The Heartland, by Nathan Filer, who won the Costa Prize for his novel The Shock and the Fall, might be the most terrifying book published this year. It opens by putting the reader in the position of a schizophrenic patient being forcibly medicated against his will. The patient believes the medication contains poison but Filer (a former psychiatric nurse) must nonetheless administer it, apparently for the patient’s own good.
His powers of empathy as a writer are such that this opening section had me physically recoiling, and anyone who has ever felt they are going mad will find resonance in these pages. The case studies are compelling as well as frequently heartbreaking and are enough in themselves to make The Heartland worth reading.
Filer’s mission is bigger, however, than wanting his readers to identify with those suffering from schizophrenia.