Week Eight: The Shock of the Fall

The Shock of the Fall – by Nathan Filer

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A brilliant book this week – it did win the Costa Book of the Year after all – and I think deservedly so. The Shock of the Fall is one of those special books that does something different, makes you think, becomes your friend, is creative and just works. This is Matthew’s story, a young man living with a disease (his word) that can’t be seen, something which controls him – schizophrenia. But it’s about more than that – it’s a story of grief, of guilt and of a struggle for control. The book is written as a book within a book –  a recollection of Matthew’s experiences on a psychiatric ward, at a treatment centre, of his childhood experiences that triggered his mental illness and of the present day when he is writing his story. It’s very cleverly done – Matthew is the ultimate unreliable narrator and yet the story is complete authentic. It is his story as he wants it to be told, a collection of doodles, letters, diary entries, sections written on his typewriter. There is no real sense of time in the book – it jumps between the past and the present which can leave the reader quite disorientated at times. Despite all the sadness in the book and the difficult subject matter, this is not at all a difficult read – it is utterly immersive and compelling. Matthew says that he is not a nice person, but he really is – he is sharp, witty and quite charming, despite all his difficulties and I really felt that I was actually reading his story, rather than Nathan Filer’s. It’s great to read a book that sets out to do something different and completely pulls it off – definitely worth a read and I promise it will be well worth it!

I struggled to think of a recipe to match this book and did think about making something contrasting like black & white or sweet & sour to echo the highs and lows of the book. But really I felt that was a bit too crude and so instead decided to cook something that is reputed to boost mood and mental health. I did a bit of research and was upset to discover that chocolate doesn’t actually boost serotonin as it’s widely claimed to – apparently the good feelings it produces are because it reminds the eater of a pleasurable experience and people often seek comfort in it because of that association, rather than any actual psychical effect. Boo! So instead I decided to make something full of omega-3 – healthy fats which apparently boost mental wellbeing and are something lots of people don’t get enough of. I also added sweet potato to my dish which I think of as a ‘sunny’ food and it’s comforting and carby but also rich in vitamins. So I made…

Baked salmon with fennel & tomatoes served with sweet potato wedges and spinach

For my salmon, I used this recipe from BBC Good Food.

You need:

2 salmon fillets

2 bulbs of fennel

A pack of cherry tomatoes

A lemon

A herb of your choice (I used dill, they suggest parsley which personally I find a bit of a nothing herb, so it’s up to you)

Some olive oil

2 sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into wedges

Start by preparing your sweet potatoes and then plonk in a baking tray. Drizzle with olive oil, season and then put in the oven – they’ll need about 40 mins.

For the salmon dish, start by cutting your fennel into wedges and then boil in a pan of water for about 10mins. I’ve never done this before but actually works quite well as otherwise it can take ages to cook and still be quite tough. After 10mins, drain and then place in an oven dish, drizzle with oil and then bake in the oven. After about 10mins add the tomatoes, plus whatever herb you are using, zest of the lemon and the wispy fronds from the fennel. Lay the salmon fillets over the veg and add a squeeze of lemon juice. Bake for another 15mins until the salmon is cooked through. Serve with the sweet potato and any other veg you want – I had spinach which I love and is also very good for you and I just sauteed in butter. Serve, tuck in and get happy!!

Unfortunately forgot to take a pic, but it was delicious and healthy and if you don’t believe me, you can ask my friend Rhiannon who I made this for!

No idea what I am going to read this week, but please do join me next Sunday for the next installment! And let me know if you’ve read any of the books I’ve reviewed and disagree with me – would be good to get some debate going! Ciao for now.

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