Book Review: The Silent Patient - Alex Michaelides

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Title: The Silent Patient
Author: Alex Michaelides
Publisher: Orion (15 July 2019)
Genre: Crime/Thriller/Mystery
Price: Rs. 342 on Amazon
Pages: 352

Social Media has introduced me to so many books and I cannot be more thankful. While not all books have lived up to the hype, most of them have and that is exactly why I pick up books based on the reviews and recommendations it receives online. I was a mute spectator to all the talk around 'The Silent Patient'. I went through the blurb and found it to be quite common and hence decided to stay away from it. With praise piling on, I couldn't ignore the book anymore. I wanted to read it, even if it disappointed me in the end. Did it? Read on.

Alicia Berenson has the perfect life one can dream of. She's a famous painter married to a much in-demand fashion photographer, Gabriel, and they live in a grand house in one of London's most desired areas. Everything seems to be top-notch for them until, one evening, Alicia shoots Gabriel five times in the face. She then goes mute. She's convicted for her husband's death and is sent to The Grove, a hugely secure psychiatric unit, with the hope that treatments might actually get her to speak.

Enter Theo Faber, a psychotherapist, strangely obsessed with Alicia and who believes that only he can get her to talk. The Silent Patient has stayed mum for six years and yet Theo comes with a sense of fresh hope and some grave demons of his own. Theo has nothing to start with, except for a painting that Alicia painted just after she murdered her husband. The painting is titled Alcestis after the mythical queen of Thessaly, wife of King Admetus, who came to personify the devoted, selfless, woman and wife in ancient Greece. As per Greek mythology, Alcestis consents to being killed in place of her husband, when the Fates imposed a condition that Admetus should die or someone else should instead of him. Admetus asks his wife and she agrees. How is this related to Alicia's story? Why is Theo so hell bent upon getting Alicia to speak?

When the first line of a story is "Alicia Berenson was thirty-three years old when she killed her husband.", you know that the book cannot be boring. This book more than lives up to being a thriller and a mystery. The author directly jumps into the mystery from page one, revealing bits and pieces of Alicia and Theo's separate lives in staccato bursts throughout the book. The writing is fast paced and once you begin reading this, it definitely is hard to put it down. It is a quite common story where a wife kills her husband. We have read enough books where partners kill each each for various reasons. This is almost like that, but with one single change. The silence. Why did Alicia go mute instead of revealing why she did what she did? While the whole courtroom and media termed her a witch, she still doesn't say a word. Why didn't she want people to know her side of the story? That is what makes her character and the story so interesting.

Theo on the other hand, is way too open. He has had a troubled childhood and is struggling to deal with his past. He grows up to become something thanks to his therapist and that is exactly why he chooses to become a psychotherapist himself. To help other people deal with their demons. Then he finds out that his wife has been cheating on him. What can he do now?

I read this book in two sittings within 24 hours! I couldn't rest until I knew what had happened. I predicted the ending half-way through the book, but yet when the end came, it did come as a shock to me. The way it unfolded, I mean. With two narrations, side by side, the book can easily become heavy and tedious, but the author manages to get it done seamlessly. Alicia and Theo are clearly the heroes of the book. There are many other characters added that form a certain distraction from the main plot and not in a good way. Max, Gabriel's brother for example. This was an unnecessary track and did nothing to the story. A motherly therapist, an Indian doctor, an overly competitive psychotherapist - some of these characters are almost unbelievable and only try to add chaos and confusion to a story that was going fine until then.

Apart from this small glitch, this book sure is an interesting read. It delves deep into the psychology and the intricacies of the human mind and comes up with a story that is bold, shocking and convincing at the same time.


Verdict: Not a perfect thriller. Yet, almost there. Go give it a read.

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars.

22 comments:

  1. Thank You for the detailed review. I do love the ones that keep you on the edge with the mystery.

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    1. Do give this a try. I'm sure you'll like it.

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  2. Oooh this sounds really good as the blurb is damned delicious. I am bookmarking it for a future read- thanks for sharing such a fantastic book review Soumya!

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  3. Soumya... Agree with your words... It's a good read, just that it got a bit filmy for me. Yeah yeah.. I imagine too much😊

    And I couldn't predict the ending .. so front tha angle it indeed threw me overboard.

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    1. Hahaha, maybe. The too many unnecessary characters spoiled it for me, else it was a near perfect read.

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  4. I love thrillers and this seems to be something that I would love. Adding it to my TBR, Soumya.

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    1. Do give this a shot, I'd like to know what you think of it.

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  5. This is sounding so good. I need to read it now.

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  6. This does sound like the kind of book I am dying to read nowadays. I love suspense thrillers and can't rest until I have reached the end, and yet I crave for more! :P
    Thanks for the review, Soumya!

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    1. Hahaha, you crave something and I shall give it to you :P

      Go for this one.

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  7. I've heard so much about this one. Love the whole idea of it. Shall get to it ASAP.

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    1. Yayyy! I'm waiting to hear what you think of it.

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  8. This does sound interesting! I enjoy a well written thriller, and this does seem to hit that mark. Adding to my TBR.

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  9. I love your reviews and look forward to it. Adding it to my list straight away as this sounds like my kind of book. Give me a thriller anytime!

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  10. Have been seeing this book all over the social media. After reading your review, I HAVE to read this! Adding it on top of my TBR.

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  11. I've heard so much about this one. And it sounds interesting. I'll get to it soon I hope.

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    1. Ah, I hope so too! You'll love this, Tulika.

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