This fall, the Bluejay’s Book Club read “The Silent Patient” by Alex Michaelides. This book won the popular vote even though many book club members don’t read psychological thrillers. For most of the club, it’s the first time we read a male author in our spare time, outside of school.
The book focuses on the psychological aspect of how a person could commit murder, mainly on how Alicia Berenson killed her husband.
The consensus from the book club was that “The Silent Patient” achieved the feeling of being thrilled with the unexpected twists and turns, especially towards the end of the book, where it is impossible to guess the ending. Seeing as Michaelides wrote “The Silent Patient” loosely based on the Greek tragedy “Alcestis” by Euripides, you can imagine it has a tragic ending.
If you like modern retellings of Greek Tragedies, this may pique your interest. In the book club, we discussed how we felt about the story, as we uncovered Alicia Berenson and Theo Faber’s lives.
We see the psychological connection between childhood trauma and who we become as adults. Within the book club, we also tried to predict the story onward from Part I of the book; one theory was that Alicia and Theo would end up having a romantic relationship, which could not have been farther from the truth.
The book club generally underestimated every character, especially Theo Faber, who was the reader’s most reliable narrator. Alicia Berenson’s diary is how she speaks to the reader while recalling different days and the emotions she was feeling.
We distrust Alicia Berenson from the start since we are told she killed her husband, Gabriel Berenson, and refused to speak for six years, thus becoming the silent patient. However, we can’t help but engross ourselves in her thoughts because, just like Theo, we want an answer as to why Alicia killed her husband, Gabriel Berenson.
Alicia gets admitted to The Grove, which is a mental hospital in London, instead of serving a life sentence. Theo is a trained psychotherapist who specifically applies for a job at The Grove to be Alicia’s psychotherapist.
Theo is obsessed with understanding her mentality and who she was, and is. Alicia Berenson was married to Gabriel Berenson, a fashion photographer she considered her savior. So why would she kill him?
The book club attempted to make sense of that very question and ask if Alicia really did kill her husband. This was when individuals clashed in the book club and doubted Alicia’s intentions and whether she was capable of murder.
The book club examined Alicia’s painting she did of the murder titled “Alcestis,” which is a self-portrait of herself standing before an easel, nude and painting in either blood or red paint. Many assumed Alicia painted “Alcestis” was because it was her way of admitting guilt.
While reading “The Silent Patient” you expect a solution or a realization, but the book leaves you with more questions. There were answers to questions you couldn’t even think of, and that sudden realization was so well written that no one predicted it.
Although left with some unresolved questions, the book club was capable of breaking down the symbolism — even down to the ending, with the snow signifying Theo Faber now being the silent patient.