BOOK REVIEW: THE SILENT PATIENT BY ALEX MICHAELIDES

 






What exactly is not to love about Alex Michaelides' THE SILENT PATIENT? This sophisticated debut novel of suspense is every bit deserving of the effusive early praise it's already receiving. Reading more like a character study than a psychological Thriller, THE SILENT PATIENT follows in detail the psyches of both a woman convicted for murdering her husband and the therapist determined to treat her.  The true impactfulness in this exceptional first novel lies not in fast-paced action or shocking twists but rather on how meticulously author Alex Michaelides builds his characters from start to finish - carefully revealing their psychology as he does so with readers just as protagonist attends closely and unlocks secrets for his subject. The Silent Patient is an immersive and hypnotic thriller you won't be able to stop reading. The novel investigates the mind of a criminal without having to investigate anything else, just like any other crime novel might do-but not even that is necessary because there's no need for big twists or flashy things in this book; what it has are some exceptional ones too.  Believe all those hype: The Silent Patient may well be one of the best novels in the genre this year!


plot summary:

The life of Alicia Berenson appears to be perfect. She is a well-known painter who is married to a sought-after fashion photographer and lives in a lovely house with large windows facing a park in one of London's most prestigious neighbourhoods. Alicia shoots her husband Gabriel five times in the face one evening when he arrives home late from a fashion shoot, and then she doesn't say anything else.  


It turns out, Alicia's refusal to talk is not a personal whim. She realizes that the real reason she has been silent all these years is because she doesn't want to say anything publicly about what happened in her past. Her art starts being worth more and people are constantly trying to find ways into the unit where she voluntarily lives now- or at least until they catch up with her story again and finally give it some closure for once. 


Theo Faber is a criminal psychotherapist who has waited for long enough to work with Alicia. His resolution to obtain her talking about the mystery of why she shot her husband takes him down a twisting path into his own motivations--a search for truth that threatens to consume him.  If there’s one phrase I use most often in my reviews, it’s got be “expectations are everything.” (If you have been around CBTB for awhile, then you will know just how much I discuss this topic - but try not to complain!) Much of the early buzz surrounding THE SILENT PATIENT refers to it as "psychological thriller", and though there's nothing technically wrong with categorizing this book like so, would like start by offering up another lens through which we can view this outstanding read..


I’m a stickler for categorization, and that may not apply to you as a reader, which is totally fine--but I consider it crucial in setting appropriate expectations and helping figure out which books are up your alley.  So what would I categorize THE SILENT PATIENT? Rather than calling this a “psychological thriller,” I call it more of an exploration into the character with psychological focus. When people hear the term "psychological thriller," they generally expect something fast paced or even twisted when they pick up such books. This book is different from all those--though still just as addictive!Michaelides writes in a way that is hypnotic and immersive, drawing the reader bit by bit into a mystery. This mystery may not be defined by any shocking twists throughout it, but rather by the tantalizing promise of peeling back layer after layer to reveal dark secrets about an enigmatic woman.  And if you are patient enough to read til the end then there will be more than what satisfies you without any spoilers!

 


THE SILENT PATIENT's true effect lies not in its flash or drama, but in the quiet, meticulous way in which Michaelides lays bare his characters' deepest workings.THE SILENT PATIENT is a character study of the story's titular patient and Theo Faber, her psychotherapist. Alicia Berenson had a picture-perfect life until one day she shot her husband five times, leaving him for dead. After that gruesome act, Alicia never spoke another word. For Theo Faber--the therapist who makes it his mission to treat her--Alicia is the most intriguing of patients; he finds himself drawn to knowing more about this woman and helping make sure she can find some kind of voice again in order for them get better as time goes on  Michaelides does an incredible job with crafting such deep characters like Alicia--a complex person whose inner turmoil isn't revealed through verbal communication but instead through vivid descriptions of physical appearance or artwork created during therapy sessions at Theo's urging .Alicia is so enigmatic she becomes almost like a mythical character in this book - we can tell the author developed her that way on purpose as he draws parallels between Alicia's story and Alcestis from Euripides' tragedy of the same name.  Throughout THE SILENT PATIENT, I found myself drawn to Alicia more than anything else because even though she couldn't directly speak with me through her own words, everything was all around me.  It's fascinating to read about a person who commits such an awful crime but yet you still find yourself trying to understand their psyche or what they've been going through while reading this novel; it presents itself as if it were just blank canvas for readers who are looking for insight into who Alicia really is without being able to hear from her first hand accounts of things . 


As opposed to the reader, Theo gets up close and personal with his patients. It is Theo's story that we follow most closely for the duration of this read: watching him start as a new psychotherapist at Grove - an in-patient unit where Alicia resides; witnessing as he starts sessions with her, trying to break through her silence; seeing how he navigates bureaucracy and office politics at  At the same time while Theo gradually works towards meaningful connection with Alicia so too should readers want a deeper understanding of who they are dealing with: what makes them tick?  And so there is one more layer within Michaelides' novel which keeps readers hooked on unlocking all their secrets just like those hidden away from view. When it comes down to it, when you find out about the twists in this book your jaw will hit the floor!


 THE SILENT PATIENT is so immensely interesting because it takes a moment to comprehend the cleverness and complexity of plotting.Michaelides makes it look easy, but there is so much at work here. This includes (but not limited to) many timelines and narrative mediums—and readers will eventually comprehend exactly how complicated a storey this was until they reach the story's mind-boggling finale. Like a literary magician, Michaelides takes a simple premise that seems on the surface as though it does not have any depth to its complexity or anything of interest about which one might write an entire book about - for example: what would happen if you were put in solitary confinement? He then turns this concept into something greater than the sum of its parts. The reveal at the end of THE SILENT PATIENT is worth the price alone; I am almost certain that some readers may even call it "The Best Twist" they've read in years! And let's face facts: no matter whether someone guesses or doesn't guess 'the twist', THE SILENT PATIENT has more going on than simply being 'twisty'. It's riveting content with an interesting plot twist...and let me tell you now....that wonderful cherry topping on top however.....is nothing short of phenomenal!


I could go on and on about how good THE SILENT PATIENT is. But I’ve got to cut myself off somewhere, or this review will go on for a while. So let's sum it up: THE SILENT PATIENT is an excellent debut crime thriller with well-developed characters study and masterful plotting, all wrapped up in hypnotic writing from which you won't be able to tear yourself away.  It has already been optioned for film adaptation; hopefully the movie does justice--but really, it will have quite some work ahead of itself too! The publisher provided me with a free copy of this book in return for an honest review.This does not affect my opinion of the book or content of my review; all opinions are mine alone.  





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