Stratford-Upon-Avon is beautiful. It is full of traditional sweet shops and pubs, the Royal Shakespeare Company, and the Butterfly Farm. It is a place tourists flock to on sunny days, taking in Shakespeare’s birthplace, the River Avon, and all this medieval market town has to offer. It is one of my favourite places on earth – I love it. And so when my family and I visited last week, I knew I wanted to write a post about my day there. However, we were too early for the River Festival, and too late to enjoy the sunny weather, and so we spent most of our time visiting book shops. I know now that a full blog post about Stratford-Upon-Avon will have to wait, and that the best I could do to produce a post somewhat Stratford related was to write about the books I found whilst out and about.
I’m excited to write this post, as it has been a long, long while since my last book review. So let’s begin!
‘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.’
The first book I want to share is a debut novel by Nathan Filer, who is a mental health nurse and a creative writing lecturer at Bath Spa University. It has won multiple literary awards, including the Betty Trask Prize and has been translated into thirty+ languages.
Before finding this book in Stratford, I had never heard of it before. It’s shocking really, as when I shared my find with my friends, they were horrified that I’d never been suggested it. The fact my friends were already big fans of this book only made me more excited to read it.
Without oversharing, The Shock of the Fall‘s protagonist is a schizophrenic named Matthew Homes. He is a nineteen-year old from Bristol, struggling to deal with the tragic death of his older brother, Simon, which occurred a decade earlier.
What I love so far about this book [*I still have a few pages left to read*] is the way such sensitive topics are dealt with. The book is ripe with compassion and understanding when it comes to subjects such as mental illness, Down Syndrome, and the heartache of losing a loved one. Matthew has dealt with struggles and stigma throughout his life, and Filer really brings that out in his writing. Chapters will make you flinch, make you cry, make you laugh, as Matthew deals with his guilt and searches for a greater understanding.
Filer tells Matthew’s story as if he is slowly putting together and completing a jigsaw puzzle. The book is full of doodles and typeface , which some readers have reviewed as making the book more difficult to engage with, but I feel make your journey through Matthew’s story that much more compelling.
In all [*yes, I know it seems a little odd to rate the book without finishing the final pages, but I really do not think my opinion is going to change*], The Shock of the Fall is a touching and sensitive book. It is a total page-tuner that you could complete in one sitting. Filer’s debut novel is a breath of fresh air when it comes to books that explore mental illness. His research, along with his previous job as a nurse, provides his writing with such gravitas as you can see he deeply cares about how is character is perceived.
Rating: 4.9/5 [*Probably the best book I have read this year, so far*]
‘For over twenty years, the dark secrets of the biggest criminal manhunt in British history have remained a closed book – until now. WICKED BEYOND BELIEF is a powerful indictment of the calamitous investigation that logged over two million manhours of police work; its revelation of crucial new evidence relating to Peter Sutcliffe’s meticulously planned killing methods caused headlines in the newspapers (‘Mad, bad – or both?); and it argues convincingly that Sutcliffe’s crimes were far more extensive than hitherto admitted.
With exclusive access to the detectives involved, to pathologist’s archives and the Home Office’s own top secret Byford Report into the police handling of the case, the story of the hunt reads as tensely as any thriller.’
The second book I want to share is Wicked Beyond Belief: The Hunt for the Yorkshire Ripper by Michael Bilton.
My friends and family know I am utterly obsessed with serial killer documentaries and books, and so when I saw this in a small true crime section, I knew I had to have it. It was quite pricey compared to the other books I purchased [*£3.50*], but I’m so enthralled by books such as these that I couldn’t resist.
For those unfamiliar with the case, the hunt for Yorkshire Ripper, Peter Sutcliffe, came under a lot of controversy. Sutcliffe had been interviewed multiple times throughout the enquiry into the grisly murders and attacks, but police officers failed to piece together his involvement until years after the killings started. Spanning from 1975 until 1980, Peter Sutcliffe murdered thirteen women and attempted to murder seven others. In the last few days, in fact, it has been alleged that 71 year old Sutcliffe has confessed to a vicious attack on a fourteen-year-old girl with a hammer. [*Click here for the HuffPost article*]
This books details everything involved with the investigation – pictures also included. This includes details about the hoax tapes and letters, the odd search for that Sunderland accent, and an appendix containing Sutcliffe’s arrest statement.
[NOTE: The book tends to focus more on the investigation and the victims than the Ripper himself.]
The last two books I wish to share, Oz: Into The Wild by Christopher Golden and classic novel Persuasion by Jane Austen, are the books I am yet to read. Because of this, I am just going to discuss what made me choose both books, and share what knowledge I know about them.
‘Bitten by his werewolf cousin Jordy, Oz has struggled with the forces of evil that transform him into a beast three nights of each month. Those who care about him have learned to deal with his alter ego and accept him for who he is.
But Oz himself isn’t sure who he really is. Part human, part dangerous animal, he must constantly question his basic nature, and worried that he might, as the wolf, bring harm to his loved ones. Therefore, with great difficulty, he leaves Sunnydale and sets off on a course toward enlightenment. Giles has told him of a Watcher in the Fiji Islands who might help him transcend the lunar pull.
Oz’s journeys take him from Tibet to Australia, and even to Hong Kong. Far-flung regions and exotic cultures provide new understandings of consciousness and human nature. Before long, though, he realizes that he must gain control of his inner wolf sooner rather than later – or risk finding himself not predator, but rather, prey…’
In all truth, I have never been a giant Buffy the Vampire Slayer fan. I’ve watched a few episodes here and there – I remember vividly the moment Buffy killed Angel, but still have no idea why. And I’ve never even heard of the character Oz until now. But I thought I’d give this book a shot because, well, why not? Maybe, if I like it, I’ll actually watch the entire Buffy series.
‘Persuasion, Jane Austen’s last novel, is a moving, masterly and elegiac love story tinged with the heartache of missed opportunities.
It tells the story of Anne Elliot, who, persuaded to break off her engagement to the man she loved because he was not successful enough, has never forgotten him. When he returns, he brings with him a tantalizing second chance of happiness…’
Finally, whenever you go book shopping it’s always a good idea to pick up a classic. It’s how I discovered my favourite all time book, Wuthering Heights. Persuasion is the last novel completed by Jane Austen, and was published a few months after her death in 1818.
I shall look forward to eventually reading this book, and hopefully reviewing it, and Oz, sometime in the near future.
Got a favourite book you want to recommend? Drop a comment below, and share with others why it is your favourite.