I read The Shock of the Fall in two days, in pretty much two sittings. I was gripped from the very first to the very last page and believe me when I say that is rare.
The novel starts with Matt’s harrowing narration of the tragic event that the book centres around:
‘I’ll tell you what happened because it will be a good way to introduce my 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.’
Written in 2013 the novel is narrated by 19 year-old Matthew Holmes and follows his life in the aftermath of the tragic loss of his brother. Readers watch as Matt struggles with Schizophrenia and are there every step of the way through his struggles with both the smaller and the bigger elements of life. The unreliable stream of consciousness-style narration makes the story even more poignant as the reader is able to experience first hand the horrifying reality of mental illness.
Matt is entirely consumed by the death of his brother and at just nineteen he feels unable to move forwards in his life. This fact is difficult to get away from and so The Shock of the Fall is both harrowing and at times difficult to read but that is because it is heartbreakingly real. Rather than focusing directly on the death of Simon, this information is drip-fed into the main story which focuses heavily on the aftermath of his death, on Matt’s relationships with those around him and works to highlight just how damaging a tragic event such as this can be on the mind.
And yet, in between the more difficult scenes and despite its sensitive topic, the novel is a surprisingly easy read. The narrative flits between being serious and being humorous, a balance that is carefully maintained and definitely needed in a suspense novel of this sort. And while not everyone will be able to relate to the grief that resonates throughout, nor will everyone be able to relate to Matt’s daily battles with his mental health, everyone will be able to connect with the characters in some way because they are simply too realistic to be misunderstood entirely.
I found myself considering the story long after I had put the book down and it took me days to pick up another book as I didn’t believe that anything could live up to the fantastic one that I had just read. While this may not be a book that everyone can read, it is a book that I wholeheartedly recommend and one that I strongly believe will successfully educate each and every reader that picks it up.