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Silence will not hide all your secrets. Review of the book “Silent Patient”

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The brutal murder of her lover, a woman imprisoned in her own mind from the outside world, and a therapist who decided to reveal her secrets. Despite the fact that this work is a debut, it has already managed to gain a lot of positive feedback from readers. Read more as a study of character than as a psychological thriller, The Silent Patient is a maze-like study of the psyche of both the woman convicted of killing her husband and the therapist who decided to treat her. That storm of emotions is transmitted by the author not by maintaining the tone of the narrative or the presence of unexpected twists, but primarily by telling the story through the disclosure of the characters and the psychology of the characters.

The author of the book, Alex Michaelides, is a native of Cyprus, where in his youth he was interested in studying Greek mythology. Most of all, he was captivated by the myth of Alceste, who is and inspired Alex to write this novel and formed the basis of the book. Despite the fact that this is his debut in the field of writing, Michaelides has already managed to prove himself as a screenwriter for such films as “The Devil You Know” (2013) and “Scammers Forced” (2018). An important role in writing the book and the author’s creative path was played by his work in a psychiatric adolescent center, the experience of which he was able to use to better build the plot. The author himself speaks flatteringly about the time spent writing “The Silent Patient” (2019), when he experimented alone with the construction of sentences, word order and selection of the right synonym. The book itself is small in size (about 350 pages), presented in a hard cover with an attractive design and comfortable page design.

Summary of the plot:

Alicia Berenson’s life seems perfect. The famous artist married a popular fashion photographer. She lives in a luxurious house with large windows overlooking the park, in one of the most attractive areas of London. One evening, her husband Gabrielle returns home late from a fashion photo shoot, and Alicia shoots him five times in the face, after which she doesn’t say another word.

Alicia’s refusal to speak or give any explanations turns the family tragedy into something much bigger, a mystery that captures the public imagination and makes Alicia famous. The price of her art skyrockets, and she, a silent patient, hides from newspapers and attention in Grove, a reliable forensic department in North London.

Theo Faber is a criminal psychotherapist who has been waiting a long time to work with Alicia. His determination to get her to talk and unravel the mystery of why she shot her husband leads him down a tortuous path to his own motives – the search for the truth that threatens to engulf him …

The Silent Patient is a psychological thriller, as many call it, but it can also be called a study of a character with a strong psychological focus. The book begins with the brutal murder of her husband Alicia Berenson. The case seems to be closed, the killer is caught red-handed, but the motives of the killer remain unclear, as she does not say a word after the crime. As a result, she was sent for treatment to Grove Psychological Hospital. Then comes the second protagonist, who is much more troubled by Alicia’s illness, which he desperately wants to help her deal with – Theo Faber.

The narrative itself is divided into two parts, and they differ from each other. From time to time, there are entries from Alicia’s diary that were made before the murder and help to better understand what kind of person she is and what could have prompted her to do so and the causal relationship of her actions in general. These records have a certain charm and hypnotism, which can not help but rejoice, forcing you to read them carefully, step by step drawing you into the secret of this woman. However, there is another disclosure of this character related to the present. It consists for the most part in observing the behavior, and often in its complete absence during conversations with Theo. I didn’t like this part because of its somewhat protracted nature, when it seemed that Theo himself learned much more from the conversation with Alicia (essentially a monologue) than the reader. And importantly, the moment I found out the true cause of all Alicia’s actions and behaviors, I was not satisfied, because I thought it was not enough reason to behave like that and not try to change. In the end, I have a negative attitude towards Alicia, although all this can be justified by the weak character of the heroine, then everything falls into place. Also, everything will become clearer when you remember that it is based on the myth of Alceste, with whom the main character associates himself.

Unlike Alicia, readers get to know psychotherapist Theo Faber closely. The second part of the story is based on it. It is more familiar to the ordinary reader due to which you quickly begin to penetrate the character and understand him. We follow Theo’s story closely throughout the reading: we watch him begin his new work in Grove, a guarded psychiatric ward where Alicia lives; we watch him begin his sessions with Alicia, seeking to break her silence; we see how he orients himself in the bureaucracy of the Grove and his colleagues. At the same time, Theo’s story is not limited to his interaction with Alicia, he also has a personal life in which not everything is so smooth and you need to adjust it in parallel with everything. For a character who is determined to reveal his patient’s secrets, Theo himself is completely hidden from the reader. However, unlike Alicia, at the moment when all the cards were revealed, I was delighted with the finale related to Theo. Among other things, there is another small drawback, but it is an integral part of the work. Since this was my first experience in this genre, many medical terms predominate here, although they are written in plain language. Also, sometimes there was too much self-digging of the characters for me, when I lacked some action to unload. in addition, there was sometimes a lack of additional disclosure of some of the characters that directly influenced the story. Everything else is very good, everything is built concisely, no plot holes are found, the book manages to keep interest until the very end.

“Silent Patient” is an outstanding debut crime novel that paves its own path, providing intellectual elaboration of the characters and a masterful plot, all wrapped in a hypnotic text from which you will not want to break away. This is a good book that is easy to read and obviously will not leave anyone indifferent, but I would not put it in the category of “must read”, but if you come across it, you will not regret it. It is also quite a worthy option to get acquainted with the genre of psychological thriller.

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