The Silent Patient is a shocking psychological thriller of a woman’s act of violence against her husband—and of the therapist obsessed with uncovering her motive.
“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…”
This story follows the criminal psychotherapist, Theo Faber, who has long waited for a chance to work with Alicia Berenson, to discover the truth behind her eternal silence, and her motivations for killing her husband. The plotline starts off innocuously as one might expect, we follow the point of view of Theo as he picks up his life to head to The Grove where Alicia is being treated. When he gets there, he discovers layers and layers of secrecy which he must unravel to find the real cause of Alicia’s silence and the truth of that fateful day. Occasionally letting us peer into Alicia’s diary in parallel to Theo’s point of view, Michaelides weaves an exciting tale, one that straps you down into the seat of the rollercoaster and doesn’t let go until the exciting finish.
3.5 Drink Me Potions
I found myself quite enthralled with the premise of this book. One of the main driving mysteries is the last painting that Alicia paints before she was locked away. It was titled Alcestis and is based on a Greek tragedy – a heroine of self-sacrifice. This is the narrative that is the key to unlocking Alicia Berenson. What on earth drove the painter to the point of murder? And how can it possibly be related to a heroine of self-sacrifice? Was it really possible for a move like murder to be altruistic in some way? This was one of the main questions I had throughout the whole book, driving me to read along, to find out what happened.
We quickly find out that Theo has issues of his own, a rough childhood with a tormenting father, and very keen to escape the shadows of the past. The novel really explores the theme of the past being an important precedent for the future. Many psychological and psychiatric themes are laid out in the many characters that are introduced. This also really tended to blur the boundary lines and create a type of moral ambiguity present in each character – how much can you blame a person for acting according to what their past has defined them to be? I found myself wonder what I’d be like in each of the character’s shoes, or how I would personally react to the same situations.
To be honest, I found some of the characters rather shallow and underdeveloped. A little bit inconsistent even, sometimes. That being said, it wasn’t badly written or anything like that. Some of the characters and actions just seemed a little bit unnecessary, or a bit out of place – this may have been to place red herrings for the readers, but I wasn’t completely convinced. This novel is kind of a hybrid between a thriller and a mystery, it has the setting of a murder mystery narrative but is also of course written in a first person POV that keeps us on our toes at every turn.
All that being said, I actually really enjoyed the ride! I’m also a sucker for Greek mythology, so that really rung true for me. If I think about the minor details and little twists and study them individually, I don’t find that I really appreciated the mall that much. However, if you are talking about the the holistic experience of a thriller “ride”, I can say I thoroughly enjoyed it. Even if I was able to see the little twists that were coming up, I still felt like the way that it was written was very exciting for me, and the parallel chronological storylines particularly captured my attention. After all, I did finish this novel in one day!
The Silent Patient follows the deceivingly perfect life of Alicia Berenson and her descent into madness and murder, and how a psychotherapist comes to save her from her self-imposed silence. More and more secrets are revealed as Theo dives into Alicia’s past, uncovering her own troubled childhood, not unlike his own. And how does Alicia’s famous painting Alcestis tie into all this? This is a very exciting thriller from beginning to end – if you enjoy the uncovering of secrets and watching a puzzle come together, this is definitely one that you will enjoy!