Book Reviews

The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides – Book Review

The book cover of The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides

Warning – possible spoilers! (Tiny ones, though, and I’ll try to avoid even those; I swear I’ll give my best not to ruin it for you… :-))

The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides – Book Details

TITLE – The Silent Patient

AUTHOR – Alex Michaelides

GENREthriller, mystery, suspense



MY RATING – 5 of 5


What It Is About

I looked at the painting. Once again, I tried to read it; and again I failed. There was something about the picture that defied interpretation – or else it had some kind of meaning that I had yet to comprehend. But what?

The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides is a psychological thriller novel about a famous artist named Alicia Berenson who murders her husband, Gabriel, and then stops speaking.

Alicia seemed to have the perfect life, married to a successful fashion photographer, and residing in a magnificent home in one of London’s most sought-after locations. But, one evening when her husband Gabriel returns home late from a photoshoot, Alicia shoots him in the face five times, then falls into complete silence.

The story is narrated by a psychotherapist Theo Faber who becomes obsessed with uncovering the reason why Alicia murdered her husband and what led to her subsequent silence. He takes a job at the mental institution where Alicia is being held, hoping to get her to speak and reveal the truth about the night of the murder.

But, Theo’s unrelenting desire to coax Alicia into speaking and unravel the enigma of the tragedy leads him down a twisted path all the way to the truth that is almost too shocking to comprehend.

Themes and vibes:

    • a psychological mystery thriller
    • it sucked me in from the first page
    • psychotherapist investigates
    • a mystery influenced by a Greek tragedy
    • great plot
    • well-written, unputdownable novel
    • 2 POVs (the therapist as the main narrator, plus Alicia’s diary entries)

The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides – My Review

Once you name something, it stops you seeing all of it, or why it matters. […] I’ve never been that comfortable with words – I always think in pictures, express myself with images – so I’d never have started writing this, if it weren’t for Gabriel.

I was just recently complaining how every new book I pick up seems like the same thing I read at least five times before, and… well, here’s something that felt refreshingly new. I’m so glad I finally decided to give The Silent Patient a chance. I’ve been avoiding it for quite some time because my first encounter with this author’s work wasn’t exactly the greatest.

Alex Michaelides is the author of The Maidens, a dark academia mystery I read a couple of Octobers ago and didn’t like. But ever since then, you guys kept telling me that his debut, The Silent Patient, was actually a real gem and that I would enjoy it way more.

And, well, you convinced me. I gave it a chance.

It was the only explanation that made any sense: why else tie the man you loved to a chair, and shoot him in the face at close range? And then express no remorse, give no explanation, not even speak? She must be mad.

The Silent Patient was the Goodreads Choice Award’s Winner for Best Mystery & Thriller in 2019, and it was also nominated for Best Debut Novel the same year. It has 1.5+ million ratings on Goodreads with the average score of 4.18, which is pretty impressive. And now I know why people liked it so much.

But I feel obligated to start this review by saying the book wasn’t perfect. All the bad reviews it got – I completely get them. The Silent Patient had its flaws. I just don’t want for someone to look at the five stars I gave it and expect perfection, because you are going to get disappointed.

But, if you are just looking for some fun time with one of the more original thrillers I’ve ever read. If you’d rather have exciting plot and unique characters than a hundred percent plausibility. If you, like me, are willing to overlook a few glaring details that weren’t quite adding up and rather focus on the excitement and intrigue and drama this book has to offer… Well then my friend, you are in for a spin.

I may understand the bad reviews, but there’s a reason I gave it five stars.

I can’t bear the thought of him worrying about me. I don’t ever want to cause him any distress or make him unhappy or cause him pain. I love Gabriel so much. He is without doubt the love of my life.

Right out of the gate, I loved the writing style. It felt effortless. Genuine. Real. Alicia’s personality started to come out of the pages even before we practically knew anything about her.

Alicia is an artist who seemingly had it all, but we learn early on her mental state was not the greatest. I’m talking about her diary entries from before the murder which clearly paint a troubled, possibly unstable woman.

And in the present day chapters, it is quite clear that s**t had hit the fan, as six years prior, around the time she wrote that diary, Alicia has shot her husband five times in the face and then fell completely silent. The only statement she ever gave about the murder was a painting she made short after, that made a connection between Alicia and a Greek tragedy character called Alcestis.

And I don’t know about you, but that’s how a great premise looks like in my world. Of course – of course I had to know all about it. That bloody horror scene at the beginning raised so many questions. Even if it meant not sleeping all night, I just wanted to know. It was such a compulsive read.

No. I won’t write about that. This is going to be a joyful record of ideas and images that inspire me artistically, things that make a creative impact on me. I’m only going to write positive, happy, normal thoughts. No crazy thoughts allowed.

The story is mainly told from the perspective of Theo Faber, a brilliant criminal psychotherapist who has been obsessed with the Alicia Berenson’s case for a long time. He’s finally gotten a chance to work with her and he is convinced he can make her talk and finally get to the bottom of her motives behind the murder.

And I gotta say – from very early into the book, I started to completely understand Theo’s fascination with Alicia, because I also needed to know why. Why did she murder her husband? Why in such a cold, theatrical manner? What does her painting mean? And why – WHY isn’t she speaking?

From the prologue, Michaelides made me keep trying to pick on clues. Question everything, trying to make it work in my head. But I couldn’t really make sense of anything. There were so many directions the story could go in and here’s the best part – most of them were good!

At the time, I remember thinking that while everyone was talking, writing, arguing about Alicia, at the heart of this frantic, noisy activity there was a void – a silence. A sphinx.

So, the beginning was pretty explosive, and after it came the middle that was dragging a bit, but not necessarily in a bad way. The things slowed down somewhat, but the story stayed twisted, and dark, and attention-grabbing.

All the way to the ending which – I really liked! That doesn’t happen to me often with thrillers. But this one got me.

Again – there were a few small inconsistencies and details along the way that might as well have been cut out because they weren’t even all that important, just made me roll my eyes every now and then. But I wouldn’t say they affected the story in any larger way. I didn’t mind them all that much and they barely took out any enjoyment for me.

Because this was such a great read! Juicy and fun! Dramatic, gripping and unputdownable! I wish I could read it again for the first time. Despite having a trope I hate, The Silent Patient managed to get onto the list of my favorite thrillers.

But that’s what Alicia did for you. Her silence was like a mirror – reflecting yourself back at you. And it was often an ugly sight.

Alex Michaelides is such a skillful writer, his narration was a huge part of why I loved this book. I don’t know what happened with The Maidens. I’m not trying to be a witch, but honestly it’s like the two books weren’t written by the same author.

The Silent Patient was Alex Michaelides’ debut novel, and what a way to enter the scene! I’d sure be happy to check out more of his work whenever he published something new.

And btw – is that movie ever going to come out? Cause I’d love to see what they make out of it.

My Signature

(2) Comments

  1. What happens to alicia does she stay in a coma or did I miss something?

    1. You know, I’ve read this book a while ago, but I don’t remember her being in a coma? But, I’m trying to keep my posts as spoiler-free as possible anyway, so. Send me a private message and I’ll answer you there 🙂

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