Monday, 5 May 2014
The Shock of the Fall: Nathan Filer (England)
My own family has been touched by mental illness, with a sister who experiences schizophrenia, and a father (now deceased) who had severe depression, so this for me was a much read, and a poignant one at that, having recently re-established contact with said sister.
It was for me then a somewhat difficult and challenging read, written as it is from the perspective of the experiencer. I choose to use this word rather than sufferer because of its negative conations. We are introduced to Matt and his brother Simon, who has Downs syndrome at the beginning of the book, on a typical seaside family holiday. The title of the book comes from what happens next when Matt encounters a young girl who is burying her doll - it later turns out this doll is symbolic of the girls mother who has herself recently died. Matt reaches out to comfort the girl and falls, and the story goes on from there. I will not say too much more as it would only act as a spoiler.
The book though focusses very much on the effects that Matt's illness has on him - its symptoms and its causes, most of which only become clear towards the end. This is why I found it as times such uncomfortable reading, but I persevered and am glad that I did.
There is no happy ending for Matt, and he does not get miraculously better, but he does in his own way come to terms with what happened to his brother and the role that he played in this. In the process of doing this he also manages to mend relationships with the rest of his family and help them.
I can see exactly why this book won the Costa Prize and cannot think of a more worthy winner. This for me would also unhesitatingly be 5 stars.