A few years ago, I went through a phase where I read tons and tons of books about characters with illnesses. I quickly burned myself out on them because they all started to feel similar. I was hesitant to read The Shock of the Fall because I’m still feeling the illness-book burnout. However, the author of this book is a nurse, so I thought he’d have a unique take on the topic.
The book’s narrator, Nineteen-year-old Matt, has been struggling with schizophrenia for most of his life. This novel is written as a document that Matt types up and illustrates. He tells the story of his brother’s death, his dysfunctional relationship with his mother, and his time in a hospital.
I think the author does have an interesting take on the illness topic. I like that we get to see the business side of running a hospital and how budget cuts impact the patients (or “service users”). The reader also gets to see how dehumanizing it can be to stay in a hospital long-term. The patients’ lives are boring. They have very little control over what happens to them. Sometimes they don’t even understand what’s happening, and the hospital workers can’t be bothered to explain.
Matt has a disorganized way of thinking, and the novel’s structure captures that well. He tells events out of order, repeats himself, and talks about things that happen only in his imagination. It’s obvious that something is not right with his mind. The story is a little confusing at first, but I got used to the structure quickly, and I ended up really liking it. The nonlinear structure shows Matt’s personality and what’s important to him.
I love Matt’s relationship with his father. At first, his father seems standoffish, but he just has unusual ways of showing his love. Instead of being affectionate, he has special names for Matt and writes messages on the walls. It’s sweet.
I think this book proved that I’m still suffering from illness-book burnout. I enjoyed the book, and I got through it quickly, but I found it predictable. It didn’t do much that I haven’t seen in dozens of other books that focus on illnesses.
Matt also doesn’t feel like a realistic nineteen-year-old to me. I was actually surprised when he said that he was nineteen because he sounds much older. I had to keep reminding myself that this is a teenager narrating.
This book didn’t blow my mind, but it’s an interesting enough way to spend a few hours.