The Shock of the Fall is told from the perspective of a nineteen year old, Matt, whose brother died ten years ago. It is written fragmentally, past and present co-existing as he writes sporadically in therapy sessions, on a typewriter in his flat, in a high security mental health facility. In this way we are tunnel visioned into Matt's life. We are completely restricted in his emotions (which are many and varied), in his memory (which is visited regularly) and his mental state (which he is aware is poor).
The structure of the novel often reflects the fluctuations in Matt's mental health - even by the end of the story I wasn't entirely sure where (in linear terms) we were. This works in the novel's failure, and for me helped me feel immersed in Matt's confused world.
The voice of the novel is simultaneously child-like and poetic. There is a beautiful simplicity about the prose, and were it not for the references to drink and drugs I would often forget I was reading from the point of view of a young adult. Matt is very childlike in a number of ways, and very old before his time in others. Racked with guilt about his brother's death, he is stuck aged nine, yet his complex thoughts about life and death reveal an un-tapped intellectual ability beyond his years. Often funny, deeply sarcastic, Matt is a likable character despite his many flaws (the way he treats those who care about him, for example).
I really enjoyed this book. It serves as a good discussion of mental health, grief, and the social care system. It is also excellent as a piece of literature, and the writing is perfectly balanced - providing stability in an otherwise unstable novel.