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The Shock of the Fall reading group guide

19 March 2013 / 78 Comments

We teamed up with HarperCollins to give away 50 reading group sets of The Shock of the Fall by debut novelist Nathan Filer.

About the book

'I'll tell you what happened because it will be a good way to introduce my brother. His name's Simon. I think you're going to like him. I really do. But in a couple of pages he'll be dead. And he was never the same after that.'

The Shock of the Fall is an extraordinary portrait of one man's descent into mental illness. It is a brave and groundbreaking novel from one of the most exciting new voices in fiction.

About the author

Nathan Filer is a registered mental health nurse. He is also a performance poet, contributing regularly to literary events across the UK. His work has been broadcast on television and radio. The Shock of the Fall is his first novel.

Extras

Download the promotional poster here.

Read an extract of The Shock of the Fall here.

Download the reading group guide to The Shock of the Fall, with questions to spark conversation and an interview with author, Nathan Filer.

Get involved

Are you and your book group reading The Shock of the Fall? If so, we would love to hear from you. Leave a comment below or email us.

78 Comments

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  1. Geraldine Wilson 10:13, 3 April 2013

    Our group have just finished The shock of the Fall and have unanimously agreed that it is a wonderful book. A book about mental illness doesn't necessarily sound very tempting and we had some trepidation before we started but we were all won over by Matthew's story and the sensitivity with which it is told. It's a very sad and moving story, yet there are still touches of humour which shine through. Matthew's feelings of guilt are heartbreaking, but we also felt for his parents who did their best to support him whilst dealing with their own emotions. One reader felt the reappearance of the girl who buried the doll was a bit contrived but this did allow for a kind of closure and we all felt that, as Matthew says at the end of the book, It's a beginning.

  2. Annette Morris 04:21, 4 April 2013

    Comments from our group: Brilliant. Compelling. Couldn't put it down. Funny. Moving. Poignant. Sad. Heartwarming. One reader thought "it started off a bit weird and I wasn't sure I was going to like it", but she persevered and was pleased she did. The voice of Matthew is totally believable as he takes us through the story, fragment by fragment, of a family holiday that went tragically wrong and the far reaching and life destroying consequences that followed. The story also offers a fascinating insight into mental ill health and an equally convincing insight into the mind of a child. The illustrations and changes of font give extra depth to an already deep book. We'll be recommending this book to everyone and will definitely read more by Nathan Filer.

  3. Joan Hill 02:58, 6 April 2013

    Participant: Random Things Online Book Group: Joan Hill This is a stunning debut novel about a young man called Matthew who suffers with Schizophrenia. Early on in his life his special needs older brother Simon dies in a tragic accident witnessed by Matthew when he was just a young boy. His whole family is understandably devastated and although an investigation returns the verdict that Simon’s death was accidental, Matthew carries the guilt of Simon’s death through adolescence and in to adulthood, his behaviour becoming more and more bizarre. A talented artist, Matthew decides that as a means to survive he must purge himself of his family history and when, living alone and attending a day centre for his ‘care in the community plan’ to be monitored, his Nanny Noo visits his flat with the gift of a typewriter, he begins to record his heartbreaking and lonely story page by page whenever he can. Nathan Filer, himself a mental health worker has written a powerful and compelling account of Matthew’s life and troubling descent into mania. As his story unravels Matthew becomes proactive, so he is able to come to terms with what happened that night on the cliff top, when he and his brother stole out of their holiday caravan in the dead of night to have an adventure. He meets other people who remember the accident and by talking about it are able to put what happened into perspective and sooth his troubled mind. Clever techniques, such as using different fonts within the narrative, highlight different phrases of the story. Carefully worded sentences have been used to emphasise Matthew’s thoughts and these create clarity and impact. Nathan Filer uses language poetically and skilfully to great advantage and I found myself engrossed in his powerful story. His professional expertise helps create a vivid picture of what Matthew has suffered throughout his life and I felt huge empathy for this endearing character central to ‘The Shock of the Fall’. I would wholeheartedly recommend this book and will most certainly be on the lookout for a welcomed second novel.

  4. Lisa Weir 09:48, 7 April 2013

    The Shock of the Fall – Nathan Filer A brilliant and mesmirising debut novel. I truly could not stop reading this and the end even gave cause for a tear or two. Matthew won my heart and my sympathy with his open and honest narration of his interpretation and understanding of events leading from the day of ‘the shock of the fall’. Matthew is 19 years old and this story is his story; of his pain, his guilt and his descent into an illness which has the “shape and sound of a snake”. It starts with the shock of the fall when Matthew was 9 and his big brother was 12, when something really terrible happened and nothing would ever be the same again. Snapshots of family life afterwards when Matthew’s mother was mad; the doctor; an orange anorak; school; friend Jake; moving out; work; an ant farm and always, always big brother Simon, calling Matt to play give the reader the bigger picture in a very telling and novel way because Matt’s account, disjointed as it might be, flicking between past and present, allows us to get to know Matt as he was and as he is and in itself explains a lot about Matt’s illness and how he thinks because of and in spite of it. He is an intelligent, caring, deeply empathetic and perceptive person who happens to have a mental illness. He is that way despite his illness because his illness is not who he is and as you read this book, that becomes more and more apparent. It’s a very moving and sincere account of mental health problems and how they affect not just the person diagnosed but the family, friends and those who work with the affected; it dispels the myths and stigmas that generally surround the mentally ill and gives hope and understanding. It’s a very human and humbling account of what it is like to be one of the mentally ill and no one can fail to be touched by Matt’s story.

