Published on February 5, 2019
Published by Celadon Books, Macmillan Publishers
Format: eBook, 297 pages
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First sentence: Alicia Berenson was thirty-three years old when she killed her husband.
The Silent Patient caught my attention because it was number one on Goodread’s list of most popular books published in 2019. Then the summary got me intrigued. Why would a woman refuse to speak after murdering her husband?
What Did I Like?
- The ‘old’ plot made ‘new’. A woman killed her husband. Whether the reasons are known or not, this does not sound like something especially news-worthy. But Alex Michaelides weaves a web of details around the story that makes it arresting and intriguing.
- Alicia was not the main star. I expected that The Silent Patient will be focused only on Alicia. But the large part of the novel is about Theo Faber, her psychotherapist.
But that’s what Alicia did for you. Her silence was like a mirror – reflecting yourself back at you. And it was often an ugly sight.
- Dual POV. The narration switches between Theo and Alicia. Since Alicia is currently silent, her view is presented through journal snippets dated before the murder. The present events are narrated in the first person by Theo. These two narratives were interwoven masterfully to keep you in a constant state of suspense.
- My brain did not stop plotting. And after each chapter, I had a new theory: who did it and why.
- Psychology is one of the sciences that never really interested me much. But Theo’s explanations of how trauma starts, what causes psychological defects in people and mechanics of psychotherapy tickled my curiosity.
But that’s how therapy works. A patient delegates his unacceptable feelings to his therapist; and she holds everything he is afraid to feel, and she feels it for him. Then, ever so slowly, she feeds his feelings back to him.
- Different origins of characters. Although The Silent Patient is set in England, some characters have ancestors from Greece, Latvia, etc. This added a touch of realism and color to the story.
- Marriage: why and how it works. What makes a successful marriage? Through Alicia and Theo, we get a look at two marriages (seemingly happy).
About love. About how we often mistake love for fireworks – for drama and dysfunction. But real love is very quiet, very still. It’s boring, if seen from the perspective of high drama. Love is deep and calm – and constant.
What I Didn’t Like?
- The setting and side characters are neglected. Grove is an institution for mentally unstable criminals. Theo described his colleagues and other patients superficially, and that got me more intrigued about them. Sadly no more info was provided. Other characters are important only in an aspect of their interactions with Theo Or Alicia.
- Repetitive when Theo is a narrator. While dealing with a lot of personal trauma, Theo seems to come back to the same problems over and over again. For example complaints about how his father treated him.
- Open ending with a hint of what will happen. I usually like this sort of conclusions, especially in mystery novels. But in The Silent Patient, something was missing to make a better punchline.
The Silent Patient was a quick read that I had trouble putting down. It’s not a simple murder mystery, but a complex story about psychological trauma, marriage, and moral dilemmas. Recommended for the fans of the psychological thrillers.
As a debut, The Silent Patient was a pleasant surprise, and I hope it will not be Alex Michaelides’ one-hit-wonder. I am looking forward to his next release.