Come and chat to Costa Prize winner Nathan Filer about THE SHOCK OF THE FALL on Tue 24 June, 9-10pm

(89 Posts)

Nathan Filer's extraordinary debut, The Shock of the Fall, beat off strong competition to scoop the 2013 Costa prize, and has been described as the literary equivalent of Silver Linings Playbook.

Filer was a mental health nurse when he enrolled on a Creative Writing MA, and the result is a sharp, engaging and enlightening novel about (among other things), living with schizophrenia. Matthew, the narrator, is an astonishingly convincing character who is dark, funny and articulate. He also believes he can talk to his dead brother. He pieces together his family's story, including a shocking accident and the aftermath of grief and isolation, whilst slowly coming to a coherent understanding of the events. Matthew is an outstanding creation, with an entirely authentic voice, and a haunting presence that lingers after the book has ended.

You can find out more at our book of the month page and you can follow Nathan on Twitter @nathanfiler

HarperCollins have 50 free copies to give to Mumsnetters – to claim yours please go to our book of the month page and fill in your details. We'll post here when all the copies have gone.

We are delighted that Nathan will be joining us to discuss The Shock of the Fall, his inspiration and his writing life on Tuesday 24 June, 9-10pm. So please feel free to discuss the book here throughout the month, pop up any advance questions and we hope to see you here on 24 June.

DuchessofMalfi Mon 19-May-14 18:33:30

I bought this on kindle a little while ago. Will read along - looking forward to the discussion smile

gailforce1 Wed 21-May-14 08:43:37

Looking forward to reading this book and to the discussion.

AliceMumsnet (MNHQ) Wed 28-May-14 11:01:10

This giveaway is now closed. We will inform those who have been selected to receive a free copy via pm. Once you have read the book, let us know your thoughts and post a question for Nathan Filer for our bookclub webchat 24 June.

musicmaiden Fri 06-Jun-14 14:33:17

Thank you for the book - what a treat!
Am starting it right away.

lottietiger Mon 09-Jun-14 19:05:26

Just finished this book. Having a toddler it's not always easy to concentrate but I managed to finish this in two days as it kind of draws you into the story and I kept picking it up and reading a few pages. I will post a review on the review page but I really enjoyed this book and will be recommending it to others.

Dunlurking Tue 10-Jun-14 08:49:28

Thank you Mumsnet. I'm rereading this prior to posting a review. It is one of the most beautiful books I have ever read. Looking forward to posting a question for Nathan as well.....

QueenYnci Tue 10-Jun-14 17:30:13

Read this book yesterday in just two sittings. It usually takes me a few goes to get into a book by an unfamiliar author but I flew through this one.

I really liked the structure of the story and the way the main character jumped back and forth between past and present, giving away a little bit more of the backstory each time but still leaving you wondering about certain details right up to the end. Everything was really subtlely written and the author didn't seem to find the need to over-explain things. A really enjoyable book.

queenoftheschoolrun Wed 11-Jun-14 11:38:04

I enjoyed this book and read it in just two sittings as I just couldn't put it down. I don't think I've read a book written from the point of view of someone with schizophrenia before and it gave a fascinating insight into this terrible condition. Not only from the narrator's perspective but also his friends and family. Little snippets showed just how much they loved him, how helpless they felt and yet how determined not to give up on him.

I also thought the portrayal of the mother's grief after losing her other son was all the more poignant seen through the eyes of the narrator as a child.

A brilliant debut!

gailforce1 Wed 11-Jun-14 12:35:07

Thank you for my copy. Looking forward to starting this evening.

MrsRedWhite214 Wed 11-Jun-14 13:02:56

I couldn't put this book down. Even with a sick toddler I still managed to read it in a weekend. Matthew is lovely character that you can really identify with. It's a sad but uplifting story and I think the ending was perfect. It explores on the normalness of mental health issues which was lovely.

katb1973 Fri 13-Jun-14 11:04:40

Got my copy and tore through it as it was so engaging. Thanks Mumsnet!! I found the story just riveting. I didn't expect the author to be so clearly able to describe the slow decline of a family and the descent of mental illness on the remaining son Matthew after the death of their son and brother. I found it fascinating that I was able to gain an insight into what this descent might look like inside someone's thoughts rather than just seeing their actions. As a debut author, I feel that Nathan Filer has a lot of promise and I can't wait to read his next book. This one was a cracker!

shouldbeelsewhere Sat 14-Jun-14 00:00:43

Got my copy and haven't had a chance to start reading it yet. But my DM saw it in my flat and told me she'd bought herself a copy and read it in one sitting over the weekend. So now I'm even more excited to read it because I've never heard her mention reading a proper size book like this in one sitting before - so it's gotta be good.

Great to see so many glowing reviews, and hope you can all make it to the web chat next Tue 24 June.

If you can't be there on the night, or you'd like to get your question up here first, now is the time to put any advance questions on the thread. We'll forward them to Nathan at the end of the week.

However, it's even better if you can join us live on the night, and chat to Nathan in person, so do hold onto your questions for the main event if you know you can join us.

Looking forward to it immensely, I think it'll be a fascinating book to discuss with the author's personal experience and insight.

miluth Mon 16-Jun-14 15:36:16

Thanks so much for the book, after seeing so many great reviews, can't wait to start it. ��

Mick15 Mon 16-Jun-14 23:32:45

Thank you for my copy which arrived a few days ago. I'm about 1/3rd into the book (my first from Mumsnet) I found the first few pages tricky to follow but I'm really enjoying it now. I'm trying to find big chunks of time to read because I'm finding it easier to digest if I can really get into Mathew's thought flow. The book is beautifully written with colourful and engaging detail (I had one of those Donky Kong games). My question to Nathan Filer would be "do you think it makes a difference if the reader knows what the book is about before they start reading and would you suggest it's better to know or not know a book when you read? How does this impact on the experience?" Many thanks, Ellie.

musicmaiden Tue 17-Jun-14 14:28:49

Just finished. Thought it was pretty great. Wonderful, believeable characters, an amazing portrayal of mental illness and grief. The timelines were a little confusing but it all came together beautifully in the end. And such a lot of memorable scenes: the endless tedium of the mental health unit, the different nurses and their quirks, the flat he lived in, the pain of the family, the partial memories, the memorial.

