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Review: The Silent Patient

The Silent Patient

NOTE: Because the nature of this book is the hook of surprise, this discussion may inadvertently contain spoilers.

“ Once you name something, it stops you seeing the whole of it, or why it matters. You focus on the word, which is just the tiniest part, really, the tip of an iceberg.”

I’ve given this a couple days but I have to ask …

Is it me?

This is a seemingly wildly popular novel, but it just didn’t work for me and often just annoyed me. To be fair, and not to be arrogant, it takes a lot to impress me when it comes to psychological thrillers. But I took some great issues with this one.

The premise here is quite simple – a woman is accused of shooting her husband five times in the face and then doesn’t utter a word for six years. Our main character, a psychotherapist, seeks employment at the institution she is in, hoping to “help” her find her voice.

Right off the bat I struggled to understand or enjoy reading our main character – the psychotherapist … maybe that was intentional? But I couldn’t understand why he was instantly and incessantly obsessed with Alicia – the silent patient. It was just off putting to me … the obsession and the way he wrote about her – “this thump, thump, thumping in my head wasn’t my pain; it belonged to Alicia” … this was 70 pages in. Why? Why was he so fixated?

Further he is so damn whiney – page after page reading how useless, ugly and worthless he sees himself!

But my biggest problem is the negative, hopeless portrayal of mental illness, and the mental health profession in general. Again, I don’t know if this was part of the whole concept but I feel it is extremely dangerous territory to make psychology appear so useless. Many, many times it was simply stated that those who have suffered as children, or suffer with mental health now, will never be helped and basically are just waiting until the day when they turn murderous. When their past pain and experiences lash out physically. It isn’t just stated once or twice, but over and over … and over! See what I’m saying? Even if it was meant to be a part of this psychological thriller, I think it’s terribly insulting to anyone who suffers with mental health and dangerous to constantly portray a message of hopelessness and helplessness. But then … is it me?

Mostly, it is a fast moving story with short, choppy chapters that keep the pages turning … but then it will just stall out. Like the 5 pages it took to describe weed ….

Overall, I found it unsurprising (I do NOT mean that in an ego boost “look-how-smart-I-am” way), insulting, and highly undervaluing of psychiatry. Luckily it moved quickly enough that the pain was short, but I am honestly baffled why this is so popular?


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