I’ve recently finished two awesome books, which are very similar in some ways. One is ‘The Shock Of The Fall‘, by Nathen Filer – Costa Book of the Year; and the other is ‘We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves‘ by Karen Joy Fowler, which was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize.
The Shock Of The Fall is Filer’s first novel. It’s blurb runs:
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 days, he’ll be dead. And he was never the same after that.
This is typical of the dark, touching, humour that appears throughout the novel. It’s written from the point of view of Matthew Homes, a nineteen year old still struggling to accept his brother’s death ten years on. It’s not just a comment on the all consuming impact of grief, though. The failings of the UK’s mental health system also comes into play, and here Nathan Filer’s job as a registered mental health nurse helps to create that extra amount of day-to-day detail which brings the story to life.
Plus, fonts and format have been played around with, so that it almost resembles a stack of paper, with typewritten pages, handwritten letters and the odd biro drawing. Matthew’s story is so real, so believable that it’s easy as a reader to feel empathy with his grief – I was verging on tears at least twice.
We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves also deals with the lasting effects of grief, and is also narrated by a young adult, a decade after experiencing sadness at a young age. Rosemary Cooke had a sister, Fern, her ‘whirlwind other half’, who vanished from her life in traumatising circumstances.
The premise of Fowler’s novel is quite unusual and strange, but, like Filer, she writes with detail and realism, and draws the reader into her world. There is a huge twist in this book which comes relatively towards the beginning. This makes the reader question all assumptions and leads the book on an entirely different path to what we expected.
I love the realism in We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves; the book informs you of some interesting facts to do with its subject, but it’s interesting and all tangled up in the emotions of Rosemary’s life. However, The Shock Of The Fall is definitely funnier and more relatable and thereby less straining to read.
So, to sum up: both books deal with grief. Both books deal with sibling love and rivalry. Both teach you something new about the world, but are still very fictional. I read both in a day, and I’m pleased to inform you that although at times they were almost heartbreaking, both left me smiling at the end.
Oh yeah, and you should definitely read both of them too 🙂 Any thoughts?