“The Silent Patient” thrills in its protagonist’s silence

The first novel from British writer Alex Michaelides will keep you on your toes

Nazifa Hassan, Arts & Culture Writer

The phenomenal debut novel, “The Silent Patient” by Alex Michaelides, published last May, is a psychological thriller that explores the story of a rising artist and convict, Alicia Brennson, who murdered her husband and then went completely silent for seven years. It also includes a psychotherapist, Theo Faber, who is determined to help Alicia and get her to speak as well as figuring out what happened on the night of the murder to cause her years of silence. 

Alicia was a well-known artist prior to the murder. She was in a seemingly happy and healthy marriage with Gabriel Brennson, a fashion photographer — up until the moment when she murdered him out of the blue and went completely silent. Despite the help of many therapists and accusations made by the public, Alicia refused to speak on her motive to kill Gabriel, with whom she seemed very much in love. Her silence brought attention not only to her, but to her art as well, particularly her piece called, “Alcestis,” named after the wife of a Greek god. She also caught the attention of Theo, a psychotherapist with his own struggles. Alicia’s silence intrigues Theo so much that he gets a job at the mental institution where Alicia is serving time. 

Theo is a seemingly dedicated and smooth guy. As he opens up more about himself through the book, we can see that he can be vulnerable and has many hidden secrets himself. Alicia, on the other hand, continues to be a mystery; her silence speaks volumes and makes the readers create theories and alternative stories to fill the suspense. 

This Hitchcockian novel conveys the idea of trust, loyalty and love so profoundly with a shocking plot twist. The novel is also epistolary at times; we get glimpses of diary entries written by Alicia prior to the incident. These diary entries help readers understand Alicia’s life and interiority, and who she is (or at least, who she was).

Besides unraveling Alicia’s story, this book gives excellent insight into prominent ideas within psychology and how certain events in someone’s life can impact them. As one of the protagonists himself, Theo has dealt with many years of mental abuse from his father when he was younger.  Theo and Alicia bond through personal trauma and their connections; it is revealed that both are victims of childhood abuse. 

“The Silent Patient” is definitely one of my new favorite books. As a thriller, the book is built on cliffhangers and twists which made me not want to put it down. 

Michaelides’ writing is also noteworthy for its truth and universality. As a newly published writer, he demonstrates comfort with complex plots, but makes the book approachable and readable for many levels. The book immediately shot to the top of both the New York Times and Sunday Times bestseller lists.

One quote that I especially loved was, “It’s odd how quickly one adapts to the strange new world of the psychiatric unit. You become increasingly comfortable with madness-and not just the madness of others, but your own. We’re all crazy, I believe, just in different ways.” In a world in which mental health is on the minds of many people young and old, I found this to be particularly spot-on.

Michaledes also did an amazing job illustrating the angst and suspense that makes the reader want to keep reading. His suspenseful tone causes the audience to try to figure out what would drive a perfect couple to fall apart in such a way. 

RV librarian Mrs. Venuto called the book “a fast-paced psychological thriller with a great plot twist,” and recommended it to anyone who loves suspense.

Once I finished reading, I was left in complete shock and disbelief by the unexpected plot twist towards the end. Without giving too much away, I must say it was one of the most brilliant plot twists I have ever read. 

I would definitely recommend this novel to readers who are looking to get out of a reading slump or are looking to read an interesting book in their spare time. 


Rating: 10/10