  5. TERESA MAJURY 07:02, 11 April 2013

    Nathan Filer is a registered mental health nurse as well as a performance poet and his real-life experience is evident in this, his debut novel. The story is narrated by Matthew, a nineteen year old schizophrenic who recalls the sudden, tragic death of his older brother, Simon – a death which he believes he caused. The use of mixed formats, different fonts interspersed with occasional line drawings cleverly mirrors the ebb and flow of Matthew’s mental illness. Likewise, the narrative flits between different stages in his life, before Simon’s death, after Simon’s death, during hospital stays, independent living. This is an extremely honest account of one man’s journey through mental illness but there is also humour and great insight from Matthew as he sees how his brother’s death tore his family apart and left them adrift. The characters are living, breathing creations, with their own foibles and imperfections. You see the heartache of Matthew’s parents who, having lost one son, feel they are losing their only remaining child. His Mum, is at her wits end, making lots of noise whilst Dad retreats into silence. His grandmother, the wonderful Nanny Noo, accepts Matthew as he is, visiting him at his flat every other Thursday, never passing judgement. "If it wasn’t for Nanny Noo I wouldn’t give a shit, but when somebody cares for you as much as she does, I know it’s not nice to make them worry." This is a beautifully written, moving story – the beauty is in the everyday detail of Matthew’s life – from the fleeting memories of a holiday in France to the stultifying routine of an acute psychiatric ward – eat, sleep, smoke… It’s a novel which will stay with me when others have disappeared into the ether – you won’t forget Matthew in a hurry and you cannot fail to wish him well….or just to keep his head above water…

  6. Debbie Hart 02:39, 16 April 2013

    A stunning debut novel from Nathan Filer. Matthew is a young adult, suffering from schizophrenia. He has been sectioned for his own safety, has a care plan involving a variety of medications to help control his illness and at times is living alone with support from a day care centre. The novel is Matthew's account of what happened one fateful day. The day his brother Simon died. As we follow Matthew's story we are drawn in to his complex thought processes. These thought processes are written using a variety of techniques such as different type faces, non-linear text and diagrams which give the reader a glimpse of what the mental health issues might be like. The story also jumps around wildly, regularly goes off at a tangent and is repetitive - once again these all help the readers understanding. Matthew's account of events is extremely moving, he is an extremely sympathetic character. No real reason is given for Matthew's mental health issues but there are lots of possibilities - guilt, grief, depression, even cannabis psychosis. The novel doesn't look to give any answers and I really liked the open ending, rather than it be neatly tied up. The final few pages of the book really lifted this story to a new level and brought a tear to my eye. The redemptive nature of forgiveness is an important message. A highly recommended read.

  7. Jo Barton 09:45, 17 April 2013

    Perceptively written from the outset, The Shock of the Fall reveals a challenging journey through the minefield of mental illness, and encapsulates a story which begins with overwhelming tragedy. The heartbreak of the story is revealed slowly, and written in Matthew’s own indomitable style, we learn about his life, the burden of guilt and grief which he carries like a yoke, and the way in which both he and his parents tried to rationalise the responsibility of survival. The unpredictability of the narrative is endearing and the use of font changes and illustrations reveal how the thought processes evolve from those of a confused child, to those of a troubled, and sometimes irascible young man. There is no doubt that this is a skilful debut novel. Nathan Filer has used his own experiences as a mental health professional to write a tragic, tender and beautifully depicted story, which illuminates love, loss and overwhelming grief in a powerful, yet poignant way.

  8. Angi Holden 03:06, 17 April 2013

    In the opening chapter of Nathan Filer’s debut novel the narrator Matthew introduces his brother, and then says that “in a couple of pages he’ll be dead. And he was never the same after that.” The strange phrasing of this introduction establishes the tone of the novel. Nearly a decade after Simon’s sudden death, nineteen-year old Matthew is a schizophrenic, with a history of psychotic drugs, assault and self-abuse. Through his eyes we explore the impact on the family of Simon’s death and his own subsequent descent into mania. The story is fragmented, disjoined, non-linear. Matthew’s reasoning is sometimes logical, occasionally nonsensical, often confused. As we follow his struggle to understand and reinterpret events we gain a growing insight into his disturbed world. If that sounds bleak, well, sometimes it is. But there are flashes of humour and always there is hope. Matthew is surrounded by a loving family who do their best to help and support him. Nanny Noo in particular is a wonderful character. The deeper sadness is our awareness that many are not so fortunate. As a registered mental health nurse, Filer brings professional expertise to the narrative. He writes eloquently about both residential and community care, and his descriptions of the ward and day centre are evocative and thought-provoking. His empathy for Matthew shines through his choice of language and his detailed and quirky observations. For anyone with experience of dealing with mental health issues (and the Mind website suggests that one in four of us are affected) this is not a ‘comfortable’ read. I found myself sobbing at much for his family as for Matthew himself.

  9. Karen C 03:55, 17 April 2013

    Matthew Homes is 19 years old and has been diagnosed with schizophrenia. Matthew’s decline into mental illness appears to take a hold after the tragic death of his older brother Simon, although it was never entirely clear to me whether this was the sole reason as there is a suggestion of a family history of mental illness. Simon died when Matthew was 9 and life was never the same afterwards. Matthew has a brutally honest voice and this is a compelling and moving account of how the aftermath of a tragic event can fracture a family. Matthew’s family dealt with his brother’s death in different ways. His mother appeared to exist in a state of depression and over protectiveness whilst his father retreated into himself. Nanny Noo was the only constant in Matthew’s life, always there for him and accepting him for what he was. The story flips back and forth in time, to the time before Simon’s death, and the years afterwards, when Matthew takes his first steps at living independently – initially with his friend Jacob when they shared a dilapidated flat, and then as his mental state deteriorated, being incarcerated in an institution; he tells of the hell of being constantly medicated and then taking more medication to counteract the side effects. Matthew is very intelligent and the repetition and boredom of daily routine whilst detained takes its toll. However he finds an outlet by drawing and writing – he has a talent for drawing and after his beloved Nanny Noo gives him a typewriter, he realises he has a story to tell. Matthew tells his story both with clarity and confusion - at times it was difficult to follow which was real and which was imaginery which makes the story seem even more realistic. Simon was 12 years old when he died and had his own special needs. Matthew blames himself for Simon’s death and believes that his family blame him too – however the love they have for him shines through and one part of the story towards the end was particularly moving. Having had close personal experience of bipolar and schizophrenia, I found this a very difficult book to read at times. Matthew’s actions, his illucinations and thought processes were so familiar and it is quite clear that a lot of research has gone into this book owing to Nathan Filer’s experience as a mental health nurse. It is an excellent debut novel and the author deserves every success.