My only slight misgiving is him meeting Annabelle. Clearly as her Dad owned the caravan park it's not that unlikely she would be in the area - but for her to have been on the cliff/beach at the exact moment Matt was seemed a little contrived. But it's a small point and, actually, her appearance fitted well with the slightly hallucinatory nature of that portion of the book.

My question for Nathan is: How do you see Jacob's role in Matthew's story? He featured a lot in the first half and then 'disappeared'. Was his main purpose to show how even good friends can let you down when you have big problems?

TheNightIsDark Wed 18-Jun-14 13:04:15

I just realised I won this! The bit of paper had fallen out and I've spent days trying to figure out when I had ordered it. Thanks MNHQ.

I really enjoyed this. It took me a while to get into it but that's more because it's the first book I've read in 9 months not history based (student!). Will be recommending it to my friends.

fluffydog Sat 21-Jun-14 21:41:36

This book hooked me in - it is a long time since I have read a book in such a short space of time. If you get a chance to read it do, it is not the sort of book I would normally read but it had me totally engrossed and I had to get to the end. I found it interesting it was set in the South west of England which is where I am from so I had a little connection and recognised some of the places mentioned within the book.

gailforce1 Sun 22-Jun-14 12:08:35

An engrossing portrayal of mental illness. I found the description of the in patient unit particularly resonating as I have been following a thread on Chat from a MNetter who is also in a similar unit and is also battling the tedium and the inedible food. The local news on Friday evening covered the lack of funds for MH services in the south and, in particular, services for young people. Perhaps this book should become recommended reading for anyone connected with MH services so that they can experience the patient's perspective!
My question for Nathan - are you still working in MH services and can you see any signs of improvement in the way service users are helped?

ccp Sun 22-Jun-14 15:31:26

Firstly thanks so much for sending me the book. I read a lot and so it's lovely to get one for free. Having read the reviews on this book I was desperate to read it. This is a difficult review to write as everyone else has written such glowing reports and maybe my review would be a bit better if I had managed to finish the book but I'm so sorry, I can't finish it. I have read almost the first 200 pages but I found I was finding excuses not to read it. Each time I picked it up I was having to reread chunks as I couldn't remember what I had read the last time. When I read the few pages again I wasn't surprised I had forgotten: nothing memorable had happened. It's a subtle book and I think it's best probably read in one or two sittings, not the five or six it usually takes me to read a book. I liked the blurb on the back of the book. The voice of the narrator is very individual but I just couldn't get into the story. I like my books to grab me, to intrigue me and to make me care so much there's no way I couldn't put them down. The drip feed of information was too slow for me. I did love the character of Nanny Noo though - what a wonderful grandparent.

Reading is all about different stories and styles appealing to different people and I'm sorry this one didn't appeal to me. I'm obviously in the minority here though and will make sure my copy is passed on to friends and family to ensure that the spine is eventually broken on that final 100 pages. Thanks for giving me the chance to read it.

NathanFiler Mon 23-Jun-14 11:04:24

TillyBookClub

Great to see so many glowing reviews, and hope you can all make it to the web chat next Tue 24 June.

If you can't be there on the night, or you'd like to get your question up here first, now is the time to put any advance questions on the thread. We'll forward them to Nathan at the end of the week.

However, it's even better if you can join us live on the night, and chat to Nathan in person, so do hold onto your questions for the main event if you know you can join us.

Looking forward to it immensely, I think it'll be a fascinating book to discuss with the author's personal experience and insight.

Hi there Tilly,

Just giving this a test. Does it work? Do I pass?

Nathan

RachelMumsnet (MNHQ) Mon 23-Jun-14 11:40:32

NathanFiler

TillyBookClub

Great to see so many glowing reviews, and hope you can all make it to the web chat next Tue 24 June.

If you can't be there on the night, or you'd like to get your question up here first, now is the time to put any advance questions on the thread. We'll forward them to Nathan at the end of the week.

However, it's even better if you can join us live on the night, and chat to Nathan in person, so do hold onto your questions for the main event if you know you can join us.

Looking forward to it immensely, I think it'll be a fascinating book to discuss with the author's personal experience and insight.

Hi there Tilly,

Just giving this a test. Does it work? Do I pass?

Nathan

Hey Nathan, passed with distinction smile We're really looking forward to the webchat tomorrow evening.

Scousadelic Mon 23-Jun-14 15:29:58

I won't be able to make the webchat as I will be working but just wanted to add my voice to the praise for this book. I read it on holiday and loved it, brought it home for DD to read (she studies psychology and works with patients hospitalised for schizophrenia so is a tough audience!), she also loved it

motherinferior Mon 23-Jun-14 19:00:59

Nathan, I just wanted to say I bloody loved your book, I'm so glad you won and I hope you celebrated by dancing indecorously on tables. (And I tried to get to interview you for one of the psychiatric nursing journals but the editor selfishly nabbed the opportunity first because he loved your book too.grin)

supadebo Mon 23-Jun-14 20:32:27

I couldn't put the book down. Sobbed reading the letters at the end. I'll definitely recommend it. Thank you mumsnet.

Dunlurking Tue 24-Jun-14 08:51:10

Hi Nathan. Thank you for writing this gorgeous book. It's one of those books you want to carry round, cuddling and stroking. I've worked in mental health and general practice and found your book therapeutic and optimistic. I have posted a mumsnet book review (here).

There is a quote from an interview with Vanessa Fox O'Loughlin on an Irish writing website here where you say "This work took its shape in the telling, it was written mostly with the delete key. I wrote a lot of rubbish, I got to see what belonged in the book by getting rid of the stuff that didn't. It's not an approach I would necessarily recommend."

My question is What shape was your novel in before starting your Bath Spa Creative Writing MA course, and what shape was it after? And, in view of the above quote, now you are a lecturer on that course, How do you advise your own students to approach writing a novel?

Lesuffolkandnorfolk Tue 24-Jun-14 11:24:15

I worked for years as a MHP and just wanted to affirm that yes, Nathan you get it (as you should being a MHP yourself).

I am helping the NSFTCrisis campaign to highlight the devastating effects of the Radical Redesign (AKA severe cuts) upon mental health services in Norfolk and Suffolk. Are you aware of this campaign and would you consider lending your voice to it ir offering a quote the campaign can use? I realise you probably have every MH stat and non stat organsation asking for your support but nothing ventured, nothing gained if I don't ask smile

I'm not sure I will be able to join the web chat, but, thanks to MN, I have read this excellent book. I am a nurse, though not in MH,and it is clear from the writing that Nathan has a lot of experience in the field. When I finished the book, I wasn't quite sure how I felt, other than wanting to know what happens to Matthew next. I was quite overwhelmed. The characters were vivid and very well constructed. The child's view of his mum's bereavement process was also well done. Matthew's descent into illness was so realistic, even down to Jacob's reaction as his friend. I am looking forward to Nathan's second novel.

