This beautiful, funny, sorrowful book is an impressively assured debut. Drawing on the realities of the modern day health services from the point of view of a ‘service user’, Nathan Filer has woven a tale of sibling love, family grief and mental disintegration that begins with a funeral for a doll at a Dorset campsite.
Filer has been interviewed extensively about the Costa Award-winning book, and is open about the influence of his work as a mental health nurse in creating the world of 19-year-old schizophrenic Matthew Homes. Strikingly, however, he has dug deep in Matt’s state of mind and has devised a variety of means to immerse us in it, including sketches, typefaces and, always, a heart-achingly upfront voice.
This first person account gives Filer a freedom that he has made full, and very skilful, use of. Flipping backwards and forwards through time gives him the opportunity to keep the suspense ramped up, as we revisit crucial moments and sometimes (now putting the unreliability of Matt’s narration to excellent use) encountering several different versions of the same scene. I found his unique style swept me along as I vied to find out the truth – what happened to Matt’s brother Simon on that family holiday in Devon? And what’s happened to Matt since? Continue reading