  10. VICKI BIRD 09:37, 18 April 2013

    An amazing book - definitely earned a place in my top ten. Compelling, captivating, engaging and emotional. A book everyone should read, and ought to be on secondary school syllabus. A remarkable insight into grief and mental illness.

  11. Julie Colgate 03:23, 19 April 2013

    Lent Rise Book Group Some of our book group have just finished reading this book. A good read about a very difficult subject. The story decribes how a early childhood tragedy can send a young man into a downhill spiral.

  12. Sarah HAMILTON 04:34, 19 April 2013

    As a registered mental health nurse Nathan Filer obviously knows his stuff – and he’s used it to full advantage. This is a gem of a book, packed full of emotion – despair, sorrow, hope – it’s all there. Following Matthew’s journey from the death of his brother, through his descent into schizophrenia is not easy. The book (it feels to me anyway) jumps around from the present day and back to his childhood and it can sometimes be hard to keep up – I don’t know if this is a deliberate ploy but it certainly adds to the tone and feeling of the story. And like the choppy nature of the narrative, Matthew is sometimes coherent, sometimes manic. It’s not all grim, hard going. There are moments of humour and parts that will lift your spirits. This is one that will stay with me for a long time.

  13. Anne Cater 11:36, 21 April 2013

    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 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.

  14. Christine Tierney 09:51, 23 April 2013

    A brilliant book that stays with you long after the final page has been read. It sensitively depicts Matthew's struggle to cope with mental illness, grief and feelings of guilt. Matthew tells the story in his own words which makes it more realistic and has a greater impact. At times it is heart-rending but there are also humorous moments. The highly original style compliments and adds to the story. I would recommend this book to everyone. A definite must-read!

  15. Carl Loughlin-Ravenscroft 12:16, 25 April 2013

    Wallasey Village Library Adult Reading Group loved the book and this is Mavis McDermotts review: Once started I just had to keep going, found the "cut and paste" descriptions very apt. So pleased the main character has had this healing process down on paper and feel as thought we are a part of that for reading the book. Although very sad and the humourous stories at the end made me smile. Very readable, well put down.

  16. Carl Loughlin-Ravenscroft 12:19, 25 April 2013

    Wallasey Village Library Adult Reading Group loved the book and this is Anne Sleigh's review: An intriguing novel, totally captivating as I read from cover to cover in four time spans, enjoying the quirky format. Becoming increasingly saddened with the novel, I grew more fond of Matt, his devoted family, and steadfast carers. Nathan Filer is delightfully observant in providing a representation of a heartbreaking life yet filled with love, understanding and a soupon of hope.

  17. Carl Loughlin-Ravenscroft 12:22, 25 April 2013

    Wallasey Village Library Adult Reading Group loved the book and this is Edna McLoughlin's review: A super read gives an amazing insight to the subject. I would recommend it to all as a means to helping anyone with this disability. Hope the next book comes out soon!

  18. Nikki Bi 10:57, 26 April 2013

    Our Books & Babble Reading Group meets at Hall Green Library in Birmingham found Nathan Filer's debut novel a compelling and realistic insight into the life of someone with mental illness. There is great attention to detail but because of the careful choice of words this is never overwhelming. The story is sensitively told and is very moving but also highly amusing in places. It is an excellent book for reading groups as there is so much to discuss in it – mental health issues, family relationships, grief, guilt, love.

  19. Anne Clark 05:02, 29 April 2013

    This is a superb book! It is a beautifully written piece which captures the confusion and uncertainty of mental illness alongside wonderful humour, poignancy and honesty. The quirky and varied format and simple but effective art work really adds to the sense of Matthew's troubled 'journey'. It is an excellent book for any reading group as there is so much to discuss and I think - and hope - we will hear a lot more from Nathan Filer in the future.

  20. Marilyn Taylor 06:13, 29 April 2013

    What a good read! Nathan Filer gives the reader an excellent insight into the complex nature of psychotic disorders, using a brilliant storyline/account. I tried very hard not to (over)analyse causes, effect and consequences and failed miserably. But that is what good writing should be about - to make the reader THINK. The tremors of the after shock will stay with me for some time. Just as Matthew notices the little details I especially enjoyed the, sometimes repeated, little scenarios, the characters' foibles (Nanny Noo's menthol ciggies) and teasers (Annabelle's and Simon's yellow comforters). Looking forward to reading Filer's next book.

  21. Scott Whitehouse 02:36, 30 April 2013

    Comments from Kinver Library Reading Group, Staffordshire. Writing in the first person, particularly when the narrator is schizophrenic, provides real insights in the condition, but inevitably omits other perspectives. Nathan Filer has created a plausible character struggling to reconcile his role in events that triggered his own illness and led to the death of his downs syndrome brother. Well written and constructed. Not sure about the need for quirky typography. Interesting and readable, but not a comfortable book to read. Mental problems don't make for easy reading though this was OK and waiting for how Simon died to be revealed kept me going. There was too much gratuitous swearing, most of it totally unnecessary - after a while it becomes meaningless. This author clearly knows his topic. Each separate disjointed chapter slots in like a piece of jigsaw, and the picture becomes clearer as the book progresses. It is a brilliant representation of a schizophrenic, very gently and sympathetically written. The different styles of print and writing and illustration within the novel hold the interest of the reader and all contribute to the understanding of the whole. In my opinion, this book has the same impact as 'The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night'. A strangely compelling book to read. Such a sad story, leaving so many mental scars. Nathan writes with insight into the world of mental health care, the confusion, the lethargy, the sometimes inadequacies of 'care in the community'. Altogether an interesting read, giving us as observers knowledge of how a certain incident in one's life can leave such lasting scars, to live with and through. The author is a mental health worker and he has used his professional expertise to write this very readable, sad and moving debut novel. The book is about Matthew and his descent into mental illness, highlighting the effect it has on his family and his friends and his feelings of guilt. It is a touching tale which stays with you after the final page! Debut novel from a man who is registered mental health nurse, a performance poet and has been on a creative writing course. The novel is written in the first person and presents various episodes in the life of a schizophrenic who is obsessed by the death of his older brother, who likely had Down's. Clearly, he knows his subject, but the confused state of mind of the boy/young man, Matthew Homes, is represented in the equally confused writing, which flips from one time period and location to another, and utilises what are now fairly hackneyed devices such as different fonts, sketches, lists and the like. I failed to be engaged.