Hogwash Tue 24-Jun-14 17:03:22

There's a free sampler on Kobo btw.

frogletsmum Tue 24-Jun-14 17:50:18

Thank you Mumsnet for my copy!
I can't join the webchat tonight, but my question for Nathan is: you write about grief, and loss, and mental health issues, and a complex character who goes through some terrible events, and yet you manage to leave the reader and Matt on an upbeat note at the end. How do you do this without the book seeming too schmaltzy (which it doesn't, btw). And do you have any advice for other writers tackling 'difficult' subjects?
Thank you!

sherazade Tue 24-Jun-14 18:32:08

Thanks mumsnet for my free copy of this wonderful book. I haven't finished reading yet, but I have to say I was instantly mesmerised by the narrative, and felt very much drawn into the child's viewpoint element. The transition in the narrative between Matt's childhood and adulthood is crafted subtly and masterfully, beautifully interwoven with glints of both hope and terror in Matt's perceptions of and experiences with family members around him .I thought I was indifferent to the characters until I read the letter from Simon to Matt that is actually a creation of Matt and I cried! I think that might be the sign of greatness in this book; little by little , and without you quite realising it, you develop an intrinsic familiarity and empathy with the characters .

I have a question for Nathan:

What was the main reason that Matt felt bitter towards his mum?
( I tried to figure this out whilst reading the book. Was it because he had always felt like a third party when Simon was alive? did he feel his mum blamed him for Simon's death? Did his mum remind him of Simon? Did she take out her sadness on Matt and did he therefore feel deprived of a normal childhood? Did her depression make him feel neglected? Or a combination of the above?)

bella4024 Tue 24-Jun-14 19:01:05

Thank you very much for my free copy of the book. I wasn't sure if the subject matter was really me, but I thoroughly enjoyed it. I thought it was incredibly well, and sensitively, written. It provided a fresh look at the portrayal of mental health issues within literature.

I also liked the inclusion of grief within a whole family. It was interesting to see the family dynamics, and how they were affected by grief.

My question to the author is: did you always want to portray Matt's parents as being very understanding about his mental health problems? And would you say this is a typical reaction in your experience?

Pinkcatgirl Tue 24-Jun-14 19:54:27

I thought this book was excellent. Matt, the narrator, is a convincing voice and captured the struggle of living with schizophrenia. I'm a Dr and certainly found this very insightful into what is a complex and devastating diagnosis.

I thought it was very moving and also realistic with regards to the onward prognosis. There is no happy ending but I was left with a sense of optimism for Matt and his family.

The book made me think about the two brothers and how each had to live with a condition, one physically obvious but one invisible, but both with their own difficulties. I thought interweaving this with the struggle of bereavement and grief was so powerful. I was def in tears by the end, and very moved.

So thank you Nathan, and I look forward to your next book. And thank you Mumsnet for sending me my copy, what a treat!

Evening everyone



Firstly, a big thank you to all those who posted the above messages and reviews and looking forward to hearing from many more of you over the next hour.

I’m delighted to introduce Nathan Filer - winner of the Costa Prize, writer, poet, film-maker, lecturer and father to a baby daughter – to Bookclub tonight.

Nathan, thank you very, very much indeed for giving us your time tonight. And congratulations on your Costa Prize and your excellent, eye-opening and thought-provoking novel. We've already got a fair few questions to get through so I'll just add our standard Mumsnet ones and then off we go...



What childhood book most inspired you?

What would be the first piece of advice you would give to anyone attempting to write fiction?

Over to you...

NathanFiler Tue 24-Jun-14 21:02:28

TillyBookClub

Evening everyone??

Firstly, a big thank you to all those who posted the above messages and reviews and looking forward to hearing from many more of you over the next hour.

I?m delighted to introduce Nathan Filer - winner of the Costa Prize, writer, poet, film-maker, lecturer and father to a baby daughter ? to Bookclub tonight.

Nathan, thank you very, very much indeed for giving us your time tonight. And congratulations on your Costa Prize and your excellent, eye-opening and thought-provoking novel. We've already got a fair few questions to get through so I'll just add our standard Mumsnet ones and then off we go...??

What childhood book most inspired you?

What would be the first piece of advice you would give to anyone attempting to write fiction?

Over to you...

Hello Tilly! Hello all.

It's really lovely to be here, and thanks to everyone who has posted comments already. I'll get through as many as I can...

NathanFiler Tue 24-Jun-14 21:03:42

NathanFiler

TillyBookClub

Evening everyone??

Firstly, a big thank you to all those who posted the above messages and reviews and looking forward to hearing from many more of you over the next hour.

I?m delighted to introduce Nathan Filer - winner of the Costa Prize, writer, poet, film-maker, lecturer and father to a baby daughter ? to Bookclub tonight.

Nathan, thank you very, very much indeed for giving us your time tonight. And congratulations on your Costa Prize and your excellent, eye-opening and thought-provoking novel. We've already got a fair few questions to get through so I'll just add our standard Mumsnet ones and then off we go...??

What childhood book most inspired you?

What would be the first piece of advice you would give to anyone attempting to write fiction?

Over to you...

Hello Tilly! Hello all.

It's really lovely to be here, and thanks to everyone who has posted comments already. I'll get through as many as I can...

Okay...

Childhood book:

As a child I refused to read anything.

My parents were both avid readers, and my mum in particular was keen to see me bitten by the bug. The more she tried the harder I'd resist (I must hold a world record for the slowest, most laboured reading of Flat Stanley). I had a determined lack of interest. I don't suppose that's so unusual, especially for boys. We can put too much pressure on children to read. I believe there are more important things in life.

What I did enjoy was writing stories of my own. I remember when I was nine I set about trying to write a horror novel. Not a short story, but a whole novel.

Or more to the point – a book.

I think this makes sense, in a Freudian sort of way. I would see my parents reading. Our house was full of books. Books, as objects, fascinated me.

My journey into reading came later. As a teenager a friend lent me The Cement Garden by Ian McEwan and the penny finally dropped. So this is what a novel can be. I was astounded by it. Still am really. McEwan remains my favourite author.

