The Silent Patient
by Alex Michaelides
The Silent Patient opens with the murder of Gabriel Berenson, seemingly by his artist wife, Alicia. Alicia does not speak when found at the crime scene, through her trial and once placed in a secure psychiatric facility although she produces a self-portrait based on a Greek myth. A psychotherapist, Theo Faber, takes a keen interest in the case and manages to become Alicia’s therapist in ‘The Grove’, where she is held. Theo is determined to make Alicia speak but his efforts are hampered by his own personal demons, the antagonism of his colleagues at The Grove and Alicia’s volatile yet silent behaviour. There is a huge twist at the end of the novel which I shall not spoil here but we finally learn why Alicia is silent and why Theo has developed such an intense involvement with both her and the murder case.
I really would like to give 3.5 stars to this book but I don’t award half measures and for the reasons given below, I am going to round down rather than up. The Silent Patient began very strongly and I was hooked; really could not wait to pick it up again. Then, it dipped for me. I found Theo, who narrates the majority of the novel, irritating. He came across as arrogant and unlikeable and I don’t think that was Michaelides’ intention. I thought the narrative strand involving his weed smoking was slightly ridiculous in the emphasis that was placed upon it and, personally, added nothing. Although the twist is, in a way, a real volte-face, I’m not sure it completely works. There are a few loose ends here; the situation with his wife, Kathy, is not particularly resolved and I felt the twist covered this up. She subsided into cliché and that was frustrating as a result. The novel is incredibly pacey and I think this disguises some issues that you don’t quite realise at the time because the plot is so fast-moving. I also take issue with Alicia’s journal entries. Although a proportion were believable and very readable, I found the amount of detail and dialogue recorded unconvincing. It was a good strategy, certainly, but I think the ‘journal’ aspect was lost in the Author’s hurry to tell the story.
Overall, it was a good read and very enjoyable in places so recommended.