The Shock of The Fall tells the story of Matt Homes, who has schizophrenia, and is struggling with the mental health services, so embarks on his own writing therapy. He captures his reflections on a type writer stored along with letters and drawings. Matt’s reflections makes a bundle of papers that make a gripping, and at times, a tough and tragic read. Matt’s internal voices are those of his dead brother, Simon, who died during a family camping holiday when they were children. Matt is tied to his brother’s death, in an irredeemable way, and as he tries to navigate his illness and memories and tries to explain it all. It is a very compelling first person narrative, that at times is chaotic, and at others incredibly lucid.
It is a very haunting tale, often very disturbing, like when we have a glimpse under the petticoats of the Mental Health system, and what it is like to be in a psychiatric ward. Filer’s knowledge and experience is woven into the voice of Matt, describing this almost painful, repetitive life. “Mine is a cut and paste life,” Matt observes, as the trauma of his monotonous existence is explained. Matt tells us about other people in his life, his parents, lost in their own grief, and the rock that is his Nanny Noo, who provides a warmth, compassion that is a stark tenderness amongst the pillars of drugs and routines in his life.
There is something in the simplicity of the narration that is very absorbing – a life laid out without emotion, and therefore it reminded me of the tone of The Curious Incident of The Dog in The Night. However, at times there is a poetic quality to the writing, and some paragraphs I found myself re-reading because they were simply delicious. Filer’s writing is indulgent, and utterly brilliant.
The construction of the book is like nothing I’ve ever read before – appearing as a bundle of papers – and this really builds the sense of Matt, this man/boy lost in his own world. As the story develops, and his family’s stories are revealed too, then different questions emerge. Is this a book about mental health or other themes? This is a real gift in this book, in that these questions linger long after the book has been closed. It makes it perfect for book clubs, as well as therapy courses!
I cannot recommend this book highly enough.
Note about the Kindle Edition – There was a ‘pop up’ recommending to go with the publisher’s font. Do! The font changes make for different aspects of the story, and are important in its narration.