Today my shelves are full – complete with a signed, first edition of The Cement Garden. Five shelves below are all the books that my wife and I have been been collecting for our baby daughter. Lots of C.S Lewis, Beatrix Potter, AA Milne. She's still too young to read, but seems to enjoy them very much as objects.

I must buy her Flat Stanley.

And, repeat.

NathanFiler Tue 24-Jun-14 21:04:51

NathanFiler

NathanFiler

TillyBookClub

Evening everyone??

Firstly, a big thank you to all those who posted the above messages and reviews and looking forward to hearing from many more of you over the next hour.

I?m delighted to introduce Nathan Filer - winner of the Costa Prize, writer, poet, film-maker, lecturer and father to a baby daughter ? to Bookclub tonight.

Nathan, thank you very, very much indeed for giving us your time tonight. And congratulations on your Costa Prize and your excellent, eye-opening and thought-provoking novel. We've already got a fair few questions to get through so I'll just add our standard Mumsnet ones and then off we go...??

What childhood book most inspired you?

What would be the first piece of advice you would give to anyone attempting to write fiction?

Over to you...

Hello Tilly! Hello all.

It's really lovely to be here, and thanks to everyone who has posted comments already. I'll get through as many as I can...

Okay...

Childhood book:

As a child I refused to read anything.

My parents were both avid readers, and my mum in particular was keen to see me bitten by the bug. The more she tried the harder I'd resist (I must hold a world record for the slowest, most laboured reading of Flat Stanley). I had a determined lack of interest. I don't suppose that's so unusual, especially for boys. We can put too much pressure on children to read. I believe there are more important things in life.

What I did enjoy was writing stories of my own. I remember when I was nine I set about trying to write a horror novel. Not a short story, but a whole novel.

Or more to the point ? a book.

I think this makes sense, in a Freudian sort of way. I would see my parents reading. Our house was full of books. Books, as objects, fascinated me.

My journey into reading came later. As a teenager a friend lent me The Cement Garden by Ian McEwan and the penny finally dropped. So this is what a novel can be. I was astounded by it. Still am really. McEwan remains my favourite author.

Today my shelves are full ? complete with a signed, first edition of The Cement Garden. Five shelves below are all the books that my wife and I have been been collecting for our baby daughter. Lots of C.S Lewis, Beatrix Potter, AA Milne. She's still too young to read, but seems to enjoy them very much as objects.

I must buy her Flat Stanley.

And, repeat.

And first piece of advice:

Start that page half way down.

If you're anything like me then you may need to write your way into scenes, but it is usually a few paragraphs before anything interesting happens. That's fine. Write away, find your feet. But then delete those first three paragraphs. They were for you, not the reader.

Put the reader straight into the action, straight away.

That's my 'creative writing' advice. But I think there is so much more to writing than the words we put on the page. There's staying sane for a start. I've written more about this here: nathanfiler.co.uk/?cat=0

NathanFiler Tue 24-Jun-14 21:05:56

Mick15

Thank you for my copy which arrived a few days ago. I'm about 1/3rd into the book (my first from Mumsnet) I found the first few pages tricky to follow but I'm really enjoying it now. I'm trying to find big chunks of time to read because I'm finding it easier to digest if I can really get into Mathew's thought flow. The book is beautifully written with colourful and engaging detail (I had one of those Donky Kong games). My question to Nathan Filer would be "do you think it makes a difference if the reader knows what the book is about before they start reading and would you suggest it's better to know or not know a book when you read? How does this impact on the experience?" Many thanks, Ellie.

It's a good question Ellie. I think lots of people start reading The Shock of the Fall expecting it to be about mental illness, but I'm not so sure it is about that. I think it's about a family coming to terms with loss.

In any case I didn't want any plot summary on the back cover and was happy when the publisher went with a simple quote from the story. I think the purpose of any “information” about a novel is to encourage the reader to the first page, but then it stands or falls on its content alone.

I love reading a book when I know nothing about it, and get to make my own mind up as to what it's about …

Mignonette Tue 24-Jun-14 21:06:08

I can totally recommend 'The Big Blue Ballon' by Mick Inkpen for your daughter. Have bought it for so many children and never had a faill with it yet.

Loved your book Nathan. I'm a RMN too.

NathanFiler Tue 24-Jun-14 21:06:57

musicmaiden

Just finished. Thought it was pretty great. Wonderful, believeable characters, an amazing portrayal of mental illness and grief. The timelines were a little confusing but it all came together beautifully in the end. And such a lot of memorable scenes: the endless tedium of the mental health unit, the different nurses and their quirks, the flat he lived in, the pain of the family, the partial memories, the memorial.

My only slight misgiving is him meeting Annabelle. Clearly as her Dad owned the caravan park it's not that unlikely she would be in the area - but for her to have been on the cliff/beach at the exact moment Matt was seemed a little contrived. But it's a small point and, actually, her appearance fitted well with the slightly hallucinatory nature of that portion of the book.

My question for Nathan is: How do you see Jacob's role in Matthew's story? He featured a lot in the first half and then 'disappeared'. Was his main purpose to show how even good friends can let you down when you have big problems?

Hi there,

Between you and me (and mumsnet) I feel the same about return of Annabelle. Her return was pretty much the only plot point that I planned from the beginning; everything else just happened organically, so to speak. So it is interesting to me that her return feels (to my mind) a bit novelistic or even contrived. A lesson for next time.

As for your question – Jacob is a good example of how I didn't plan most things in advance. I think usually in a novel a main character like Jacob wouldn't simply disappear from the page. But in life, main characters do disappear. Close friends and even family can fall away from us, never to return. I think Jacob couldn't deal with Matt's illness, especially with a sick mother of his own to try and support. I don't think Jacob deliberately lets Matt down. But these things happen, no?

NathanFiler Tue 24-Jun-14 21:08:07

gailforce1

An engrossing portrayal of mental illness. I found the description of the in patient unit particularly resonating as I have been following a thread on Chat from a MNetter who is also in a similar unit and is also battling the tedium and the inedible food. The local news on Friday evening covered the lack of funds for MH services in the south and, in particular, services for young people. Perhaps this book should become recommended reading for anyone connected with MH services so that they can experience the patient's perspective!
My question for Nathan - are you still working in MH services and can you see any signs of improvement in the way service users are helped?

