Tuesday, March 03, 2015

Book Review [2015:8] The Shock of The Fall by Nathan Filer

320 pages

I reluctantly read this book as it was one of the texts for our book club. Usually I steer well clear of books dealing with mental illness.
The protagonist of this book is a young man who has schizophrenia (which the author annoyingly and persistently refers to as "a disease with the shape and sound of a snake". What on earth does that mean?) and it charts his decline from seeming good mental health as a child to complete loss of self-awareness, abandonment of medication, and sectioning.
It's unclear to me whether the author us trying to make a comment on the care of mentally ill people in this country. His description of the psychiatric ward is cold, and the care in the community is ineffective. There were a few glimmers of light in the descriptions of family, and their efforts to relate and care for Matthew. However, many have praised this book, and its descriptions of mental heath, most notably to me, Jo Brand, so maybe I just don't get it. I'm struggling to think of a good part to comment on, but there was a very poignant few lines where Matthew describes life on the ward and notes that the mugs there are all provided by drug company reps and are stamped with the "brands of medication we hate". I feel pretty bad saying that was the best bit of the book, but I thought it was poignant and had something to say about life on a psych ward.
I did love the final description of the psychosis: the coming together of all the random odd things that have been going on, and the realisation of what exactly has been going on in Matthew's mind. But it wasn't enough to pull the book out of the 'out' tray.
Central topics aside, the book reads like an exercise in creative writing. Suspense is crudely created where the story does not require it, and for the first few chapters an odd style is adopted that owes a lot to the Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time. As psychosis deepens, text changes suddenly to explain that Matt is using a typewriter. Presumably the reader is unable to imagine this without the excess serif.
It's not a book I'll be reading again.

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