Title: The Silent Patient
Author: Alex Michaelides
Publisher: Celadon Books
Release Date: February 5th, 2019
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….
“Somehow grasping at vanishing snowflakes is like grasping at happiness: an act of possession that instantly gives way to nothing.”
This is one of those books that you continue to think about long after you’ve finished reading it. The Silent Patient is about mental illness, the evilness within all of us, and how childhood trauma shapes who we are as adults. It’s a quiet thriller that sneaks up on you and crawls under your skin.
Theo Faber is a psychotherapist who is fascinated with Alicia Berenson, a well-known painter who shot her husband and has remained silent ever since. When a job opens up in the psychiatric hospital where she is admitted, Theo accepts it in hopes that he will be the one to finally break her silence. As he takes over Alicia’s care, Theo begins to look into her past. He contacts several people who had been close with Alicia, from her brother-in-law to her art gallery manager. As the lines between patient and therapist blur and his own personal life starts falling apart at the seams, Theo finds himself becoming more and more invested in making Alicia speak of the fateful night she shot her husband.
“We’re all crazy, I believe, just in different ways.”
This book keeps you guessing from start to finish. Each character has secrets of their own and most have traits that range from off-putting to downright disturbing. No one is innocent. I find psychology really fascinating, so I loved the exploration of the human psyche, childhood trauma, and inherent evil. The main character’s own traumatic childhood and his admission that he is “fucked up” is the driving force behind this novel. The incorporated Greek tragedy also kind of gave me The Secret History feels.
The chapters are very short and most end in a cliffhanger, making it very easy to tell yourself “just one more!”, which is probably how I was able to finish this book in a single day. It’s completely unputdownable.
The Silent Patient takes you on a wild ride, and even if you suspect how the story will unfold (as I did), it will still be an enjoyable one. It was so well-done that I was shocked it was Alex Michaelides’ debut novel. I was completely riveted from the first page, and I can’t wait to read more from him.