Hi there,

I am still a registered nurse, though I don't work so often now as my life has become a bit more about writing. I sometimes combine the two. Here is an article I wrote for the Guardian about my views on Mental Health Services: www.theguardian.com/society/2014/jan/25/nathan-filer-mental-health-care-where-did-it-go-wrong

I think the main issue we face at the moment is a lack of funding, which is resulting in a worrying (deeply worrying!) amount of bed closures and staff shortages. Take a look at the article and see if you agree...

NathanFiler Tue 24-Jun-14 21:09:07

Dunlurking

Hi Nathan. Thank you for writing this gorgeous book. It's one of those books you want to carry round, cuddling and stroking. I've worked in mental health and general practice and found your book therapeutic and optimistic. I have posted a mumsnet book review (here).

There is a quote from an interview with Vanessa Fox O'Loughlin on an Irish writing website here where you say "This work took its shape in the telling, it was written mostly with the delete key. I wrote a lot of rubbish, I got to see what belonged in the book by getting rid of the stuff that didn't. It's not an approach I would necessarily recommend."

My question is What shape was your novel in before starting your Bath Spa Creative Writing MA course, and what shape was it after? And, in view of the above quote, now you are a lecturer on that course, How do you advise your own students to approach writing a novel?

Hi there,

I'd written a few chapters before started the course – and, in fact, had to have done. That's what they read to decide if they'd accept me. But I got rid of most of that during the course, and what little I kept changed quite a lot.

I managed a whole first draft during my year of studies. But it still wasn't ready and required another year afterwards. Still, it got me moving with it.

I teach undergrads. They are young, and right at the start of their writing careers. I try not to be too prescriptive about how they should approach their novels because it is such an individual thing. We focus instead on certain universally aspects of storytelling. Characterization, setting, dialogue, voice, tone, that sort of thing. At that stage it's about experimenting and having fun. Perhaps that's how it should always be.

NathanFiler Tue 24-Jun-14 21:10:11

Lesuffolkandnorfolk

I worked for years as a MHP and just wanted to affirm that yes, Nathan you get it (as you should being a MHP yourself).

I am helping the NSFTCrisis campaign to highlight the devastating effects of the Radical Redesign (AKA severe cuts) upon mental health services in Norfolk and Suffolk. Are you aware of this campaign and would you consider lending your voice to it ir offering a quote the campaign can use? I realise you probably have every MH stat and non stat organsation asking for your support but nothing ventured, nothing gained if I don't ask smile

I'm happy to help if I can. You're right that I do get lots and lots of requests but this is an issue that's important to me – and should be for everyone. Perhaps I can offer a quote or some such. Will you contact me through my website and I'll get back to you as soon as I can.

NathanFiler Tue 24-Jun-14 21:10:54

frogletsmum

Thank you Mumsnet for my copy!
I can't join the webchat tonight, but my question for Nathan is: you write about grief, and loss, and mental health issues, and a complex character who goes through some terrible events, and yet you manage to leave the reader and Matt on an upbeat note at the end. How do you do this without the book seeming too schmaltzy (which it doesn't, btw). And do you have any advice for other writers tackling 'difficult' subjects?
Thank you!

Thanks! It was important for me to leave with a hopeful ending. Matthew is surrounded by a family who love him. They're flawed, of course. But aren't we all? I think there was good reason to feel hopeful at the end of the novel – and besides, I get to decide what happens. That's the advantage of being the author. I couldn't realistically cure Matthew, and I couldn't bring his brother back – but I could introduce a bit of hope.

Schmaltzy was certainly to be avoided. I think this wasn't so much of a problem because Matthew is schmaltzy. He's a pretty stoical young man and he doesn't feel sorry for himself. He's not overly sentimental, and so in telling the story from his POV I was (hopefully) able to avoid being sentimental too.

NathanFiler Tue 24-Jun-14 21:11:36

sherazade

Thanks mumsnet for my free copy of this wonderful book. I haven't finished reading yet, but I have to say I was instantly mesmerised by the narrative, and felt very much drawn into the child's viewpoint element. The transition in the narrative between Matt's childhood and adulthood is crafted subtly and masterfully, beautifully interwoven with glints of both hope and terror in Matt's perceptions of and experiences with family members around him .I thought I was indifferent to the characters until I read the letter from Simon to Matt that is actually a creation of Matt and I cried! I think that might be the sign of greatness in this book; little by little , and without you quite realising it, you develop an intrinsic familiarity and empathy with the characters .

I have a question for Nathan:

What was the main reason that Matt felt bitter towards his mum?
( I tried to figure this out whilst reading the book. Was it because he had always felt like a third party when Simon was alive? did he feel his mum blamed him for Simon's death? Did his mum remind him of Simon? Did she take out her sadness on Matt and did he therefore feel deprived of a normal childhood? Did her depression make him feel neglected? Or a combination of the above?)

Thanks for your kind words. I love how closely you've read the book. It's a nice feeling to have a reader ask a question then come up with a whole load of perceptive answers for me. I think you are right that it is a combination of all sorts of things – and also that certain unknowable tension that exists between so many mothers and sons (particularly sons of a certain age)..

In earlier drafts I pushed the oddness of their relationship even further, but it didn't feel necessary in the end. I think there was enough going on to raise lots of questions for the reader. Ultimately (perhaps disappointingly) my job is to leave you with these questions, rather than the answers.

sarahsusannah Tue 24-Jun-14 21:12:29

Hi Nathan, I am really enjoying the book - love its ambition in showing mental illness from the inside rather than the outside. But I was very intrigued by your portrayal of Matthew's family, particularly his mother. Do you see mental illness as something which affects the sufferer's whole family or in which they can play an important part?

NathanFiler Tue 24-Jun-14 21:12:34

Mignonette

I can totally recommend 'The Big Blue Ballon' by Mick Inkpen for your daughter. Have bought it for so many children and never had a faill with it yet.

Loved your book Nathan. I'm a RMN too.

Thank you smile In solidarity...

NathanFiler Tue 24-Jun-14 21:15:03

sarahsusannah

Hi Nathan, I am really enjoying the book - love its ambition in showing mental illness from the inside rather than the outside. But I was very intrigued by your portrayal of Matthew's family, particularly his mother. Do you see mental illness as something which affects the sufferer's whole family or in which they can play an important part?

I certainly do. I think that family, friends, carers, are hugely important when we think about mental illness and are all too often overlooked.

