‘The Shock of the Fall’ by Nathan Filer

I hate to admit, I am a prejudiced reader. Although not in the usual sense.

The first prejudice is against hyper-hyped books. If they need such a marketing campaign, they probably aren’t worth the effort.

Every day I thank the universe because I got Harry Potter with a counter-hype introduction like: “I don’t think it’s very good, but you might as well read it.”

Well, okay, that was probably too harsh.

Second prejudice is for Creative Writing Courses. I point and laugh at books written for a Creative Writing Course (may it be university, master degree, or privately held).

So, when ‘The Shock of the Fall’ won two Costa Awards in 2013 (Book of the Year AND First Novel) and you could see Nathan Filer’s name pretty much everywhere in Bristol, well, I didn’t really mind.

What’s more, a dear friend of mine at the time was reading the book and I remember her saying: “Sure it’s a fine work, but I can’t seem to get involved into it too much. I can’t read more than one page before falling asleep.”

So you see, that didn’t help.

All because I found out that Nathan Filer wrote the book as result of a Creative Writing Master Degree.

So here we are. It took me two years to bring myself to opening the book and reading the first page. Well actually the first paragraph was enough, by the end of the page I had already rushed to buy it.

And shame on me for waiting, because it’s indeed a fine piece of work.

It’s the story of a boy, Matthew. He has a 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.”

Starting like that it sounds like a zombie story. Well, it is not.

It’s a recount of the events following Simon’s fall and the way Matthew’s mind found to cope with it: schizophrenia. Basically Matthew’s mind decided not to cope with it at all.

It’s smartly written and beautifully structured, a close-to-heart rendition of a troubled mind, zigzagging through events, hardly making sense. Maybe because of this lack of sense we get an idea of the feeling lying underneath.

If this is what usually comes out of a Creative Writing Master Degree, I might have to reconsider my whole stand against them.


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