I haven't read much for pleasure recently. I'm still working my way through my PhD poetics reading list and last week I rather unexpectedly (and possibly ill-advisedly) started writing something that may turn into a novel. Anyway, yesterday I decided to have a little break and I began reading The Shock of the Fall, a book that has been recommended to me on numerous occasions. Within a few minutes there was a problem - I realised that it was one of those books. You know the kind I mean; the ones you prop open with the help of a plate as you make the dinner; the ones you 'accidentally' place next to your laptop when you're supposed to be working; the ones you take with you when you're driving to pick the kids up from school, just in case they come out late and you unexpectedly have a spare five minutes of reading time.
Last night I went to bed with the light on. I read until midnight and then I played the 'just one more page game' for an hour. When I finally slept, I dreamed I was driving down the motorway, crying – I was dreaming the book.
This morning I took the kids to school and visited my gran. I came home and tried to do some writing but I gave up just before lunch time when I went upstairs, got in bed and finished The Shock of the Fall.
I should say I am not a nice person. Sometimes I try to be, but often I'm not.
So begins an absolutely gorgeous novel.
Haunted by events on a holiday nearly a decade ago, Matthew Homes writes his life story on a computer at the Hope Road Day Centre, and at home in his flat on a charity shop typewriter, a gift from his Nanny Noo. He includes drawings completed in Art Group, increasingly irritated letters from the Community Care Co-ordinator, helpful diagrams and fragments of confused thought that read like poems. The effect is a collage of a life altered by schizophrenia and debilitating guilt.
Filer’s touch is light and deft. Matthew’s neurotic mother and heartily chummy father are at once eminently likeable and smothering. Grandmother Nanny Noo is a wonderful character who hauls bags of shopping to her grandson’s skanky flat and makes him feel important by smoking sneaky menthol cigarettes in his presence. The Shock of the Fall won the 2013 Costa First Novel Award. The judges said,' It's hard to believe this is a first novel - it's so good it will make you feel a better person.' It is hard to believe that this is a first novel; it’s such an easy book to settle into, Matthew’s voice is assured, the narrative unfurls with such ease – the right amount of detail at exactly the right time, each ineffably sad moment balanced by lovely touches of humour. When I can bear to part with my copy I’m sending it to my sister. And I hope she loves it as much as I do.