  22. Scott Whitehouse 12:00, 1 May 2013

    Two further comments from Kinver Library Reading Group, Staffordshire For something completely different I can recommend The Shock of the Fall. It is an intimate story written through the eyes of a young boy, Matthew, describing in great detail the progression of his illness, the loss of his brother, Simon and how it affected him. The insight into mental illness is both disturbing and thought provoking. At the same time it is a very compelling story. ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- This is a good story, well told with believable and sympathetically drawn characters etc. The ending is realistic and hopeful, I look forward to the authors next book.

  23. catherine smith 01:27, 1 May 2013

    THE SHOCK OF THE FALL BY NICK FILER REVIEW BY WORDS, WINE & WISDOM READING GROUP. A brilliantly written book that deals with very complicated & often ignored issues in a very direct yet sensitive way. We all found this book to be an interesting read. It is the sort of book that really hooks you from the start & you have to get to the end, several of the group read it in 2 sittings. Those members of the group who had experience of mental illness within their families found it difficult & upsetting to read at times, but, at the same time were glad that it was being written about so accurately. They could really empathise with Matthew & his family. Those of us who have no direct experience with severe mental illness found the book to be a real eye-opener. We were really drawn into the perspective of the person going through this terrible time. But, this book is not only a journey through one person’s mental illness it is also the story of a well-adjusted family who have a child, Simon, with Down’s syndrome. Simon is happy, gregarious, loving & well loved, especially by his brother, Matthew. Then there is the shock of the fall & the terrible journey that the whole family takes after the loss of Simon. The Shock of the Fall is not only the title but a recurring theme throughout the book. There is the shock when Matthew falls on holiday & Simon carries him back to the caravan even though it makes him really ill afterwards. Matthew remembers this incident really well, it is one of the only times that he sees Simon as his older brother & it is one of his last good memories of his brother. There is the huge shock of the fall, of Simon to his death, on that same holiday. Matthew carries guilt inside himself for the rest of his life; he thinks that he is to blame for his brother’s accident. The shock of the fall, of the disintegration of the family after Simon’s death. Matthew’s mother becomes very over protective towards her remaining child, to the extent that she isolates him & we wonder if she suffers from Munchausen by proxy, she is always telling him that he is ill & getting unnecessary medical attention for him. Matthews’s father becomes more remote. The shock of the fall of Matthew into mental illness & all of its consequences. The shock of the fall of Matthew’s friend’s mother as her long term illness becomes steadily worse. Finally we think that there is a sort of the shock of the fall when Matthew revisits the beach where Simon died & he finally realises that it was a terrible accident & forgives himself at last. Despite all of these shocks the story is one of hope & in the end Matthew & his family are able to come to terms with Simon’s death & we leave them starting to face the future after Matthew organises a memorial for Simon where everyone talks about their memories of him.

  24. catherine smith 01:31, 1 May 2013

    THE SHOCK OF THE FALL BY NICK FILER REVIEW BY WORDS, WINE & WISDOM READING GROUP. A brilliantly written book that deals with very complicated & often ignored issues in a very direct yet sensitive way. We all found this book to be an interesting read. It is the sort of book that really hooks you from the start & you have to get to the end, several of the group read it in 2 sittings. Those members of the group who had experience of mental illness within their families found it difficult & upsetting to read at times, but, at the same time were glad that it was being written about so accurately. They could really empathise with Matthew & his family. Those of us who have no direct experience with severe mental illness found the book to be a real eye-opener. We were really drawn into the perspective of the person going through this terrible time. But, this book is not only a journey through one person’s mental illness it is also the story of a well-adjusted family who have a child, Simon, with Down’s syndrome. Simon is happy, gregarious, loving & well loved, especially by his brother, Matthew. Then there is the shock of the fall & the terrible journey that the whole family takes after the loss of Simon. The Shock of the Fall is not only the title but a recurring theme throughout the book. There is the shock when Matthew falls on holiday & Simon carries him back to the caravan even though it makes him really ill afterwards. Matthew remembers this incident really well, it is one of the only times that he sees Simon as his older brother & it is one of his last good memories of his brother. There is the huge shock of the fall, of Simon to his death, on that same holiday. Matthew carries guilt inside himself for the rest of his life; he thinks that he is to blame for his brother’s accident. The shock of the fall, of the disintegration of the family after Simon’s death. Matthew’s mother becomes very over protective towards her remaining child, to the extent that she isolates him & we wonder if she suffers from Munchausen by proxy, she is always telling him that he is ill & getting unnecessary medical attention for him. Matthews’s father becomes more remote. The shock of the fall of Matthew into mental illness & all of its consequences. The shock of the fall of Matthew’s friend’s mother as her long term illness becomes steadily worse. Finally we think that there is a sort of the shock of the fall when Matthew revisits the beach where Simon died & he finally realises that it was a terrible accident & forgives himself at last. Despite all of these shocks the story is one of hope & in the end Matthew & his family are able to come to terms with Simon’s death & we leave them starting to face the future after Matthew organises a memorial for Simon where everyone talks about their memories of him.

  25. Mairi Taylor Kirkwood 01:57, 1 May 2013

    No 1 Ladies Book Club: At first, this brought to mind 'The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time', the similarities between mental illnesses being the common theme. However, only about 30 pages in did it become a book in its own right to me and I found it a compelling and oftentimes sad read. I thought Matthew - the lead character - was wonderful and felt very warm towards him and his life. I think he needed to tell his story to share the burden of what happened to his brother with others, and I was quite happy for him to do that! Nanny Noo was my favourite though - her unconditional love and energy for her grandson was what every grandchild should have. My understanding of mental illness, however, is that if you think you suffer from mental illness, you probably don't, so it was somewhere a surprise to me that he refers to himself as a schizophrenic. Although perhaps he is just using the label that's been given to him......... He does realise though that he's "messed up" so to me he realises that he has problems, but do schizophrenics know they do? I would highly recommend this book. It was a complete page turner and lovely story, albeit sad at times.

