The Shock of the Fall by Nathan Filer and The Boy with the Top Knot by Sathnam Sanghera

(June 2014 Meetup)

The books:
The Shock of the Fall by Nathan Filer.
The Boy with the Top Knot  by Sathnam Sanghera.

Both books tackle the topic of Schizophrenia. The first is a fictional account of a young boy, Matt, coming to terms with the death of his brother, and his journey into adulthood while suffering from this illness. The latter is a non fictional memoir of a Punjabi boy growing up with his family in Wolverhampton, and his account of finding out that his father and sister both suffer from Schizophrenia but were unaware of this due to lack of English and awareness.

We loved….
How both books complimented each other; one was the experience of living with Schizophrenia, one was the experience of living with others who have Schizophrenia. We loved how much we learned about the subtleties of this illness and how much we learned of the struggles of immigration and living in Wolverhampton at that time. Both books were difficult to put down, and the consensus was that we were happy to have persevered with them. We liked how both books played with the timelines, and used lists, and letters. Oh, and we loved being outside and having Sarah all the way over from Australia for it, and also welcoming a new member, Chris.

We didn’t love….
…Drew’s Australian accent! and Lucy’s substandard ‘question tree’ in Michelle’s absence, and how the photos in The Boy with Top Knot didn’t show up well on the Kindle. We also thought this book was lightly self indulgent in the beginning, and how some bits dragged on a bit too much.

We disagreed….
While the vast majority loved The Shock of the Fall, there were a few members of the group who raised the interesting point that the dystopia created in the book was negated by the fact that the author used narrative techniques such as withholding information for suspense, thus rendering the troubled character a bit unrealistic in their eyes. However, someone explained the possible use of these techniques by quoting Richard Burton who says “When I played drunks I had to remain sober because I didn’t know how to play them when I was drunk”. While some enjoyed the range of fonts and styles which emulated the darting around of Matt’s mind, others found it distracting and that it made it difficult to follow.

We digressed….
…and talked about labels, and how they can inhibit and also help people with disabilities and mental heath problems. We talked about our own personal experiences of how labels have affected our lives. We talked about whether books like these will help to educate people on mental health, and also racial integration, and although we would like to think that they will, the valid point was made that these books will sadly only reach the people who want to be reached.

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