THE SHOCK OF THE FALL by Nathan Filer (Harper Collins, 2013)
How do we define and treat madness? What goes on in the mind of someone diagnosed as mentally ill? These are two of the questions that lie at the heart of this fine debut novel in which the author draws upon his experience as a registered mental health nurse.
The story is told from the point of view of 19-year-old Matthew Homes, a schizophrenic consumed by grief and guilt following the death of his younger brother Simon. The narrative jumps back and forward in time to piece together this tragic event which happened 9 years earlier.
We learn that Simon had downs syndrome and that the siblings had a special bond. The young boy’s death is announced in the first chapter although the circumstances surrounding his death are held back until near the end. This allows Filer to work in elements of suspense into what is essentially a study of one man’s slow descent into madness. His illness is in his genes and likened to a snake which “slithers through the branches of our family tree”. Continue reading