Book review: The Silent Patient, Alex Michaelides


Getting stuck in to a great novel is something I have always enjoyed as a way to relax, unwind and pass the time. However, during University I lost this love for recreational reading due to the ever amounting journal articles and textbooks requiring to be read for my course. Considering the majority of my studying was spent flicking through pages, picking up a book was the last thing on my mind during my spare time. Now, since I have finished my studies and ended up with ample free time, I have thoroughly enjoyed picking back up this hobby and delving into some new fiction finds.


I have always been someone to much prefer picking up a physical book to read. There's something somewhat satisfying about flicking through the actual pages and it provides some well needed time away from the screens we are continually surrounded by. Having said that, for ease of reading as much as possible, during lockdown I have began reading on my iPhone using the Apple Books app. Although sceptical at first, I have found it quite enjoyable. The text can be easily altered in size to suit your needs as well as the colour of the pages changed to be more pleasant on the eye. Whilst this will never replace reading a proper book, the easy accessibility has allowed me to power through many a novel in the past few months. In this post I am going to share with you my favourite of the pile so far, potentially even my favourite book ever read; The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides.


Plot

Excellent. The plot had me hooked from the start with continual twists, turns and new information that meant guessing the ending was impossible (for me, anyway). This psychological thriller centres around a female patient, Alicia, placed in a psychiatric institution after being convicted of murdering her husband. However, she has not spoken a single word since she was found at the scene of the crime. The novel is mostly written from the point of view of her new psychotherapist, Theo, who endeavours to find out the truth of what happened and why Alicia has refused to speak since. Some chapters are also snippets from Alicia's own diary leading up to the events, providing further insight into her character as well as the others surrounding her.


Psychological thrillers are my favourite movie genre so I knew this book would likely be a winner, but I have never wanted to not put a book down as much as this one. I found the unpredictability and suspense created on each page entirely gripping throughout and the plot twist at the end had me, frankly, mind-blown. Of all the film or book plots I have come across, I have never seen or read one like this which made it all the more engaging. The pace of the book was also brilliantly executed by Michaelides, ensuring, as the reader, you were neither left bored nor confused as the plot unfolded.


Characters

Admittedly, I wouldn't say I felt particularly attached to any one of the characters within the novel. Having said that, I don't think the story line lends itself to feeling this way and so did not feel this lack of connection detracted from the book. All the characters provide an abundance of intrigue and mystery, with extra parts of their multi-dimensional personalities and backgrounds being unravelled as the book progresses. My opinions of different characters altered and flipped throughout, adding to the gripping nature of the thriller and provoking further thought from the reader. I enjoy suspenseful books that allow me to really think, concocting up my own ideas of how it may play out. This book provided just that through the ever-changing knowledge surrounding the characters, meaning my mind was never fully made up before being knocked sideways again.


Writing style

The writing style was easy to follow with the flashback diary entries and present tense easily distinguishable with differing chapters. The plot did not require groundbreaking writing to be effective, with suspense, intrigue and tension built brilliantly in all the right places. I have definitely read books that use more impressive, delicately chosen language, however I feel the more simplistic approach complemented the narrative well. Personally I view writing an engaging thriller book as a difficult trade to master since moving image often captures the audiences undivided attention much more easily. Therefore, considering my 'desperate to get to the end' stance, in my opinion the writing style was spot on.


Three words to describe this book

Gripping, original and unanticipated.


Final comments

I would highly recommend this book to anybody who enjoys sinking their teeth into a psychological thriller novel or a plot that keeps you guessing throughout. Although my favourite films, I have never been someone to often read thriller books, however this has entirely converted me into trying out many, many more of the genre. I found myself feeling a lot more absorbed into this story than I previously have with more light-hearted or romantic reads, which is a great way to let the hours tick by with little notice. Although this book isn't necessarily one to offer hidden meanings, lessons or address pressing topics, it provides great escapism into a captivating, fictional world, something I think we all need during the unprecedented times we are living through.


One final thing worth a mention is that, after reading other reviews of The Silent Patient, the psychotherapy methods overtly used by the protagonist are not deemed conventional and therefore it paints quite a haphazard view of the profession. Nevertheless, I still found the psychology aspects of the plot interesting and it added another compelling element to the story as well as the chance to learn slightly more about the field.


Let me know in the comments which books you have been enjoying recently or any recommendations for gripping thrillers I should try!

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