When someone recommends a book so much that they give you their own copy of it to read, a mixture of excitement, intrigue and nervousness comes with it – and that’s exactly how it was when I was given The Shock of the Fall from my friend.
Although I had heard about this book before (it won the first Costa Book Award of the Year in 2013), I knew very little about it – other than what I was told on the blurb (which isn’t much):
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.
What stood out most to me is definitely the writing style and structure. The narrator of the story, a 19-year-old schizophrenic called Matt, talks directly to the reader in a simple but direct way. The author incorporates small details into the narrative which makes it very realistic, and therefore haunting. I liked this style: it made me feel engaged and involved in the story.
Similarly, Filer’s structure to this novel is just as clever. Every so often there is a change in setting and time, but it isn’t obviously presented. Instead the reader has to discover it and deduce the setting through the descriptions, as well as the change in font – it changes as the setting and time changes. I also loved the use of illustrations and diagrams.
The huge topic confronted in this book is mental illness. (There seems to be a recurring theme in my novels lately – Plath’s The Bell Jar too – although they are totally different!) This is a much more contemporary account on mental illness, with references to modern technology and culture. It was a nice change to read a novel set in our current time period.
Overall it wasn’t a bad novel: it had plenty of interesting concepts and handled the difficult topic brilliantly. Yet, it also didn’t have me wanting to stay up all night to finish it either. I’m not sure whether this was because of the plot or the intimidating nature of the topic…