  26. Joanne Rose 02:17, 1 May 2013

    This debut novel by Nathan Filer is exquisitely and imaginatively written. His varied style and senstivity and credibility to the subject matter. To write a novel in the first person about schizophrenic must be a massive challenge. None of us will (perhaps) ever know how close to the truth he has come, but with out a doubt the author has given us a closer insight into the facts and challenges that families, patients, and care agencies experience. I think it is quite a feat to write a novel about mental illness. The authoer has managed this and done so with great care. It's a book that will sit with me for a long time. One to keep on the book shelf and re-read. When I started this novel I had a feeling I would only appreciate it's true value at the end - this is certainly true and I would urge all readers to persevere - it's worth it. It's a story that is sad, but also one of hope.

  27. Marilyn Taylor 04:30, 1 May 2013

    No.1 Ladies. Mairi's comment above rings true! I remember watching an American film a very, very, very long time ago. A woman is incarcerated in a mental institution (character may have been played by actress June Allyson?) - lots of disturbing things happen. Twist in the Tale? She, it emerges, is the only person who is sane. So...... what is sanity?

  28. Marilyn Taylor 08:17, 1 May 2013

    Sandy of No.1 Ladies comments: " I thought this was a stunning book and I was absolutely gripped from the start. Writing in the first person absolutely worked for me - an intimate, tragic, sad and at times unbearably honest portrait of Matthew and his family. Full of what ifs and lots of hints and suggestions which hovered like shadows. A hugely accomplished debut novel tackling a big issue. What a journey for everyone, including the reader. It resolved beautifully without feeling contrived. Very effective and contrasting first and last sentences. I will be interested to see if Nathan Filer continues to write about mental health issues or try a different genre."

  29. Marilyn Taylor 09:55, 2 May 2013

    Margaret - No.1 Ladies writes: a wonderful book. Very compelling, I couldn't put it down. A very poignant story with flashes of humour. It shows a remarkable insight into the world of mental illness. The characters were very well depicted. Everyone should have a Nanny Noo! The story made a big impression and I would certainly recommend it.

  30. Darren John 12:41, 2 May 2013

    Our group had a mixed response to 'Shock of the Fall'. It was agreed by all that it is a very difficult topic to tackle in a mainstream novel. We did however have some issues that contributed to the mixed reviews. Several of our members have at times either worked with or known people under the care of mental health services. Some didn't feel that it felt authentic to their experiences. Of course, we agreed, the author's background in mental health professions must have influenced his writing. The differences in experience and reation to some scenes might have been a consequence of "post-code lottery provisions" to use a red-top cliche. Although the story arc was solid I personally couldn't connect my own experiences of mental health treatment with quite a 'child-like' narrator. But then that could be a personal challenge of connecting one form of mental illness experience to another. We found it a challenging novel to love however we could see why many people seem to be so enthusiastic about the novel. We think the book would connect more to a younger-generation than perhaps we had in our group because it can, in some points be quite abrasive.

  31. Liz Binks 03:07, 2 May 2013

    Annette Morris, Book Swap: The voice of Matthew is totally believable as he takes us through the story, fragment by fragment, of a family holiday that goes tragically wrong and the far reaching and life destroying consequences that followed. Matthew as a child is delightfully mischievous yet very caring and his guilt and subsequent decline into schizophrenia is heartwrenching. I loved the font changes and the illustrations - they add a whole new dimension. I'm already recommending the book to everyone. Thanks Nathan!

  32. Liz Binks 03:13, 2 May 2013

    On behalf of a reader at Book Swap Reading Group: 'I very much enjoyed this book. It was a journey through madness and grief that kept me held till the conclusion. I liked how it was narrated by Matt and that you could feel him growing older as it went on. It was a great insight into the mental hospital system. I would recommend this book highly and I look forward to more publications by this author.'

  33. Liz Binks 03:15, 2 May 2013

    On behalf of Diane Zlifford, Book Swap: 'This is a remarkable book - from the first sentence I was hooked. Characters jump from the page and the narrator earns the reader's understanding'

  34. Liz Binks 03:17, 2 May 2013

    On behalf of Janet Taylor, Book Swap: 'Loved it. I teach special needs children myself and have often encountered mums who teach them at home. A very moving book; an insight into the extreme difficulties of living with the illness and the boredom and impersonal treatment when in hospital. Life is so tricky if you don't fit the mould.'

  35. Liz Binks 03:18, 2 May 2013

    On behalf of Janet Taylor, Book Swap: 'Loved it. I teach special needs children myself and have often encountered mums who teach them at home. A very moving book; an insight into the extreme difficulties of living with the illness and the boredom and impersonal treatment when in hospital. Life is so tricky if you don't fit the mould.'

  36. Liz Binks 03:22, 2 May 2013

    On behalf of Alison Hamper at Talking Ladies Book Group: 'THE SHOCK OF THE FALL is a story that grips you from beginning to end. The middle is tough but the message is strong and it's a great insight into mental illness. I recommend it!'

  37. Liz Binks 03:24, 2 May 2013

    On behalf a reader at West Rainton Book Group: 'I had to finish it - a great insight into mental illness written by someone who has experience of it, albeit from the caring side. What a merry-go-round existence Matthew has - very sad. I would recommend it'

  38. Liz Binks 03:27, 2 May 2013

    On behalf of Jenny, a reading group member: 'I enjoyed the book very much; I found the story entirely believable. I liked reading the voice of Matt as a child and as an adult. It was painful to read him whilst he was ill, but this gave insight and understanding into his experience. I think this book has the potential to do for schizophrenia what THE CURIOUS INCIDENT OF THE DOG IN THE NIGHT-TIME' did for autism.'

  39. Liz Binks 03:28, 2 May 2013

    On behalf of a reading group member: 'What a wonderful book - so moving and sad. I wanted to give Matthew a big hug and make things better for him. Highly recommended.'

