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Book: The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides

After reading a lot of positive recommendations about this title, I wanted to read it last year. However more than 100 people in our community library, eager like me have blocked this book, making it certain to move this book to my TBR 2022. Though I had a soft copy, I waited for the hardcover. The joy of holding the book in hands is incomparable. Don't you agree? Finally, its my turn at the library!!

The Silent Patient is authored by Alex Michaelides who is an author and screenwriter. He is half Cyrian-half British. Alex is an M.A. in English Literature, M.A. in screenwriting and holds a degree in psychotherapy. He has worked as a therapist in a psychiatric unit for teenagers and has been the inspiration for writing this book. The Silent Patient is his debut novel with more than million copies sold world over and is rated as the New York Times and Sunday Times best seller. This work has fetched him the Goodreads Choice Award for Best Mystery & Thriller of 2019 and has been shortlisted for many such awards. Apart from this book, Alex has written "The Maidens" which is a psychological detective story. 

So what is the story of The Silent Patient? Alicia Berenson is Our Silent Patient. She is a famous painter, with a strained childhood - losing her mother in an accident and growing up with her stern aunt in an unfriendly atmosphere. She moves out of her house, marries a famous fashion photographer Gabriel Berenson and lives in an affluent locality in London. One day, she violently shoots at her husband's face and kills him. She goes totally silent afterwards, with no sort of explanation and haltering the police investigation. The crime scene included a deformed Gabriel, shocked and mute Alicia and her painting titled Alcestis. She is found guilty and sent to a psychiatric hospital named The Grove and remains there for years together with no improvement. Meanwhile, the mystery around the killing and her resent to remain mute makes Alicia very famous and shoots up the price of her paintings.

Theo, a psychotherapist develops keen interest towards Alicia, determines to treat her and joins The Grove and tries to make Alicia speak. With Alicia not cooperating during the psychiatric sessions, Theo tries to investigate and dig up the mystery, with an intention to medically help his patient. During the investigation, he finds out Alicia's past and the strong impact it has created on her. 

What did Theo find? How did he make Alicia communicate? Did she reveal the reason for her silence? How did her husband die? To know all these, we have to read through the book!!

The story is narrated in first person by Theo. It keeps shuffling between his version, his personal life and the contents of Alicia's diary leading up to few days before the murder. While reading this book, at times I felt Theo's personal life was irrelevant. He talks a lot about his childhood trauma and love life, which was quite distracting from the main plot. My focus was on Alicia. Though this book is a murder mystery, it doesn't have many twists. Alex reserved it all for one master stroke. The ending was mind blowing!! 

The author slowly builds the suspense, drawing the reader's attention towards Alicia and while we desperately want to know the reason for her silence, Alex just drops the bomb. Booom!! I have read somewhere about the author mentioning the influence of Greek mythology and tragedy upon him and shaping his creative imagination. True to that, he crafted this book so beautifully by emulating a Greek play called Alcestis, in which the female lead who dies to save her husband, is brought back to life. But she doesn't speak and remains to be silent till end of the play to rely her message. So what is the silent message Alicia tried to communicate to the world by choosing to be mute? Read for yourself to find!!! 

The Silent Patient is an enthralling thriller, which slowly builds up pace and doesn't let you put the book down until you finish, with an astonishing ending!!

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