The Silent Patient

As it happens, I’m late to this party. The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides came out in 2019, and is apparently in production as a tv series. I did try to read it once before, but I couldn’t get into it.

I took a road trip recently, though, and that gave me a chance to listen to a couple of longer books.

I am so glad I tried this one again.

This time I was able to appreciate the slow build through the complicated character development, and the parallel story arcs that came together in a surprising and, for me, unexpected way.

In an interview with Michaelides at the end of the audio book, he explains some of his influences, especially summers reading Agatha Christie novels. He says he liked the closed environments — the manor house, the ship, the train — that Christie was fond of using. He also credited P.D. James and Ruth Rendell, as influences.

His “manor house” was a mental hospital, and his approach to bringing psychology to the story was, perhaps, more direct and yet more sophisticated than authors who wrote while the field was first being developed. But he plays fair with his readers, offering clues in the early pages that, in retrospect, give away the whole story.

I remember noticing a few of them, but I let them slip from my mind as I let the story and its two narrators reel me in.

I’m not a big fan of unreliable narrators, but I think Michaelides handles the style better than most I’ve read.

In that interview, he also says he was surprised others called it a thriller. But there was a creeping sense of dread that built through the novel that certainly justifies the category in my mind.

I liked this book so much, I’m tempted to buy a print copy so I can dissect it with sticky notes the way one of my friends has often done, looking first at story, then at plot, character, symbolism.

This is on the list for a book club we’re both in. Fingers crossed she’ll do it again.

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