  40. Liz Binks 03:35, 2 May 2013

    On behalf of a reading group member: 'I loved this book, even though it was sad. Matthew's experiences felt very authentic. I felt great sympathy for his family, who did their best in difficult circumstances. The conversational style in which it was written really drew me in to the story and helped me to realize what it must be like to live with schizophrenia. I've always thought schizophrenics were scary people but I'll try to be a bit more understanding in the future.'

  41. Liz Binks 03:42, 2 May 2013

    On behalf of a reading group member: 'This book reminded me of THE CURIOUS INCIDENT OF THE DOG IN THE NIGHT-TIME. The narrator had a very distinctive voice which was very engaging. It provided a sympathetic insight into mental illness.'

  42. Liz Binks 03:48, 2 May 2013

    On behalf of a reading group member: 'A captivating portrait of grief and mental illness that kept me reading late into the night. The author has a light touch and tells the story of Matthew's mental illness sensitively. It deserves to be widely read.'

  43. Liz Binks 04:16, 2 May 2013

    On behalf of a reading group: 'This author clearly knows his topic. Each separate disjointed chapter slots in like a piece of a jigsaw, and the picture becomes clearer as the book progresses. It is a brilliant representation of a schizophrenic, very gently and sympathetically written. The different styles of print and writing and illustration within the novel hold the interest of the reader, and all contribute to the understanding of the whole. In my opinion, this book has the same impact as THE CURIOUS INCIDENT OF THE DOG IN THE NIGHT-TIME.'

  44. Liz Binks 04:19, 2 May 2013

    On behalf of a reading group member: 'For something completely different, I can recommend THE SHOCK OF THE FALL. It is an intimate story written through the eyes of a young boy, Matthew, describing in great detail the progression of his illness, the loss of his brother, Simon, and how it affected him. The insight into mental illness is both disturbing and thought-provoking, at the same time it is a very compelling story.'

  45. Liz Binks 04:22, 2 May 2013

    On behalf of a reading group member: 'The author is a mental health worker and he has used his professional expertise to write this very readable, sad and moving debut novel. The book is about Matthew and his descent into mental illness, highlighting the effect it has on his family and friends, and his feelings of guilt. It is a touching tale which stays with you after the final page.'

  46. Liz Binks 04:24, 2 May 2013

    On behalf of a reading group member: 'A strangely compelling book to read. Such a sad story, leaving so many mental scars. Nathan writes with insight into the world of mental health care, the confusion, the lethargy, the sometimes inadequacies of 'care in the community'. Altogether a very interesting read, giving us as observers knowledge of how a certain incident in one's life can leave such lasting scars, to live with and through.'

  47. Liz Binks 09:25, 3 May 2013

    On behalf of Sarah Hamilton, Random Things: 'There are moments of humour and parts that will lift your spirits. This is one that will stay with me for a long time.'

  48. Liz Binks 09:27, 3 May 2013

    On behalf of Teresa Majury: 'This is a beautifully written, moving story - from the fleeting memories of a holiday in France to the stultifying routine of an acute psychiatric ward - eat, sleep, smoke... It's a novel that will stay with me when others have disappeared into the ether. You won't forget Matthew in a hurry and you cannot fail to wish him well...or just to keep his head above water.'

  49. Liz Binks 09:32, 3 May 2013

    On behalf of Lisa, Random Things: 'A brilliant and mesmerising debut novel. It's a very moving and sincere account of mental health problems and how they affect not just the person diagnosed but the family, friends and those who work with the affected; it dispels the myths and stigmas that generally surround the mentally ill and gives hope and understanding. It's a very human and humbling account of what it is like to be mentally ill and no one can fail to be touched by Matt's story. I could not stop reading this and the end gave cause for a tear or two.'

  50. Liz Binks 09:35, 3 May 2013

    On behalf of Karen Cocking, Random Things: 'Matthew has a brutally honest voice and this is a compelling and moving account of how the aftermath of a tragic event can fracture a family. Matthew tells his story with both clarity and confusion - at times it was difficult to follow what was real, which makes the story even more realistic. It is quite clear that a lot of research has gone into this book owing to Nathan Filer's experience as a mental health nurse. It is an excellent debut novel and the author deserves every success.'

  51. Liz Binks 09:40, 3 May 2013

    On behalf of Jo Barton, Random Things: 'Perceptively written from the outset, THE SHOCK OF THE FALL reveals a challenging journey through the minefield of mental ilness, and encapsulates a story which begins with overwhelming tragedy. The heartbreak of the story is revealed slowly, and written in Matthew's own indomitable style, we learn about his life, the burden of guilt and grief which he carries like a yoke, and the way in which both he and his parents tried to rationalise the burden of survival. There is no doubt this is a skilful debut novel. Nathan Filer has used his own experiences as a mental health professional to write a tender, tragic and beautifully depicted story.'

  52. Liz Binks 09:43, 3 May 2013

    On behalf of Debbie Heart, Random Things: 'A stunning debut novel. As we follow the story we are drawn in to Matthew's thought processes - all transferred using a variety of techniques: different typefaces, non-linear writing, diagrams, repetition and jumping around; all of which give the reader a taste of Matthew's thinking. Highly recommended.'

  53. Rosemary Kenyon 09:57, 3 May 2013

    Good read, the thoughts and feelings of Matt with his mental health problems seemed very believable. It could affect any of us!

  54. Rosemary Kenyon 10:08, 3 May 2013

    The Shock of the Fall - By using Matt as the narrator, the author has given the reader a good insight into mental illness. The subject is dealt with, with sympathy and understanding. The characters of family, friends, patients and staff slowly develop as the story goes back and forth pulling the various strands together. A good decent caring family, torn asunder by tragedy makes for a sad story but finally there is hope at the end. Matt is shown throughout struggling with the turmoil. We see glimpses of a decent young boy and the author cleverly portrays him as a human being in all the different stages of behaviour. The disjointed style, emphasises his state of mind and makes for an intriguing read. (on behalf of Prudhoe Library reading group).

