The Silent Patient
I don’t ordinarily re-read mysteries and psychological thrillers because once you reach the finish, you know the twist. But enough time had passed since I last read The Silent Patient and I was pleasantly surprised that I had forgotten most of the ending! I can honestly say that I enyoned it as much the second time around and I picked up on nuances I hadn’t noticed the first time. That’s because I thought the plot was so good and couldn’t wait to find out what happened. The Silent Patient has many unexpected twists, a few red herrings and an excellent tie-in to a classic Greek play.
Here’s my review from 2020:
Alicia Berenson does something strange when she’s charged with her husband’s murder. She stops talking. Not another word. Nothing to the London police, to her lawyer, and still now, years later, nothing to the doctors at the Grove, the psychiatric ward where she lives. Before the murder, they lived the good life. Alicia was a well-known artist and her husband, Gabriel, was a famous photographer. Now she sits silent. The only clue to explain her actions is a self-portrait, painted a few days after the murder.
Theo Faber is a criminal psychotherapist and he’s been obsessed with Alicia’s case from the beginning. So he jumps when a job opens up at the Grove. The doctors have given up on her, but Theo is determined to get Alicia to speak. Despite warnings from his boss, Theo digs so deep into Alicia’s psyche he may not be able to free himself.
What a great set-up for a suspenseful psychological thriller! I tore through this fast-paced story because I was both engrossed in the plot and anxious to see what Michaelides’ characters would do. The story is told from both Theo’s and Alicia’s perspectives, with Theo as the narrator and through Alicia’s journal entries. Readers will need to do some work, however, because they won’t get the full story from either, not until the finish where a final and unexpected twist explains it all.
Although plot driven, The Silent Patient is also a look at different psychologies and how vulnerable children are to their circumstances, especially in relationships to their parents and other family. Both Theo and Alicia suffered miserable childhoods and were subjected to pain and rejection. Through his story, the author asks important questions about nature versus nurture. Would his characters be different people if they’d had better childhoods?
Michaelides also cleverly ties The Silent Patient to the Greek play, Alcestis and the tragic choices that are made between Alcestis and her husband. I enjoyed this parallel very much and how it explains Alicia’s behavior.
The Silent Patient is the author’s debut novel and the type of book you want to start and finish in the same day. I recommend it to readers who like the fast pace of a thriller with the bonus of interesting characters and ideas. According to a 2019 article in The Hollywood Reporter, Megan Ellison’s Annapurna Pictures and Brad Pitt’s Plan B plan to adapt the book into a film, but there is no new word on a release.
Meantime, if you’re looking for a fast and engrossing read this one fits the bill!
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