Alicia Berenson’s life is seemingly perfect. A famous painter married to an in-demand fashion photographer, she lives in a grand house with big windows overlooking a park in one of London’s most desirable areas. One evening her husband Gabriel returns home late from a fashion shoot, and Alicia shoots him five times in the face, and then never speaks another word.
Alicia’s refusal to talk, or give any kind of explanation, turns a domestic tragedy into something far grander, a mystery that captures the public imagination and casts Alicia into notoriety. The price of her art skyrockets, and she, the silent patient, is hidden away from the tabloids and spotlight at the Grove, a secure forensic unit in North London.
Theo Faber is a criminal psychotherapist who has waited a long time for the opportunity to work with Alicia. His determination to get her to talk and unravel the mystery of why she shot her husband takes him down a twisting path into his own motivations—a search for the truth that threatens to consume him….
The Silent Patient is one of those novels that I have been thinking about days after I finished reading it.
The novel is well written and intrigued me from the beginning, as it is written in first person from two perspectives. Theo Faber, criminal psychotherapist via his own voice in present day and Alicia Berenson, famous painter convicted of murdering her husband, via her diary entries, allow the reader into their minds. In this instance, both Theo and Alicia are flawed characters whose personalities, personal histories and mental health are exposed. Any thriller novel that takes me into the mind of a fictional character often has me concerned. When the writing is good I know that I will generally feel quite scared or have nightmares afterwards… this was one of those stories.
Ever since Alicia lost her husband and was found at the scene of the crime, she has remained silent. Theo takes the position at the mental health unit in which Alicia has been placed. His aim from the beginning is to work with Alicia, who he admired as a painter. Theo focuses on helping her to find her voice again, via psychotherapy sessions and her chosen medium. Throughout the whole novel I continued to ask myself questions and these questions were why I couldn’t put the book down: What would make Alicia talk? Did Alicia really murder her husband? Will Theo do his job as a psychotherapist or has he become too personally involved to truly help his patient?
As the story progresses, Alicia and Theo’s lives become intertwined in an unprofessional manner. Theo continually compares himself to Alicia and provides personal information about himself in their sessions. The twist at the end of the story, for me, was not as unexpected as I expected, however, the narrative and writing were truly compelling. The Silent Patient is well worth the read.