The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides (368 pages)
Agatha Christie Suspense Meets Silent Female Killers
Did Alicia Berenson really kill her husband, especially when they seemed to have such a perfect life? That’s the question that pervades throughout Alex Michaelides’ debut novel The Silent Patient, which came out in February 2019. Since then, the book has been a NYT best seller for many, many weeks, and according to Goodreads, “the biggest-selling debut in the world in 2019.”
The Silent Patient offers two alternative perspectives. One is Theo Faber, a psychiatrist with a dark past of his own, who wants to “help people” he says, but really, he’s looking to help himself. The main protagonist is Alicia Berenson, the woman accused of murdering her husband Gabriel, an established fashion photographer, then immediately fell silent. Prior to the murder, Alicia had her own successful career as a painter but her art didn’t become worldly famous until after her husband died.
What was Alicia’s motivation for shooting her husband in the face so many times? Why commit such a brutal murder when she seemed to have everything going for her? After all, she loved her husband and he loved her. They lived in one of London’s most desirable neighbourhoods. They were going places. So why now? And why won’t she talk about it?
These are some of the questions that psychotherapist Theo Faber must figure out. The ending is nothing you’d expect; full of unexpected twists and turns.
A Perfect Couple’s Life Dismantled in a Moment of Violence
Fueled by media frenzy, I first read the book in June of 2019 (nerd alert: I keep a log of all the books I’ve read since 2018) and I remembered being completely and utterly wowed by the novel. So when BooknBrunch asked me to review this book, I wholeheartedly said yes! I read the book again and was again wowed by the book. The fact that it’s told through two different perspectives (Alicia’s diaries and Theo’s medical notes) means that you get to see how each person perceives the incident while all of it builds up toward the end when we find out what really happened.
It’s perhaps every author’s dream (including mine) to debut a novel that sells so well and wins awards simultaneously. In addition to being on bestseller lists, Michaelides’ book was a 2019 Goodreads Choice Award for Mystery & Thriller Winner, selected by many readers as their top favourite in the genre.
But underneath this instant hit you may be surprised to learn that while the book was published in 2019, the idea came to Michaelides in 2013, which he wrote on his Notes app on his phone. “Four years and two weeks later, I finished writing the book,” he wrote on his Instagram page. “Anyone who has an idea for a book on their phone, I heartily encourage you to keep going.”
The Bottom Line: 5/5 stars
I’m a sucker for psychological thrillers, especially when it comes to domestic tragedies and anything related to family and complicated relationships. I truly appreciated the fact that Michaelides took his time to develop this novel. It shows that some of the greatest novels of all time (bestsellers or award winners) requires the patience of the writer to mold and sculpt it (sorry, I can’t resist an artistic pun) into a thrilling story that anyone can enjoy.
That’s exactly what Michaelides has done with this story. By showing how silence can be more powerful than the spoken word, you learn how a person can change from just a single event and how they can be brought back to the real world. If you’re a fan of Gone Girl or Where the Crawdads Sing then this book is right up your alley as the ending will have you shocked beyond imagination.
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