Mostly, I wanted to write a book about a whole family coming to terms with loss. For me that really is at the heart of the novel.

NathanFiler Tue 24-Jun-14 21:16:56

motherinferior

Nathan, I just wanted to say I bloody loved your book, I'm so glad you won and I hope you celebrated by dancing indecorously on tables. (And I tried to get to interview you for one of the psychiatric nursing journals but the editor selfishly nabbed the opportunity first because he loved your book too.grin)

There was certainly some dancing. I consider myself a dancer first and a writer second (got moves!) smile

Dunlurking Tue 24-Jun-14 21:17:07

Nathan thanks for answering my questions above. Thanks for the link to your Writer's and Artists 2015 article as well.
Another question, if you have time - Are you able to let us know what you are working on now?

ReaderIMarriedHim Tue 24-Jun-14 21:18:17

When I picked this book up for the first time, I thought I would find it too distressing to really enjoy reading, but I found it very moving, thought provoking and easy to read all at the same time.

(And for what it's worth, I liked the return of Annabelle and the story about her family - I thought it made an interesting counterpoint to Matt's story)

My question to Nathan is:
This is book which deals with some pretty heavy themes (grief, loss, illness). Do you have any books on a similar vein which inspired you or which you'd recommend? Or conversely what do you read for light relief?

Arti Tue 24-Jun-14 21:19:47

This was one of the best books I've read in the last few years. I work in the NHS and find it hugely inspiring that you have managed to write such a phenomenal and powerful book alongside your day job as a mental gelth nurse! I think you painted such a vivid portrait of Matt throughout the book-there was a very authentic feel to the writing and Matt's character and experiences will stay with me for a long time. I also felt the book handle the topic of grief in a very real way, acknowledging that grief is something that may evolve but never just ends. This helped me when thinking about my own mother who passed why a few months ago.
My question- what research did you do to help you understand and paint such a vivid portrait of Matt?
Arti

Arti Tue 24-Jun-14 21:21:04

Sooty- my last posting should say "mental health nurse"! iPad spell check failed me again!

NathanFiler Tue 24-Jun-14 21:21:39

Dunlurking

Nathan thanks for answering my questions above. Thanks for the link to your Writer's and Artists 2015 article as well.
Another question, if you have time - Are you able to let us know what you are working on now?

You're very welcome. I'm not working on another novel yet, though I keep thinking about it and have had a few starts. So hopefully one day...

Right now my main project is writing a screenplay. Cinema is a real passion for me. It's going okay, I think. It's a collaboration with another writer, which is so nice after all those hours alone with TSOTF.

Arti Tue 24-Jun-14 21:21:39

And again...sorry!!!

NathanFiler Tue 24-Jun-14 21:26:48

ReaderIMarriedHim

When I picked this book up for the first time, I thought I would find it too distressing to really enjoy reading, but I found it very moving, thought provoking and easy to read all at the same time.

(And for what it's worth, I liked the return of Annabelle and the story about her family - I thought it made an interesting counterpoint to Matt's story)

My question to Nathan is:
This is book which deals with some pretty heavy themes (grief, loss, illness). Do you have any books on a similar vein which inspired you or which you'd recommend? Or conversely what do you read for light relief?

Hi there! I like your name smile

I was surprised that I wrote about such heavy themes. Humor is a big part of my life, and my writing life. In many ways this book caught me by surprise. But now I have some distance from it I feel that I was working quite a lot of stuff through. I poured a lot of myself into that story.

Of course I was influenced by other novels too, but not nearly so much as I was by my own experiences.

Books I read along the way included: The Wasp Factory; The Curious Incident; Vernon God Little; Catcher in the Rye ... and probably I stole from every single one. I remember having to stop reading Vernon God Little because Matthew started sounding Texan!

I think it can be problematic to read and write at the same time...

I think the diary of the tedium of life in the unit was exceptionally well done (as discussed earlier with gailforce).

I kept wondering if there was any novel/poem/story that you would say could be particularly good to have in a mental health unit? Any piece of literature that you think of as particularly soothing or helpful in some way?

NathanFiler Tue 24-Jun-14 21:31:01

Arti

This was one of the best books I've read in the last few years. I work in the NHS and find it hugely inspiring that you have managed to write such a phenomenal and powerful book alongside your day job as a mental gelth nurse! I think you painted such a vivid portrait of Matt throughout the book-there was a very authentic feel to the writing and Matt's character and experiences will stay with me for a long time. I also felt the book handle the topic of grief in a very real way, acknowledging that grief is something that may evolve but never just ends. This helped me when thinking about my own mother who passed why a few months ago.
My question- what research did you do to help you understand and paint such a vivid portrait of Matt?
Arti

Ah Sooty, thank you for your kind comments smile

It was pretty research-light tbh. As you say I worked in the NHS so all of the stuff about how wards work (or don't!) was from memory. I think it would require so much research to know that level of detail - say, things like how the mousemats and pens in the office are sponsored by drug companies. But as nurses, we see this all the time.

The only real research I did was visit Portland a few times. But I did take that seriously. I walked the exact walk that Matthew walks... and it's a bloody long way!

As for Matthew. He came from within...

Lesuffolkandnorfolk Tue 24-Jun-14 21:31:55

Thank you Nathan

I am so pleased to read that you will do what you can to help. We will be in touch shortly.

Lesuffolkandnorfolk Tue 24-Jun-14 21:34:09

And I used to love my Quetiapine purple double walled mug and Fluoxetine pens from the drug reps when I worked on the wards. It is a great detail that you'd only know as an insider, whether that be a service user or employee. I used to give those mugs to the service users- they loved them too.

NathanFiler Tue 24-Jun-14 21:35:11

TillyBookClub

I think the diary of the tedium of life in the unit was exceptionally well done (as discussed earlier with gailforce).

I kept wondering if there was any novel/poem/story that you would say could be particularly good to have in a mental health unit? Any piece of literature that you think of as particularly soothing or helpful in some way?

Gosh. What a great question.

There is a poem that I read once called 'Writing Behaviour'. It really influenced me and there is a chapter in the book named after it. I'm not sure it's especially soothing though. But it's written by a patient in response to the Rosenhaun experiment and I found it very powerful.

I think we should have more books on wards, but I wouldn't like to prescribe which ones. We do enough prescribing I think.

NathanFiler Tue 24-Jun-14 21:35:30

TillyBookClub

I think the diary of the tedium of life in the unit was exceptionally well done (as discussed earlier with gailforce).

