Matthew is a nineteen year-old man writing directly to his reader, telling us his story in little pieces. We soon learn that Matthew suffers from schizophrenia and he is writing this journal/book/set of letters as part of his self-appointed therapy. Though Matthew attends a day centre where he gets mental health help, he constantly struggles to stay in the present and to find the need to keep seeking help.
The Shock of the Fall has won several awards and it is easy to see why. Filer’s narrative style is engrossing and fast-paced, keeping you pulled into Matthew’s thoughts and struggles. Perhaps the most incredible part of Filer’s writing is that he manages to present this schizophrenic mind in a way that is relatable even to those who do not suffer from the mental illness, evoking our sympathy when he starts to struggle, and keeping us cheering for him to get better. In a world where mental illness and schizophrenia in particular are increasingly stereotype and stigmatized, Filer’s incredible novel can help to pave a pathway to understanding an incredibly difficult disease.
We learn in pieces of Matthew’s ill older brother and learn in snippets that his brother died and Matthew still blames himself ten years later. It is Simon that Matthew hears when his schizophrenia gets bad and it is for Simon that Matthew begins his special project of which he writes so much about. As the reader learns and is allowed into Matthew’s past and pain, you are given a window like no other into the mind of someone whose mind is twisted by disease. Filer drips and dribbles information in slowly enough that you can easily believe in Matthew’s reticence to speak of his brother, especially because speaking of Simon can often lead to his illness getting worse.
If you read the book on an e-book, make sure to leave the publisher’s set fonts. The varying typefaces were particularly intriguing to me, helping to connect the parts of Matthew’s story and it allowed the reader to see exactly where he was mentally when he was recording that section. I would highly recommend this book be read instead of listened to because the visual adds a vital dimension to Matthew’s story.
I found The Shock of the Fall truly compelling and in many ways cannot believe Filer is a debut novelist. If this is the level of sophistication, deftness, and depth he can continue to grow throughout his career, I am truly excited to see what is next.