All The Books I Can Read

1 girl….2 many books!

Review: The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides

on July 10, 2019

The Silent Patient 
Alex Michaelides
Orion Books
2019, 352p
Purchased personal copy

Blurb {from the publisher/}:

Only she knows what happened.
Only I can make her speak.

I love him so totally, completely, sometimes it threatens to overwhelm me.
Sometimes I think-
No. I won’t write about that.

Alicia Berenson writes a diary as a release, an outlet – and to prove to her beloved husband that everything is fine. She can’t bear the thought of worrying Gabriel, or causing him pain.

Until, late one evening, Alicia shoots Gabriel five times and then never speaks another word.

Forensic psychotherapist Theo Faber is convinced he can successfully treat Alicia, where all others have failed. Obsessed with investigating her crime, his discoveries suggest Alicia’s silence goes far deeper than he first thought.

And if she speaks, would he want to hear the truth?

Recently when I was compiling a Top 10 Tuesday post looking for books for a winter reading list, I came across this one. I hadn’t heard of it before but the premise sounded amazing and it had a really strong rating on Goodreads. I don’t always pay a huge amount of attention to ratings but it made me curious and so I picked up an eBook copy to read whilst I am away.

Theo is a forensic psychotherapist and he’s just applied for a job The Grove, a secure psychiatric facility in London. His primary reason for applying for a position there seems to be because of Alicia, an artist of some renown who shot her husband multiple times in the face some years ago and then hasn’t spoken another word since. No amount of therapy seems to have had any impact on her condition and so Theo thinks that he can help Alicia where others have failed and get her to speak about what actually happened on that night.

Theo arranges to wean Alicia off the strong cocktail of medication she’s on that keeps her virtually comatose but it’s not as easy as just that to get inside her head. Alicia has a strong will and she’s maintained a silence for a very long time so what does Theo bring to the table that’s different? The Grove is in a precarious position, facing closure and it seems that the staff are all probably up to various rule breaking tricks.

This was really interesting. There seems little doubt that Alicia did actually shoot her husband in the face but…..then there’s the why. Why did she do it? There are some that believe she’s innocent, although when the police arrived just minutes after the gunshots, she was the only person in the room with her husband, her prints were on the gun. The fact that she never spoke a word to defend herself either was telling – surely if she didn’t do it, she’d have said that? Even people that do commit crimes say they didn’t. But instead Alicia said nothing. All throughout her arrest, her trial and since she’s been committed to the Grove, she hasn’t said a word. And that intrigues a lot of people just as much as it makes them feel passionately about her guilt.

For a large part of this, I was hooked on the story. I was interested in Theo’s decision to apply for a job at the Grove and also at the same time, hoped that it wasn’t going to be one of those stories where the therapist falls in love with the patient with disastrous consequences, or the power of their love fixes them or something. The backstory is really interesting and it just gets more and more complex the more Theo wades through it, talking to Gabriel’s (Alicia’s husband) brother, her former friend and gallery owner that exhibited her work, the small amount of family she has left, her old next door neighbour. And as we are learning more about Alicia’s background and her marriage and what could’ve possibly gone so wrong between her and Gabriel that she shot him in the face multiple times from close range, we are also learning about Theo. He is openly frank about his background and marriage and also about his obsession with Alicia. His desire to help her does seem to border on an obsession, which is clear to more than one of his colleagues already. I actually wondered a lot about Theo’s motivation in the book in the beginning…..was it because he really, in professional arrogance, thought he could help her where many others had failed? And certainly in Theo’s favour, he does uncover some fairly unprofessional practices taking place in and around Alicia’s treatment and at the Grove in general, which was fairly concerning.

Then there’s the twist.

And I have to admit, the twist, on first reading, was like a WOAH OMG moment for me, it wasn’t something I saw coming (because I never do see these things coming!). But it was only later, upon mulling it over, that I realised the twist actually raised more questions than it did give answers for me and it just changed a lot of things so that I ended up thinking why did person A even do this, or why would person B actually push for that answer? That sort of thing. It was good for shock value but then overall it kind of changed the integrity of the story for me and made some things seem very strangely motivated or unlikely. I think probably the answer is someone is probably a narcissist of epic proportions with a God complex.  But I’m not a psychotherapist so what do I know?!


Book #103 of 2019


2 responses to “Review: The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides

  1. Did Theo shoot Gabriel and he was only trying to ‘help’ Alicia to ensure she didn’t tell?

  2. […] I read it?: Yes – my review. I found it a solid, entertaining […]

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