Debut novelist and ex mental health nurse Nathan Filer, who now lectures in creative writing, has beaten Kate Atkinson to the overall Costa prize with ‘The Shock of the Fall’. He is the fifth debut novelist to win. The book was 11/2 only fourth favourite to win, a way behind Kate Atkinson’s Life after Life at 11/8.
He wins £30,000 for the prize, known as the Whitbread until 2005. Now in its 42nd year, it aims to reward enjoyability. The judges, who were reported to be ‘not quite unanimous,’ were chaired by Rose Tremain and included
Natascha McElhone, Pointless expert Richard Osman, singer Sharleen Spiteri, and authors and writers Gerard Woodward, Emma Kennedy, Anne de Courcy, Matthew Cain and John Burnside.
The book is narrated by Bristol boy Matthew from the age of five to his early 20s and is a gripping account of his descent into schizophrenic illness following the death of his younger brother. It is told when he is at school, when he is smoking too much marijuana in a grotty flat and from the psychiatric wards he ends up in. ‘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 pages he’ll be dead. And he was never the same after that.’ .