THE SILENT PATIENT
BY ALEX MICHAELIDES
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….
While I didn’t love The Silent Patient, I didn’t dislike it either. The final few chapters really pulled the story together with a shocking ending but it took a lot of willpower to get there. I shouldn’t have had to wait until the end for how the story was laid out to make sense but it did make it worth it.
Theo is a psychotherapist with an interest in Alicia, the woman who shot her husband in the face five times one evening and has been silent ever sense. Her only expression of the events being a self portrait titled “Alcestis.” No one has been able to get her to speak since but Theo believe he can be the one to break through to her and help her through the power of therapy.
A book called “The Silent Patient” makes it seem like it would then be about said patient, but in truth it’s really about Theo. We get the events of the book from his biased perspective and see how awful his upbringing was and how that played into his career choice. He truly believes in the power of therapy and how it saved him and allowed him to escape his upbringing. We also get a bit of his daily life away from his job like his life with his wife and their relationship. It all seemed a tad mundane until suddenly it wasn’t. I was more invested in Theo than Alicia which I think was the point, but he was rather obsessed with her.
I understand why this book was trending on TikTok for so long, the ending was incredible and very well done. Getting there was a struggle though and I couldn’t fit the pieces together or see why the mundane things mattered. We have a lot of red herrings but I felt like they did add to the story, to show just how naïve and trusting Alicia was of those around her. We don’t get a concrete ending but enough of one to see how things will likely end. If you don’t mind a slow burn mystery thriller I do think this is one worth checking out, but don’t make it too much of a priority read.