The hype of this book had me expecting so much from this story. I tried reading it in April and could not get through it. I couldn’t to hear person after person scream PRAISE for this story so I tried again. Once I got through the first half, it did not disappoint.
A famous painter, Alicia Berenson, appeared to have the perfect life. She was happily married to a popular fashion photographer, lives in a grand house in a beautiful part of London, and has her own studio in her backyard. Then one evening her husband, Gabriel, comes home late from work. The neighbor hears gun shots, calls the police, and when they arrive at the Berenson’s home, they find Alicia with a gun, and Gabriel with five shots to the face. Alicia never speaks another word.
Alicia’s silence, lack of defense or explanation, turns her tragedy into a mystery. The public’s imagination swirls with possibilities and they cast Alicia into notoriety. Her art skyrockets in price and popularity, and she is hidden away from the media at the Grove, a secure forensic unit in North London. Here, she becomes the silent patient.
Here enters, Theo Faber, the narrator of this tale. He is a criminal psychotherapist who describes himself as “fucked up”. He soon becomes transfixed with Alicia’s case. His determination to get to talk to her and solve the mystery of what happened that night takes him down a dark path into his motivations, as the search begins to consume him.
Yes, this plot sounds stellar, and it was! This book shook me at the end. I could not believe what I had just read. However, it does not start this way.
As I said earlier, my first attempt reading this, I had to give up. The story, despite being well written, was slow and boring. After the opening scene and to the “big reveal” not much happens. This story progresses so slow it was pain staking. Luckily the short chapters made it easy to push through. Also every so often we would get to read an entry from Alicia’s diary she kept before the night of her husband’s murder.
Theo was the perfect narrator for this story. His descriptions painted everything vividly in my mind. Scenes of this story broke my heart while others made my skin crawl. Each character seemed so real in this story, everyone so deeply complex.
I highly recommend The Silent Patient. If you have started it and tossed it in your DNF pile, I would urge you to try again. However, I know this story will not shock everyone and the beginning will be enough for you to hate this story. Alex Michaelides at least deserves a try.