I kept wondering if there was any novel/poem/story that you would say could be particularly good to have in a mental health unit? Any piece of literature that you think of as particularly soothing or helpful in some way?

Gosh. What a great question.

There is a poem that I read once called 'Writing Behaviour'. It really influenced me and there is a chapter in the book named after it. I'm not sure it's especially soothing though. But it's written by a patient in response to the Rosenhaun experiment and I found it very powerful.

I think we should have more books on wards, but I wouldn't like to prescribe which ones. We do enough prescribing I think.

carriemumsnet (MNHQ) Tue 24-Jun-14 21:36:56

Only half way through - sorry - and enjoying so far but desperately trying not to read all comments in case of spoilers! My question: who encouraged you as a writer and did you start writing hoping/believing you'd get published, or do you start off just seeing if you could do it/ or for enjoyment?

Dunlurking Tue 24-Jun-14 21:39:34

I loved reading Matthew's comments on drug freebies. (I still have a seroxat, and a cipramil Sigg bottle blush)

NathanFiler Tue 24-Jun-14 21:41:26

carriemumsnet

Only half way through - sorry - and enjoying so far but desperately trying not to read all comments in case of spoilers! My question: who encouraged you as a writer and did you start writing hoping/believing you'd get published, or do you start off just seeing if you could do it/ or for enjoyment?

I don't think there are any spoilers so far...

I'm lucky to have a supportive family, but there are no writers in our ranks. But my dad very kindly gave me a loan to enroll on a creative writing MA. That was probably the most important year in the life of my novel (the writing of it, anyway).

I did always hope to get published. And the truth is there was a lot of time when I didn't especially enjoy the writing process at all. Writing is such hard work and always there was the fear that nobody would ever read it.

But something kept me at the keyboard. Matthew was a great character to write and his story felt important to me.

RachelMumsnet (MNHQ) Tue 24-Jun-14 21:42:38

Hi Nathan, thanks so much for joining us tonight. Congratulations on such a thought-provoking but also entertaining novel. One question: When I first read it I immediately wanted to hand it on to my 15 year old son. Like you said earlier, I;m at the stage where it's quite hard to recommend any books to him at the moment and was delighted cos I thought I'd finally found a book that would speak to him (the last one I succeeded in was Pigeon English - do you know this?) Then I wondered whether it was a bit dark for him? Is this a book (as with Serious Incident) that is for teens and adults? Could it be on the GCSE syllabus? What are your thoughts on this?

I like your answer very much - prescribing is the last thing you want, like you say! Perhaps loads of copies of Heaney/Hughes edited The RattleBag would be good, or a similarly mixed up collection of poems from all areas, so you could take your pick.

Do you spend more time writing fiction than poetry now? Or do you still write across all genres fairly equally?

Dunlurking Tue 24-Jun-14 21:46:24

Totally agree with RachelMumsnet that this should be considered a YA novel as well, AND be on the GCSE syllabus!

NathanFiler Tue 24-Jun-14 21:47:22

RachelMumsnet

Hi Nathan, thanks so much for joining us tonight. Congratulations on such a thought-provoking but also entertaining novel. One question: When I first read it I immediately wanted to hand it on to my 15 year old son. Like you said earlier, I;m at the stage where it's quite hard to recommend any books to him at the moment and was delighted cos I thought I'd finally found a book that would speak to him (the last one I succeeded in was Pigeon English - do you know this?) Then I wondered whether it was a bit dark for him? What are your thoughts on this? Is this a book (as with Serious Incident) that is for teens and adults? Could it be on the GCSE syllabus? What are your thoughts on this?

Hi Rachel,

I always hoped it might have a cross-over appeal - those books like curious incident that can be enjoyed by adults and young adults alike. I was a little surprised that the publisher never pushed it in this way, but they've been generally great, so, you know... choose your battles I guess. Certainly many young people who have read it have really engaged with it and I would LOVE to see it on a syllabus, of course. Probably slightly older than GCSE. But I think it's very much a story that 16 or 17 year olds relate to...

WipsGlitter Tue 24-Jun-14 21:48:53

Hi, coming to this v late. I've read a bit of the book. I have two sons, one has Down's syndrome. I'm reluctant to read more....

Mignonette Tue 24-Jun-14 21:50:59

I had a lot of service users who were extremely well read and took charge of the books available on the unit and creative writing has always been a very popular choice of activity for people who are well enough to participate.

Did you ever engage in this with your clients/service users?

bookworm31 Tue 24-Jun-14 21:52:01

Hi Nathan, absolutely loved your book.

My question is how important was it that Matthew undergoes a kind of catharsis at the end of the novel? Do you think this idea of a memorial is important in tackling grief? How important do you think writing and keeping a memoir is to someone in such a situation?

RachelMumsnet (MNHQ) Tue 24-Jun-14 21:52:10

Another question (if I may): you won the Costa with your first ever novel - what an amazing achievement but does that now put huge pressure on you for your next novel? We do a 'debut author bookclub' slot on Mumsnet and I often think we should do a 'second novel bookclub' slot as it must be so much harder for writers to get interest in their second novels (hope that isn't too depressing a question!)

NathanFiler Tue 24-Jun-14 21:52:35

TillyBookClub

I like your answer very much - prescribing is the last thing you want, like you say! Perhaps loads of copies of Heaney/Hughes edited The RattleBag would be good, or a similarly mixed up collection of poems from all areas, so you could take your pick.

Do you spend more time writing fiction than poetry now? Or do you still write across all genres fairly equally?

I love the rattlebag! I stole it from a friend and never returned it (oops).

I haven't written poetry in a long time. I don't think I was ever especially good at it. What I did was a cross with stand-up. It was performance poetry. It was a very big part of my life for a long time, and I had so much fun touring the country and doing gigs. But I don't miss it. I'm getting old. It's nice to work on the page now smile

I've really enjoyed the few bits of journalism I've done. And am enjoying the screenplay very much.

For me, it's fun to work across lots of genres.

Mostly I want to win a BAFTA ;)

NathanFiler Tue 24-Jun-14 21:53:47

Dunlurking

Totally agree with RachelMumsnet that this should be considered a YA novel as well, AND be on the GCSE syllabus!

Start the movement ...

NathanFiler Tue 24-Jun-14 21:56:52

Mignonette

I had a lot of service users who were extremely well read and took charge of the books available on the unit and creative writing has always been a very popular choice of activity for people who are well enough to participate.

