THE SHOCK OF THE FALL by Nathan Filer
Winner of the 2013 Costa First Novel Award.
The author works in the mental health service of the NHS. He is also, according to his website, a performance poet, of some note in the UK. Such a person as this must have a remarkable insight into the human mind, and also possess the gift to put it all into word pictures for the rest of us.
It was a real privilege to be let into the mind and soul of a schizophrenic young man who realises things aren't quite right, but seems determined to overcome the problems he is currently facing. Matthew is 19 years old and is narrating the story of the last 10 years of his life. It is 10 years since his brother, who was 12, died while the family was on holiday at a camping ground. His brother, Simon, had Downs Syndrome. The family was a close knit one, and Matthew describes his parents, his grandparents and his brother in loving and descriptive words. Simon's death, for which Matthew feels 100% responsible, affects everyone very, very deeply. His parents sink into their own awful grief, Matthew blames himself and as the years pass feels increasingly unable to cope with daily life due to this enormous burden he carries around with him. His grandmother, Nanny Noo, is the one constant in his life, always there, always compassionate - the one really significant adult in his life.
The one thing Matthew never loses during these years is his ability to write down what he is going through and this becomes the one therapy that helps him get through a trauma that just won't let him go. The narration covers the 10 years from the day of the death to the present, but jumps around a bit during the years of this time period, which does take a little concentration, as he seems, to me, to be in and out of hospital quite a bit! His descriptions of hospital routine, and his unbelievably dull, boring and most awful time there would bring out a cry for help in anyone. You know then that you are reading the words of an author who knows what he is talking about.
I don't normally go for books like this. But it had received good reviews, and of course a first novel award. Many of reviews on Amazon and Good Reads are 5 star - very high praise. It seems a lot of these readers have either had experience of some sort of mental health issue themselves, or been close to those who have. I didn't get quite the same feeling of stunning and awesome from this book, but certainly feel as if my own mind has been opened more to what a mental health illness would be like.
Published in the US as "Where the Moon Isn't", apparently with some edits.