novels in the past where the ‘secret’ if you like is constantly referred to only in the end to be met with disappointment and inevitability. However, Filer’s writing style allows no room for these feelings but only for intense anguish and poignancy.
The novel is told through the eyes of Matt who we meet in a Community Treatment Centre following his detainment in a mental hospital. He writes his story through a series of letters, pictures, type-writer, computer and written entries as a form of therapy.His entries jump from the past to the present day which helps to demonstrate the different sides of his character. Matt confronts his illness head on, describing it as a snake which gains in strength every day just like him.
Illness and disability are very prominent features of this book obviously but Filer also looks into grief and its all-encompassing manifestations. As a child, Matt is stifled but his mother’s grief which prevents him from overcoming his inextricable guilt. Grief is a constant companion to all the characters in the book which reflects how we as humans never truly get over the loss of a person close to us. This book is so very real with its human emotions and I would say that this is where it succeeds the most.
‘The Shock of the Fall’ is very dark but Filer writes very beautifully and with a peppering of humour. I enjoyed this book immensely. It’s true and honest to the core and Filer has demonstrated tremendous skill as a writer. I sincerely look forward to reading his future works.


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