Nathan Filer (2013) The Shock of the Fall.

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I’ve read this book before, but didn’t remember until I started reading it again. My memories like that, full of wormwood and dark holes. Most folks are, that’s why we use terms like short-term and long-term and even working–memory and other types of memory that often doesn’t work. Types I’ve instantly forgotten, but no matter. We usually judge ourselves to be reliable narrators of our own lives, able to judge what is and what is not with certainty.  Nathan Filer’s debut novel won the Costa Book of the Year 2013. He has an unreliable narrator, Matthew Homes telling his story, which begun when he was eight, when his brother Simon died, to 18th July 2009 when he’s in recovery from his illness and out of hospital and able to write about normal life and schizophrenia.

Name: Matthew Homes

D.o.B. 12.05.1990

Diagnosis: The Slithery Snake

Current Medication(s): The Works.

Risk to self/Others (please provide vague, embellished examples presented as hard facts): Matthew lives alone, has a limited support network and few friends. He suffers from command hallucinations, which he attributes to dead siblings. Creepy shit, eh? Problem is he’s been known to interpret said hallucinations as an invite to off himself.

He is currently being managed by Brunel Community Mental Health Team, and sporadically attends therapeutic groups at Hope Rd Day Centre (or he sits alone in his flat, tapping away endlessly on a typewriter his grandmother gave him, which if you think about it, is a bit mental in itself).

On 2nd April 2008, a few weeks into a lengthy hospital admission on Crazy Crazy NutsNuts ward, Matthew went AWOL. He revisted the site where his brother died, with a view to committing the last hurrah.

This attempt was foiled by an anonymous Passerby. Matthew does not appear to present a significant risk to others…

The fiction is Matthew Homes is writing an autobiographical story, collected through scraps of diaries and writing. He’s trying to make sense of the world (I do that too, when writing). The slithery snake has a focal point, the death of his brother. And a place and a time-frame.  The disjointed structure of the story from past to present and back again reflects the chaos we sometimes all feel, but with added menace.

We move in circles, this illness and me. We are electrons orbiting a nucleus.

It’s an illness, a void, which swallows the whole family. His mother is clinically depressed and his father seems world-weary. Nanny Noo and Grandfather just don’t know what to do and fall back on the same old, same old. Nothing works. That’s why there’s truthfulness about The Shock of the Fall, it just keeps going on and on. Another story runs along inside it, a mystery of what really happened to  Matthew’s brother and whether childhood guilt feeds like radiation sickness and poisons his mind, or whether…who knows? Matthew doesn’t. The reader can make his own mind up. I liked this book a lot. Everything about it makes sense. It should be on the reading list for anyone studying for a diploma or degree in Mental Health subjects. Not required reading, but enjoyable reading.  Read on.

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