The novel is a worthy winner, as moving, witty and pereceptive about Matt, about the way in which he keeps his dead brother alive within him, as about the grief of his parents and their sometimes inept but loving attempts to help him. The dialogue is wonderfully deft, the story moves at a lickety split pace and even the smallest characters are vividly described.
"I have an illness, a disease with the shape and sound of a snake. Whenever I learn something new, it learns it too … My illness knows everything I know. This was a difficult thing to get my head around." Matt Homes, a 19-year-old schizophrenic struggling within the mental health system, is conducting his own writing therapy, urgently bashing out his thoughts on an old typewriter and interspersing them with letters, doodles and sketches. The Shock of the Fall, which has just won the Costa prize for best first novel, is beautifully packaged, with drawings, varying typefaces and typographical tricks representing Matt's swelling bundle of papers. It is a gripping, exhilarating read.
Filer was a mental health nurse who has worked as a researcher in the academic unit of psychiatry at the University of Bristol, and on in-patient psychiatric wards. The scenes in which Matthew is sectioned are bittersweet and full of sharply droll details. "The mugs are provided by Drug Reps," Matthew notes in his journal. "They have the brands of the medication we hate stamped all over them."... It's an unsettling read but a perceptive and moving one. One image stayed with me. Matthew refers to his life as "watching my helium balloon slowly die".