  55. Liz Binks 10:15, 3 May 2013

    On behalf of Angi, Random Things: 'In the opening chapter of Nathan Filer's debut novel the narrator Matthew introduces his brother, and then says that "in a couple of pages he'll be dead. And he was never the same after that." The strange phrasing of this introduction establishes the tone of the novel. Nearly a decade after Simon's sudden death, nineteen year old Matthew is a schizophrenic with a history of psychotic drugs, assault and self-abuse. Through his eyes we explore the impact on the family of Simon's death and his own subsequent descent into mania. The story is fragmented, disjointed, non-linear. Matthew's reasoning is sometimes logical, occasionally nonsensical, often confused. As we follow his struggle to understand and reinterpret events we gain a growing insight into his disturbed world. If that sounds bleak, well, sometimes it is. But there are flashes of humour and always there is hope. Matthew is surrounded by a loving family who do their best to help and support him. Nanny Noo in particular is a wonderful character. The deeper sadness is our awareness that many are not so fortunate. As a registered mental health nurse, Filer brings professional expertise to the narrative. He writes eloquently about both residential and community care, and his descriptions of the ward and day centre are evocative and though-provoking. His empathy for Matthew shines through and his choice of language and his detailed and quirky observations. For anyone with experience of dealing with mental health issues (and the Mind website suggests that one in four of us are affected) this is not a 'comfortable' read. I found myself sobbing as much for his family as for Matthew himself.'

  56. Charlotte Cray 12:18, 3 May 2013

    On behalf of a Reading Group member: Everyone should read this book! An emotional and engaging read and should be on the secondary school curriculum. Highly recommended. 11/10.

  57. Charlotte Cray 12:20, 3 May 2013

    Julie Wilson: Wonderful, sad, funny and inspiring. As an ex-psychiatric nurse in the 80’s I recognized those wards. Best description of schizophrenia, “the illness that sounds like and has the shape of a snake”, I have ever read.

  58. Charlotte Cray 12:22, 3 May 2013

    Christine from Books and Babble Reading Group, Hall Green Library, Birmingham:A compelling insight into living with mental illness and the effects of guilt and grief. It is quirky, humorous, sad, at times heart-rending but never depressing. I loved this book and would highly recommend it to anyone. The story has stayed with me long after I finished the last page.

  59. Charlotte Cray 01:08, 3 May 2013

    Reading Group member Theresa: Really interesting to have a novel from a mental health patients view. Seemed very atmospheric of psychiatric wards. I really enjoyed it and would recommend it. Good insight into someone with mental health problems.

  60. Charlotte Cray 01:16, 3 May 2013

    Sue, Books and Babble Reading Group, Hall Green Library, Birmingham: I enjoyed this book very much – it gave me a good insight into serious mental illness but was also a very funny read, so congratulations on putting those two together!

  61. Charlotte Cray 01:18, 3 May 2013

    On behalf of a Reading Group member: You might think that Nathan Filer’s story about a boy’s descent into mental illness would be sad and boring; it is not; it is poetic, quirky and a delight. The fumbled plot moving from Simon’s death, after Simon’s death, flat, care centre and hospital ward reflects the confusion of Matt’s thoughts very well. All the characters are well defined and likeable and at the end you feel hopeful for Matt and his family and have gained an insight into what it is to live with schizophrenia for the patient and his family.

  62. Marilyn Taylor 05:49, 3 May 2013

    Carol W of No.1 Ladies writes: "I thoroughly enjoyed this book. The style - the short sentences and the repetition of some of the incidents helped to give some idea of what an illness such as Matthew's must be like. What came across for me, was how difficult it must be for friends and family to cope with a person suffering from mental illness. Nanny Noo certainly came out best in this respect. I was engossed all the way through this book and couldn't wait to see how it would end. I was not disappointed."

  63. Shadforth WI Book Group 08:48, 3 May 2013

    This is a good, but a sad story. The author is registered mental health nurse and his experience makes the story seem real. This is the story of Matthew Homes a schizophrenic, who blames himself for the death of his beloved older brother Simon who had downs syndrome. Simon was 10 and Matthew was 6 at the time. The story is an insight into Matthew’s mind. He still sees his brother with him and he is in and out of mental hospitals and treatment. The story starts in Matthew’s late teens/early 20s, intertwining with the back story of his parents grief, help, his Nan and what happened to Simon, and how Matthew is able to get some closure by arranging a memorial party for his brother, with his family, parents cousins grandparents.

  64. Marilyn Taylor 08:49, 4 May 2013

    Sheila of No.1 Ladies writes:" Written from start to finish with great insight. The journey through Matthew's mental illness, using different styles of fonts, short chapters and line drawings etc, is so well done and enables the reader to appreciate the grasshopper mind of Matthew. The author conveys so perceptively the way Matthew at his young age and until the end of the novel blames himself for his brother's death and how he thinks everyone else blames him - Mum, Dad, school pupils and staff and all his neighbours - Nanny Noo and grandad are perhaps the only ones who he feels are on his side and whose relationship with him is consistent in his very unsettled life. The portrayal of the staff in the Institution was very well written - constant change; different ideas and rules etc. I so enjoyed this book - very well written and look forward to reading the author's next novel."

  65. Charlotte Cray 09:28, 13 May 2013

    On behalf of a reading group member: 'An absorbing and excellent book giving much insight into this particular type of mental health problem. It leaves one wondering how much Matt was affected by both the death of his brother and the mental health of his mother. I found especially interesting Matt's relationship with the workers attempting to care for him. It seemed an impossible task and I presume this was written from the standpoint of experience. An amazing first novel. I hope there will be more.'

  66. Charlotte Cray 09:46, 13 May 2013

    On behalf of a reading group member: 'Initially I felt the book was a touch gimmicky (perhaps trying to sound like "The Boy in Striped Pyjamas") - but gradually it became very real and gripping, and the sadness came through quite overwhelmingly. There is also a very genuine dimension of social/ medical critique in it which makes the book a small masterpiece, EXCELLENT!'

