I was not planning on writing a blog post on books today, I really wasn’t. I had a fun mental health post planned (look for that later in the week!). However, last night, I had my life changed. At about 7:00 PM, I opened The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides. At 11:10, I walked out of my bedroom, all 323 pages complete, and exploded to my husband about how this was the best debut novel I have ever read (Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn is probably a close second).
I just had to write a review on this book, I couldn’t go to bed tonight in good conscience without sharing how amazing it was with all of you guys. So this is what I thought of The Silent Patient, and why it blew me away.
Alicia Berenson lives an incredible life. She is a famous painter with her own studio in her backyard, married to the handsome fashion photographer Gabriel, who she is madly in love with. A large house in London overlooking a beautiful park, everything seems perfect.
Until August 25th, when Gabriel returns home late from a photo shoot, and Alicia shoots him five times in the face. Police find her silently standing with her own wrists slit in front of her deceased husband.
She never speaks another word.
Alicia never defends herself in the murder trial, and is sent to the Grove, a highly secure forensic unit in North London.
Six years later, psychotherapist Theo Faber has finally gotten the chance he was waiting for. He has been offered a position at the Grove. He believes he can make Alicia talk, and discover the truth of that fateful night. However, digging into Alicia’s past my require him to dig a little too deep into his own…
Alicia Berenson is an unnerving character. The reader immediately begins to receive snippets of her diary from the month the murder happened, and through this you get to learn a bit about her. However, after the murder and in present day when it is most important, she communicates not at all. Her face is always stoic, and she never speaks. She seems to not care about anything at all. Alicia’s character draws you in immediately. For me personally, I wasn’t sure whether to pity the poor woman who has lost everything dear to her and won’t speak, or to fear the woman who brutally murdered her husband and just doesn’t care.
The reason I couldn’t put The Silent Patient down is that Michaelides did not provide the answer to how you should feel about Alicia Berenson until the final pages. She is captivating as a character, which is masterful due to her almost complete lack of dialogue.
Theo Faber is at first confusing, but also clearly our stories protagonist. You first learn that he became a psychotherapist because he was “fucked up”. However, regardless of his harsh past, it would appear as if he is a decent therapist. He receives his new position at the Grove and throws himself into his work. He is a constant advocate for Alicia, and he (and those around him), truly believe that he can get her to speak.
Throughout the book, you learn more about Theo’s past, and begin to understand a little more about why he has such a strong desire to help others, and specifically Alicia. You also learn to be worried for him as he breaks the rules of the Grove and digs into her past, meeting her family members in private, pushing the limits with Alicia, and putting himself in grave danger as a result. You will instantly find yourself rooting for Theo, while on the edge of your seat wondering if he will get Alicia to open up without getting fired or injured.
Why The Silent Patient Blew Me Away
This book literally astounded me. I was not expecting too much from the novel, as the first thing that I realized was that this was Michaelides first novel. I also received it through my Book of the Month membership, meaning that I couldn’t physically hold it in my hands and flip through it a little before I read it. I was honestly confused- how can you make a novel that is over 300 pages interesting, when most of the mystery is solved in the first chapter?
The facts seem pretty straight forward.
- Alicia Berenson killed her husband.
- Alicia Berenson was suicidal afterwards.
- Alicia Berenson is being punished for her crimes in a psych ward.
- Alicia Berenson doesn’t speak after the crime.
And you think, okay, who cares? The mystery is solved, minus the motive and the reason she doesn’t speak. But she’s a murderer, so why do we care that she doesn’t speak? I also wouldn’t consider simply discovering a motive the groundwork for an incredible book that leaves me breathless, but it did.
And here is why:
All of the above facts are correct. But the entire way through the novel, you make an assumption. The assumption is a LIE.
I won’t go more into detail as to not give it away, but I will end with this:
Michaelides: congratulations. I haven’t read a book straight through in several years. Your book drew me in, your characters dug into my soul, and when I was finished, I had to reread the last four chapters several times. The switch was such a small detail, I would have never noticed it. I am ecstatic to read whatever novel you come out with next.
Readers: buy this book. Seriously. Support this author. He is incredibly talented. This book will show you loss, it will make you feel things, and at the end, you won’t have a clue as to what Michaelides had been doing to you the entire time. Experience it.