Did you ever engage in this with your clients/service users?

Hi there,

I get asked that quite often and its a regret of mine that I didn't really. I was working on acute wards, and broadly speaking I don't think we did enough therapeutic work at all. So much of acute nursing seems to be about medication management.

Of course there are huge issues with resources, and right now things are moving in the wrong direction. I've written a bit more about this here: www.theguardian.com/society/2014/jan/25/nathan-filer-mental-health-care-where-did-it-go-wrong

NathanFiler Tue 24-Jun-14 21:57:42

NathanFiler

Mignonette

I had a lot of service users who were extremely well read and took charge of the books available on the unit and creative writing has always been a very popular choice of activity for people who are well enough to participate.

Did you ever engage in this with your clients/service users?

Hi there,

I get asked that quite often and its a regret of mine that I didn't really. I was working on acute wards, and broadly speaking I don't think we did enough therapeutic work at all. So much of acute nursing seems to be about medication management.

Of course there are huge issues with resources, and right now things are moving in the wrong direction. I've written a bit more about this here: www.theguardian.com/society/2014/jan/25/nathan-filer-mental-health-care-where-did-it-go-wrong

What area do you work in?

NathanFiler Tue 24-Jun-14 22:00:53

bookworm31

Hi Nathan, absolutely loved your book.

My question is how important was it that Matthew undergoes a kind of catharsis at the end of the novel? Do you think this idea of a memorial is important in tackling grief? How important do you think writing and keeping a memoir is to someone in such a situation?

This is a very good question. I think memorial (in its many forms) can be hugely important, and clearly it is for Matthew, who after ten years had still never had the chance to say goodbye.

All the time I was writing the novel I never knew how I would end it. So when Annabelle mentioned the memorial she had for her mother I had a bit of a eureka moment. I'm so pleased that I got to write it. It felt important to me, anyway.

Mignonette Tue 24-Jun-14 22:01:03

Yes I read that article- boy did it speak the truth.

I agree with your comments about acute units. The Nurses on the last one I worked on tended to leave the therapeutic activities to the OT's and Physios which was such a shame because when you think about it, small group work is pretty cost effective. And it reduces the need for unnecessary prn medication. At least it did on our unit.

Maybe one day (when we get a decent budget and you have some time - wishful thinking) you could try to devise a creative writing 'syllabus' for different units to use with your professional knowledge informing the development.

We'd love that.

NathanFiler Tue 24-Jun-14 22:02:11

NathanFiler

bookworm31

Hi Nathan, absolutely loved your book.

My question is how important was it that Matthew undergoes a kind of catharsis at the end of the novel? Do you think this idea of a memorial is important in tackling grief? How important do you think writing and keeping a memoir is to someone in such a situation?

This is a very good question. I think memorial (in its many forms) can be hugely important, and clearly it is for Matthew, who after ten years had still never had the chance to say goodbye.

All the time I was writing the novel I never knew how I would end it. So when Annabelle mentioned the memorial she had for her mother I had a bit of a eureka moment. I'm so pleased that I got to write it. It felt important to me, anyway.

Oh, and I think the act of writing can be so very helpful too. For all of us, really. I keep a gratitude diary and would advice anyone to do so...

Mignonette Tue 24-Jun-14 22:02:15

I am now taking a career break although I have to keep up with CPD. I have worked across acute, subs, forensic and community. Bit of a jack of all trades smile

NathanFiler Tue 24-Jun-14 22:02:50

NathanFiler

NathanFiler

bookworm31

Hi Nathan, absolutely loved your book.

My question is how important was it that Matthew undergoes a kind of catharsis at the end of the novel? Do you think this idea of a memorial is important in tackling grief? How important do you think writing and keeping a memoir is to someone in such a situation?

This is a very good question. I think memorial (in its many forms) can be hugely important, and clearly it is for Matthew, who after ten years had still never had the chance to say goodbye.

All the time I was writing the novel I never knew how I would end it. So when Annabelle mentioned the memorial she had for her mother I had a bit of a eureka moment. I'm so pleased that I got to write it. It felt important to me, anyway.

Oh, and I think the act of writing can be so very helpful too. For all of us, really. I keep a gratitude diary and would advice anyone to do so...

advise, even (I'm getting tired now... sorry)

NathanFiler Tue 24-Jun-14 22:04:03

RachelMumsnet

Another question (if I may): you won the Costa with your first ever novel - what an amazing achievement but does that now put huge pressure on you for your next novel? We do a 'debut author bookclub' slot on Mumsnet and I often think we should do a 'second novel bookclub' slot as it must be so much harder for writers to get interest in their second novels (hope that isn't too depressing a question!)

Ha. What's that symbol you use on here? Is it a biscuit?

We've got to wrap it up there - a completely fascinating and brilliant discussion, thank you to everyone for all their comments.

Nathan, you have been such a pro at this, and so thoughtful and honest with your answers. Thank you very very much for all your time and energy. Good luck with your next project. I am fully expecting to see a pic of you clutching that golden faced Bafta statuette in the very near future...

And many thanks again for a wonderful book. It definitely deserves a place on the older children's bookshelf, above the Nesbit and Milne. And Flat Stanley.

NathanFiler Tue 24-Jun-14 22:05:31

TillyBookClub

We've got to wrap it up there - a completely fascinating and brilliant discussion, thank you to everyone for all their comments.

Nathan, you have been such a pro at this, and so thoughtful and honest with your answers. Thank you very very much for all your time and energy. Good luck with your next project. I am fully expecting to see a pic of you clutching that golden faced Bafta statuette in the very near future...

And many thanks again for a wonderful book. It definitely deserves a place on the older children's bookshelf, above the Nesbit and Milne. And Flat Stanley.

Thanks Tilly. Thanks everyone. It has been a real pleasure.

Goodnight smile

Dunlurking Tue 24-Jun-14 22:07:08

Thank you very much for doing this webchat. I've now had a chance to read your Guardian article as well as the Writers' and Artists' yearbook articles. Brilliant both!

Mignonette Tue 24-Jun-14 22:09:34

Thank you so much Nathan

Andrews55 Tue 08-Jul-14 10:08:17

Thank you so much for my copy of the book. Once I started reading, I found it difficult to put down. A stunning piece of writing on a very tough and painful subject. I will be recommending this book to my family, friends and neighbours!

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