It only took me a couple of sittings to devour The Shock of The Fall, my April read for ‘The Year in Books’. It’s the kind of novel that instantly grabs you – intense, darkly funny, and heart-breaking and heart-warming in equal measure.
The debut title from former mental health nurse Nathan Filer, it tells the story of Matt, a 19-year-old with schizophrenia who suffers from hallucinations involving his dead brother. It’s narrated by Matt himself through his writing therapy, and his observations are perceptive, raw and witty – if a little incoherent in places as his symptoms worsen. His words are interspersed with doodles, letters and medical notes that made me linger over every page, and I felt as if I were accompanying him on a very emotional struggle to come to terms with his condition and the loss of his sibling. But for me the most intriguing aspects of the novel were Matt’s admission that his memory is sketchy and his warning that readers are only getting his perspective on events. The book is laced with ambiguity as a result, and at times you’re left wondering what’s real and what isn’t – a very poignant way of portraying the confusion and turmoil caused by mental illness.
Like all my picks for ‘The Year in Books’, The Shock of the Fall is set in Bristol. To be honest the city doesn’t play a pivotal role, but I enjoyed seeing familiar places through Matt’s eyes. It only served to make his story all the more vivid, although the novel is so rounded and beautifully written that I would have enjoyed it no matter what the location. It’s like nothing else I’ve read, and I can’t wait to see what Filer comes up with next.
For my May choice, I’m heading back in time to the 18th century with The Fair Fight by Anna Freeman. It centres on a woman who escapes life in a brothel to become a champion street-fighter, and I’ve seen it described as ‘raucous’, ‘brave’ and ‘unflinching’. I’m looking forward to getting stuck in!
‘The Year in Books’ is run by Laura of Circle of Pine Trees, with the aim of encouraging people to read a book a month and share their recommendations. If you’re interested in taking part, just head over to the information page to find out more.