The Silent Patient, Alex Michaelides
Alicia and Gabriel were once that sparkling young couple who appeared to be dazzlingly in love with life and totally bedazzled by each other. The envy of all who knew them, the darlings of the art world to boot. Such charmed lives some couples seem to lead. It is often said that with romantic entanglements there is always one who loves more than the other; that it is a good thing to have a partner who is just that little bit more obsessed with you than you are with them. Or perhaps all of that focus on one person never actually results in happy endings for anyone.
After seven years of marriage, Gabriel is murdered by his wife Alicia. There was no doubt that was Alicia was guilty but the reasons why she decided to kill her husband were not disclosed to the police at the time, or afterwards, to her medical caregivers. Now, the infamous Alicia Berenson is a live-in patient at a high care psychiatric facility and her secrets have remained her own to keep. Alicia has not spoken a word since the day of the murder, and this presents a challenge to those tasked to care for her. Psychotherapist Theo Faber is so determined to be the one who ‘frees’ Alicia from her past trauma that he applies for a job at her care facility. Theo is absolutely convinced that he will be the one to successfully connect with Alicia and to earn her trust so that she will, indeed, finally speak.
Don’t fight it, this book is everywhere and has the siren call of ‘buzz book’ singing out loudly from every elegantly constructed page. UK based author Alex Michaelides has set the 2019 debut author bar high with his carefully nuanced and hypnotic thriller THE SILENT PATIENT. As we are introduced to forensic psychotherapist Theo Faber after the murder has already occurred, we readers are privy to only his thoughts and impressions. What bliss it is not to be dragged through backstory in which we have to piece together our kit of clues – there is only the NOW. Yes, there is the necessity of a few literary props such as a diary (don’t groan) but primarily we are in the mind of just one person, seeing the world through his eyes only. We trust that the assured young doctor is a reliable narrator, being a man of science. Perhaps our trust is misplaced.
If you thought you were heading into a melodrama where the dashing young doctor saves the beautiful, trapped young psych patient… well you weren’t entirely wrong. There is a little of that but of course you know that romanticism is going to be dashed to the rocks soon enough. What THE SILENT PATIENT does so very well is to take the reader along with Theo as he incrementally discovers more and more details of Alicia’s life that don’t necessarily marry up with what he has read or has been told by his employers.
The inclusion of a little Greek mythology was welcomed – you can’t go wrong with such rich source material now can you – and this may even result in the reader trotting off to do some happy googling. THE SILENT PATIENT is, dare I say it, another one day read as in you might as well let things pile up as you have important work to do, such as getting to the end of this book and finding out the answers to all of your questions. Why does she not speak? Why did she kill?
Alicia Berenson’s life is seemingly perfect. A famous painter married to an in-demand fashion photographer, she lives in a grand house with big windows overlooking a park in one of London’s most desirable areas. One evening her husband Gabriel returns home late from a fashion shoot, and Alicia shoots him five times in the face, and then never speaks another word.
Alicia’s refusal to talk, or give any kind of explanation, turns a domestic tragedy into something far grander, a mystery that captures the public imagination and casts Alicia into notoriety. The price of her art skyrockets, and she, the silent patient, is hidden away from the tabloids and spotlight at the Grove, a secure forensic unit in North London.
Theo Faber is a criminal psychotherapist who has waited a long time for the opportunity to work with Alicia. His determination to get her to talk and unravel the mystery of why she shot her husband takes him down a twisting path into his own motivations—a search for the truth that threatens to consume him....