Book Review: The Silent Patient – Alex Michaelides

Book Rating : 4 stars

A thriller with a twist ending, The Silent Patient was on my TBR list for a while after I kept hearing good reviews on it.

Alicia Berenson is a famous painter with a famous photographer (Gabriel) as a husband. They seem like a great couple – he’s attentive, she’s loving.

Of course, they seem great – underneath, though, is a tinge of madness, and a cup of lies.

Theo Faber is a criminal psychotherapist whose life is interconnected with Alicia’s and Gabriel’s in a twisted, dark way.

When Alicia shoots her husband five times in the face/head, she ends up at a psychiatric facility called the Grove. Six years later, Theo has a chance to work with Alicia as a Grove patient, and he leaps at that chance.

Alicia, though, has recognized him as a dark figure of her past.

Now their histories are intertwined and Alicia is remembering. And with that memory, Alicia’s life may be at risk.

The Silent Patient kept me awake as I tore through the pages. I kept trying to piece together what happened – did Alicia murder her husband in cold blood? Why? Was she really being stalked, or was she insane?

Who to believe? Who had agendas?

Almost every character had some hint of deception to them, a lie they were carrying, some graver than others. It was difficult to figure out who to trust and whose explanation of events was the least truthful one.

One thing I didn’t like about the book was that there were too many deus ex machinas and too many coincidences. Theo ends up at the Grove, while a former colleague also works there who had a past intertwined with Ailcia’s even prior to her ending up at the Grove. Theo’s wife has an indirect touch with Alicia’s past that leads him to meet Alicia before he ever starts working at the Grove.

The Grove itself was another source of contention – it seemed like it was running as some prison/experimental facility, with incompetent caretakers. And the external pressure of “The Trust” who were threatening to shut down the facility was meant to be an external stress source for the characters, but ended up feeling like The Trust was an (in)convenient amorphous character driving the other characters’ behaviors.

Overall, I thought this was a good debut and worth its hype, if not for the writing, but for the twist at the end.

Favorite quotes from The Silent Patient:

“…But real love is very quiet, very still. It’s boring, if seen from the perspective of high drama. Love is deep and calm – and constant.” 

“Remember, love that doesn’t include honesty doesn’t deserve to be called love.”

“We’re all crazy, I believe, just in different ways.”

“I didn’t want to die. Not yet; not when I hadn’t lived.”

“The aim of therapy is not to correct the past, but to enable the patient to confront his own history, and to grieve over it.”

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