-By Soul Sword-
Genre- Psychological Thriller, Mystery, Murder
The Silent Patient is Alex Michaelides’s debut novel. It is an addictive psychological-thriller with its well-conceived storytelling. The book has a steady pace and with its unique storyline, it is a page-turner.
The story centers around Alicia Berenson, a 33-year-old artist who kills her husband Gabriel by shooting him 5 times in his face. The police find Alicia standing next to the body, bleeding profusely from the deep cuts in her wrists. She is immediately arrested, following which Alicia stops speaking. Alicia’s silence leads to the trial getting a lot of attention from the media. Alicia paints the infamous and gruesome self-portrait titled ALCESTIS (Athenian tragedy) while on house arrest before the trial. ALCESTIS has great significance throughout the story. The trial ends with Alicia being sent to a Forensic Psychiatric facility called “The Grove”.
The novel starts 6 years later, when Theo Faber, a psychotherapist who has been following Alicia’s case all along, manages to get a job at The Grove. The story is written in a first-person narrative (Theo’s point of view). Theo is determined to help Alicia speak again and sets off to find the cause behind Alicia’s silence.
The story follows Theo’s attempts at uncovering Alicia’s past and her motive behind the murder. He starts by visiting Alicia’s relatives and friends to get an account of their relationship with Alicia. The book has entries from Alicia’s diary, which give an account of incidents from Alicia’s point of view. It is up to the readers to choose whose account they believe in.
Alicia comes across as a mysterious character. She is a talented artist and despite her silence, her artworks (before the arrest) speak volumes. Alicia is violent and suicidal. She has had a difficult past and this draws Theo further into her case. Apart from the diary excerpts, the reader knows her only as ‘The Silent Patient’. The diary entries are a significant part of the story as they give a glimpse of Alicia’s life before the incident. These entries evoke mixed emotions in the reader.
Theo Faber, the protagonist, has had a rough childhood. He is happily married to Kathy, but can’t help getting emotionally attached with Alicia. Despite criticism from his colleagues, he goes to great lengths to help Alicia. Theo comes across as a tolerant but determined character. He is empathetic and naive at times but is unrelenting when he sets his mind on something.
The secondary characters are well written as each one has a sense of mystery around them. There are around 6 secondary characters. Halfway through the book, one suspects almost every one of them as their relationship with Alicia isn’t as normal as it seems.
The novel has an interesting way of unfolding, as the reader’s opinion about Alicia keeps swaying as the book progresses.
The portrayal of Alicia’s ideas through her artworks are intriguing to read. Alicia’s diary excerpts are vivid and descriptive. Some of the scenes are chilling and the book always maintained an unsettling atmosphere throughout the story.
‘The Silent Patient’ is an emotionally resonant story. The book shows how people in a person’s life play a major role in the person’s emotional state. It also conveys the fact that there is more to every person’s life than what meets the eye, which in turn causes the person to react in unpredictable ways when faced with certain situations. The story reiterates that treating just the symptoms of mental illness isn’t the solution but finding the underlying cause of the condition is important.
‘The Silent Patient’ surprises the reader with its unpredictable ending. It is a must-read and one of the best thrillers of 2019.
I rate this book 4.6/5 for its unique story and unpredictable ending.
The book can be purchased here.
-By Soul Sword-