The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides
Publisher: Orion Books
Publication date: 07 February 2019
Page count: 352 pages
Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. This review is spoiler-free.
Despite the fact that it hasn’t been released yet, you may have already heard buzz about The Silent Patient. Set to be one of the biggest thriller debuts of 2019, this book has so much hype surrounding it already. I can’t claim to be an expert on the thrillers, but I absolutely love reading them and find that a great thriller can be one of the most rewarding reading experiences for me. So did The Silent Patient live up to the hype?
Alicia Berenson’s life is seemingly perfect. A famous painter married to an in-demand fashion photographer, she lives in a grand house with big windows overlooking a park in one of London’s most desirable areas. One evening her husband Gabriel returns home late from a fashion shoot, and Alicia shoots him five times in the face, and then never speaks another word.
Alicia’s refusal to talk, or give any kind of explanation, turns a domestic tragedy into something far grander, a mystery that captures the public imagination and casts Alicia into notoriety. The price of her art skyrockets, and she, the silent patient, is hidden away from the tabloids and spotlight at the Grove, a secure forensic unit in North London.
Theo Faber is a criminal psychotherapist who has waited a long time for the opportunity to work with Alicia. His determination to get her to talk and unravel the mystery of why she shot her husband takes him down a twisting path into his own motivations—a search for the truth that threatens to consume him…
I don’t want to give anything away, so this review will be pretty short. The answer to my above questions is that, well, no it didn’t live up to the hype for me. That’s not to say that The Silent Patient isn’t a good book — it is an incredibly well-paced page turner that will keep you reading late into the night — but I didn’t think there was anything incredibly unusual or groundbreaking about it. This, however, probably has more to do with my expectations than anything else. The way it is being marketed made me think that it would be a genre-redefining book like Gone Girl was. In reality, The Silent Patient is a pretty standard thriller with the standard twists and turns that a reader expects from thrillers these days. My reaction to the big, twisted ending was ‘huh, interesting’ and nothing more — I certainly didn’t see it coming, but it didn’t blow me away. I feel that if The Silent Patient was published 3-5 years ago, it would have been a much more explosive book for me.
I liked the characters in this book well enough, particularly Theo, but I didn’t get too attached or invested in any of them. There was something about Alicia’s characterisation that unsettled me, and I don’t think it was intentional. She feels like a hot, empty vessel for the men around her to react to. In this way, she felt so flat and one-dimensional when she should have been intriguing and fascinating. I think this kind of female character just isn’t for me, but on the other hand, character development is difficult when a character never speaks.
Overall, The Silent Patient wasn’t necessarily for me, but is worth your time if you decide to pick it up. But is it the next big thing in the genre? Probably not. But it will satisfy the craving for a fast-paced thriller.
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