Nathan Filer’s debut novel, The Shock of the Fall, was always going to be a hard act to follow. The story of a young schizophrenic grieving the loss of his brother won the Costa Book Award in 2013, sold more than half a million copies and has been translated into 30 languages. So it is a surprise that Filer has turned to non-fiction for his second book, although in many ways it feels like a natural sequel.
In The Heartland: Finding and Losing Schizophrenia, Filer asks us to spend time in the company of some extraordinary people whose lives have been affected by this strange and misunderstood condition. And as a former mental health nurse, he listens with compassion to their complex stories, interweaving them with his own meditative essays that debunk myths and challenge received wisdom.
“I have never read a more powerful book about mental health,” says Joanna Cannon, author of The Trouble with Goats and Sheep. “It has the ability to change the way people think about mental illness.”
Filer’s BBC Radio 4 documentary, The Mind in the Media, which explored portrayals of mental illness in fiction and journalism, was shortlisted for a Mind Media Award in 2017. He is currently a Reader in Creative Writing at Bath Spa University.