  67. Charlotte Cray 10:48, 13 May 2013

    On behalf of a reading group member: 'Begs to be passed on. It helps one to understand the torment of mental illness for the sick and their family and friends. Uplifting as well as sad and funny, there are so many people willing Matt to recover. I loved the ant farm and the sketch of characters of the Grandparents. The author is sensitive to the needs of the family and of others who grieve. Amusingly and sympathetically drawn professionals - police, mental health workers both. Thank you.'

  68. Denise Sparrowhawk 04:30, 16 May 2013

    On behalf of Marian, Hartfields Reading Group. I was sorry to miss this months meeting as I think this is the best and most well written book we have had for ages. Although it is unutterably sad, it is full of sympathy and empathy with its characters. Matthew is grieving for his twin brother Simon...Matthew can remember when the family had happy times when the boys were young, but they now seem far away and Matthew blames himself for his brother's death. The saddest line is Ithink, "I opened the door and stepped outside into the last hour of my brother's life" ...I think the book cover shows the loss of the carefree days, like the tree of forbidden fuit in the garden of Eden, the carefree days can never be recapturedand will never come again. I was really moved by this story.

  69. Denise Sparrowhawk 04:41, 16 May 2013

    On behalf of a reading group member - Hartlepool Central Friday Reading Group: By the time I had read the first paragraph I was completely captivated.The author has the knack of touching our most tender feelings. His description of the love within that fractured little family was heart-rending to read. It was a devastatingly sad story, and told without pretention and with great feeling.

  70. Charlotte Cray 09:58, 20 May 2013

    On behalf of Jacky Ash, Lent Rise Book Group: 'I found this book very well written and easy to read. I really liked Matthew as a character and you feel so sorry for him as he gradually progresses into a slow mental decline. You can tell Nathan Filer has an extensive knowledge on this subject. It made me think whether Matthew would have still suffered if his brother Simon had not died. I believe he was always going to suffer.'

  71. Charlotte Cray 10:00, 20 May 2013

    On behalf of Sarah Anderson, Lent Rise Book Group: 'This was a hard read covering the difficult topic of mental health. Matthew's character was believable and showed the despair mental illness causes.'

  72. Charlotte Cray 10:03, 20 May 2013

    On behalf of Julie Colgate, Lent Rise Book Group: 'A difficult read covering mental health issues. The story tells of the life of Matthew and how he deals with the death of his brother and his decline into the despair of mental health. A very up to date topic of this time. The whole concept made me think about how families cope on this very difficult subject. Lots of knowledge on the subject by the author.'

  73. Charlotte Cray 10:16, 20 May 2013

    On behalf of Debbie Hert, a reading group member: 'A stunning debut novel. As we follow the story we are drawn in to Matthew's thought processes - all transferred using a variety of techniques: different typefaces, non-linear writing, diagrams, repetition, jumping around, going off on a tangent. All of which give the reader a taste of Matthew's thinking. Highly recommended.'

  74. Lisa Wood 10:09, 23 May 2013

    No 1 Ladies Book Club: What a thought-provoking read! I loved the way the story was written as Matthew remembered it and as though he was actually speaking to the reader, "No you haven't met so-and-so yet......." Absolutely heartbreaking that he blamed himself for what happened to Simon, but heartwarming in the loving way he remembered his brother. My heart went out to his parents too - how tragic, coping with their own grief (and fragile state of mind), but trying so hard to support their other son who so obviously wasn't coping and was on a mental decline. Thank goodness for Nanny Noo! Mental illness; a very difficult subject to write about, but I thought Nathan Filer did so convincingly and compassionately. An excellent read.

  75. Charlotte Cray 10:19, 13 June 2013

    On behalf of Lisa, a reading group member: 'A brilliant and mesmerising debut novel. It's a very moving and sincere account of mental health problems and how they affect not just the person diagnosed but the family, friends and those who work with the affected; it dispels the myths and stigmas that generally surround the mentally ill and gives hope and understanding. It's a very humbling account of what it is like to be one of the mentally ill and no one can fail to be touchd by Matt's story. I could not stop reading this and the end even gave cause for a tear or two.'

  76. Cordula von der Assen 04:10, 22 August 2013

    A very engaging read, as the author speaks directly to the reader and involves her in his thinking, it's like a constant dialogue where he guesses what the reader might think or expect. Very well written. I've got a lot of experience in the field of mental health, and was very pleasantly surprised how accurately Nathan Filer portrays patients' and professionals' behaviour; there is a scene where a staff member new to the mental health ward isn't sure whether patients are allowed to borrow the nursing office's English dictionary, that sounds so accurately lifted out of real life it's funny, touching, and poignant. I loved the "thriller"-style set-up of the book as well; the central mystery is played with and slowly, peelingly revealed, and concludes in a realistic enough way as to not be schmaltzy, but happily, roundly, and satisfyingly enough to still get the full thrill of a really happy ending. The more I think abouti t, the more I think that it's an amazing novel, and I'm almost scared of Nathan Filer's second book (which I'm sure will be coming one day or another) because it might well be a letdown, after this success. A greatly engaging read, and a good book for people to gain insight into the mental health system as well, as it's written with great knowledge and also a lot of empathy for everyone. It might not really capture 100% the average schizophrenic's thinking, but it's so empathetic and humane, that that doesn't bother me too much. These books are important, just like Clare Allen's Poppy SHakespeare. Very good book.

  77. Cordula von der Assen 04:11, 22 August 2013

    On behalf of Clapton Library Reading Group member: I enjoyed this book. Original from the beginning in its use of type face; the voice of the author; expressed a great deal of empathy for his main character Matthew. Nathan Filer brought Matthew to life. I was engaged from start to finish.

  78. Cordula von der Assen 12:48, 10 September 2013

    On behalf of Clapton library reading group member: I enjoyed reading the book, although the subject matter would not have attracted me to read it had it not been a reading agency choice. The characters were well drawn, the emotions believable and the events were not far-fetched: There was no happy ending and this seemed more realistic - Matt was ill, but he was dealing with it. I also liked the way "professionals" were shown - they were not lacking empathy, but were struggling human beings. I would recommend this book because if one thought about what one was reading and didn't simply read it as a story, it makes one question the whole concept of madness and our attitude toward it.