A Not So Silent Review: A Review of The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides
Updated: Mar 9, 2022
Once upon a midnight dreary, I sat down and read murder mysteries all March long.
Hello, Book Nerds! Welcome back to Reading Has Ruined My Life or welcome if you are new. As always, my name is Hannah and I am your captain on this journey into my bookcases.
It is the second week of Murder Mystery March. I hope you all enjoyed last week’s review cause I had a lot fun writing it. Today’s review is gonna be a good one! It was actually chosen by all of you. If you follow RHRML on Twitter, @RHRMLBlog if you haven’t yet, then you may remember when I posted a poll all the way back in January. The poll simply said, “pick a book.” I gave four options to choose from: The Tudor Secret by C.W. Gortner, The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides, The Lost Village by Camilla Sten, and finally, Mortmain Hall by Martin Edwards. Winning by a landslide, with an impressive 60 percent of the votes, is The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides.
Honestly, I didn’t get why everyone wanted me to read this book in the beginning. I was not surprised that it won given this is a pretty popular novel, but I didn’t get it. I found the main character insufferable and I hated having to read from his point of view, and then the twist happened and I understood. All the puzzle pieces fell into place. So let’s crack into it.
As always, a spoiler alert is in order. I also need to issue a content and trigger warning. This book deals with multiple instances of abuse; specifically abusive parents. There are also many instances of suicide, suicide attempts, and self-harm along with discussions on these topics. The Silent Patient also involves a lot of gaslighting and even some stalking. These are all very prevalent topics to the plot so continue on at your own discretion.
Alicia Berenson’s life is picture perfect. She has her dream job, a decent work-life balance, and an attractive husband who adores her. No one could have guessed what was about to transpire. On a normal summer night, Alicia snaps and shoots her husband Gabriel five times. After that, she never speaks again.
Charged and convicted of the crime, Alicia is sent to a psychiatric hospital known as the Grove. Despite the employees’ best efforts, no one can get her to utter a single word. Enter Theo Faber, a criminal psychotherapist obsessed with Alicia’s story. The Grove is failing financially and is expected to close within the year, but Theo still takes a job there in order to gain access to Alicia.
He wants to help. He wants to be the one who gets Alicia to speak after all these years. He does everything he can to build her trust. He also digs deeper into the crime the world believes Alicia committed. As he investigates, he discovers secrets and clues long left buried and forgotten about. With this new evidence, Alicia’s case doesn’t seem as cut and dry as it was originally made out to be. Could this silent patient actually be innocent?
Now, I’m assuming everyone can guess what I want to talk about first. It’s Theo. Theo, for lack of a better word, is trash. I don’t mean he is a poorly written character, I think this novel as a whole is extremely well written, but Theo is a shitty person; he’s purposely written that way. He did not go into psychology to help others. His only want in the world is the fame that will come with making Alicia speak again.
The paperback version of this book is 323 pages long, and I had to suffer reading from this character’s point of view nearly the entire way. Listen, I get that Alex Michaelides wrote Theo to be insufferable, but at the same time, he’s our point of view character and should be likable to some extent. I wanted every bad thing possible to befall Theo before I was even halfway through.
Alicia is a lot better. She’s an enigma. Readers don’t get to see much from her point of view, there are a few journal entries throughout that are written by her, but everything readers learn about her come from other characters; mainly Theo. Readers’ perception of Alicia is always skewed. To me, that’s this novel strength. The Silent Patient is solely about Alicia, but readers never know the true her. Even after 323 pages, she’s still an enigma.
Alicia is one of the few parts of the story I really enjoyed. I found this novel to be slow. It is a slow burn of a read, but at times it’s a little too slow. Most of the action happens in the last fourth of the novel. Maybe even less. Everything goes from zero to a hundred real quick. Now listen, the twist that occurs is really good. Truthfully, I was blindsided by it. I think the twist is set up well; it’s the other part of the novel that I full-heartedly enjoyed by the way. With that being said, part of it is hard to process.
This novel is set up a little oddly. Outside of the journal entries, the timeline is linear. Until the twist occurs and then readers find out part of the story is set in the past, and I'm not talking about the journal entries. Once a reader process the twist, the book is basically over.
The zero to a hundred pacing does not work for me. It does not work in this instance. The pacing at the start of the novel is great, but the end feels extremely rushed. It feels like the author went, “oh shit! I need to finish this tonight!”
But can a twist really save a book? I understand why this book got popular in the first place; I can see that pretty clearly. And like I said, I think Alex Michaelides did an amazing job with the writing, but at the end of the day, Alicia and the twist are really the only things this book has going for it in my opinion. And, an insufferable main character makes for a long read. I think that’s something avid readers can agree with. The Silent Patient was simply not the book for me.
And on that note, I shall bid you all adieu. I hope you’re all enjoying Murder Mystery March and I shall see you next week with another murder mystery.
Until then, stay safe, wear a mask, wash your hands, and read some good books for me.