Sunday 21 April 2013

The Shock of the Fall by Nathan Filer

Published on 23 May 2013 by Harper Collins, The Shock Of The Fall is Nathan Filer's debut novel.

It is a story of grief and pain, and of how different people deal with them.  It is a story of a family destroyed by the loss of two sons - one who is dead, the other who is trapped in the ever-changing world that is mental illness.  It is a story about love and hope, about forgiveness and about understanding.  It is a story that is not true, but is very real.  It is a story that pulls the reader in from the first few startling sentences and does not let go until the very last word.

Matthew is the remaining son, his brother Simon was killed in an accident ten years ago when the family were on a caravan holiday.  Matthew has suffered every single day since that accident.  His relationship with his Mother and Father broke down as he descended into a life of drug-taking and mental illness.  Matthew has always blamed himself for the accident and the fact that he sees and hears Simon everywhere and everyday only makes him feel worse.  Why doesn't anyone else believe that Simon wants Matt to come and play?

Nathan Filer's writing is accomplished, mature, realistic and shockingly accurate.  Matthew is flawed, he's ill, he's vulnerable and he is honest.  The descriptions of his experiences in a psychiatric ward are harrowing at times, the other patients, the staff, the environment, the boredom.  Sleep, eat, smoke, watch TV - and again, sleep, eat, smoke.

Matthew has flashes of self-perception, he knows that he is ill, he can work the drugs system, he knows that he must have his depot injection, and he knows what effect that has on him.  Matthew is capable of love.  His wonderful grandmother, otherwise known as Nanny Noo, is the only person who really 'gets' Matt, the only one who allows him to be himself, never giving up on him, never judging him and always loving him.  Their relationship will bring a lump to the throat, it is just beautiful.

Nathan Filer - photo from
Nathan Filer is a registered mental health nurse and it is clear that he has drawn upon his experiences when writing this novel.  This is the real and true picture of mental health and its effects.  I spent 8 years working in a high secure forensic psychiatric hospital myself, I worked on a male admission ward so can honestly say that  The Shock of the Fall completely nails it.  Despite what other literature, films and TV shows may try to portray, there really is nothing pretty or glam about a ward full of very ill people.  This is brave writing, honest writing and pretty astounding writing.   I am full of admiration for Filer and look forward to reading more of his work in the future.

Ants - from

Nathan Filer has a brilliant website;  You can also follow him on Twitter here

With thanks to Harper Collins publishers for providing copies for the Random Things Reading Group to review, you can read more of the group's reviews at

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