BOOK REVIEWS

THE SILENT PATIENT: BOOK REVIEW


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The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides
★★✰✰✰ 1.5 of 5 stars  (rounded up because this is a debut so…)

“Please don’t let’s get dramatic.”

    

I’ve been a bit hesitant about writing this review since the majority of readers really enjoyed this debut. However, since Goodreads allows us to express and respect our different opinions I don’t see any harm in being honest. I didn’t hate The Silent Patient but I did find this novel both ridiculous and incompetent.

Just because The Silent Patient has a “twist” that doesn’t mean it should be labelled as being a psychological thriller. There is no suspense, no mystery, no tension, none whatsoever, zilch! The psychology in this one is…well, the depiction of psychiatrist and psychotherapists is at best, laughable, at worst, ignorant.
The book hinges completely on its “twist”, a twist that (view spoiler)
This book seems to me yet another weak attempt of jumping on the domestic thriller bandwagon.

In short: Calling this a novel seems somewhat misleading. This reads more like a incredibly unbelievable script.

LONG RANT REVIEW AHEAD:

The Silent Patient is a really flawed piece of work. I will try to tackle what I personally thought were the major problems this book had (for me, personally):

THE WRITING (idiotic dialogues + inane monologues + ham-handed metamorphoses + a complete lack of a sense of place)

✖ I like Agatha Christie and she has what I would call a ‘dry’ style of writing. Her mysteries are heavy on dialogue. The many conversations that her characters have are witty, amusing and or entertaining. The descriptions she provides perfectly render the characters’ mannerisms and surroundings. Michaelides’ writing mostly consisted in a series of dialogues between two characters and it reads like a script. It would work if what they spoke like actual people rather than this:

~“Perhaps I’m imagining it. But I’m sensing something… Keep an eye on it. Any aggression or competitiveness interferes with the work. You two need to work with each other, not against each other.
~“But remember, with greater feeling comes greater danger.

The dialogues/monologues came across as being incredibly silly and they make the characters sound like children.
✖ These characters do not sound British. They talk like Americans (or what Americans sound like in a CSI episode). There are no British cultural references and or British expressions. This book could be set anywhere.
✖ There were plenty of dramatic and over-the-top statements and or phrases that really ruined potentially significant scenes and or somber moments of contemplation:

~“Her silence was like a mirror—reflecting yourself back at you.”
~“Now I saw the truth. [She] hadn’t saved me—she wasn’t capable of saving anyone. She was no heroines to be admired—just a frightened, fucked-up girl, a cheating liar. This whole mythology of us that I had built up […] now collapsed in seconds—like a house of cards in a gust of wind.”
~“How was this possible? Had she been acting the whole time? Had she ever loved me?”;
~“Why did she do it? How could she?”

Jeez. Talk about melodramatic angst.


✖ Theo’s narrative was filled with painfully overdone monologues that have little purpose since they don’t make Theo into a realistic and nuanced character and most of the time they do not even further the plot. Alicia’s narrative (that is, her diary) makes no sense but more on that when I tackle her character. It’s safe to say that, given that her diary entries included things such as “It took me a moment to speak. I was so taken aback I didn’t know what to say” and “I feel joyous. I feel full of hope”, I had a hard time ‘immersing’ myself or ‘buying’ into her narrative.
Since this book is a ‘domestic thriller’ both Theo and Alicia don’t have sex they ‘fuck’. Because writing ‘we fucked’ makes the story gritty and ‘dark’ [insert laughter here].
The Greek ‘connection’. Done properly, I usually love it when contemporary books draw parallels from Greek myths and or classics. Done properly. Comparing people to Greek statues and having your main characters referring to themselves as being a ‘Greek hero/heroine’ is the opposite of subtle:

~“She was a statue; a Greek goddess come to life in my hands.” ~“He looked like a Greek statue” ~“the actress playing Alcestis looked like a Greek statue” ~“my fate was already decided—like in a Greek tragedy” ~“Casting herself as a tragic heroine”.

We have Diomedes who comes from “a long line of Greek shepherds” (and tells Theo that “every Greek knows his tragedies”). And finally we have Alicia’s painting which is entitled Alcestis. Both the painting and Euripides play had potential. They would have been enough. We didn’t need the constant reminder that The Silent Patient wants to be a ‘tragic play’. Like many other things in this book, the blatant symbolism managed to ruin a potentially good analogy.
✖ The story is set supposedly in the UK. But really, there is 0 sense of place. Who cares about giving your characters a backdrop? Why bother rendering a neighbourhood or an area of London? Who gives a fork about what a room or place looks like? Let’s remember: this story could be set anywhere (or nowhere given how realistic it is).

✖ You could say that the focus on dialogues and flat scenery are reminiscent of a play…which is fine but it doesn’t come across as such. This book just reminds me of a ‘B-movie’ script. There is no tragedy, no pathos , no wit. A 2nd grade play is closer to a ‘classic’ play than this book is.
There is this attempt to make the two ‘main’ women ethereal which did provides a few laughs:

~“Her white dress glowed ghostlike in the torchlight” ~ “I remember so much white everywhere: […] the white of her eyes, her teeth, her skin. I’d never known that skin could be so luminous, so translucent ; ivory white with occasional blue veins visible just beneath the surface, like threads of color in white marble. She was a statue.” ~ “strands of long red hair falling across bony shoulders, blue veins beneath the translucent skin”.

THE CHARACTERS
✖ Theo. Our wannabe (view spoiler). Within a few pages we know that he is obsessed with Alicia (which makes him incredibly unprofessional) and he for the most part he is just soooo dull and whiny. He moans about his childhood, (view spoiler), and his attempt(s) to self-fashion himself as some sort of tragic hero fail epically. After (view spoiler)
His dramatic monologues, constant whinging, and complete lack of awareness (I’ve said it before this man is thick) reminded me a bit of Derek Zoolander:


Alicia…she is beautiful. She loves having sex with her husband and painting. That’s about it. We are told that she was ‘charming’…but how can she have gained this reputation since she has 0 friends and her only real relationship is the one she has with Gabriel (her partner or whatever). Jean-Felix is the owner of a gallery but they don’t spend time together or are on friendly terms. Who is she charming to? She is a complete recluse! She lives in London and is good enough painter and yet…she has managed to make 0 connections. Her diary entries make her sound at best guileless and at worst like a demented child. Her character is just an object. She is there to look beautiful and tragic. She has a few basic reactions (she just “looks up” or “looks down”) or she does the good ol’ ‘banshee’ act, flinging herself in a sudden ‘rage’ towards Theo or another patient. Wow. Such a deep and complex portrait of a (view spoiler).

The cast of characters consists in cardboard cutouts. Going back to Christie, sometimes exaggerated character can be entertaining. Especially if they are a parodying a certain type of person (the writer, the artist, the gossipy old lady and so forth). Here we have mere ‘sketches’ of people.
We have Christian, who doesn’t like Theo because he is a massive bellend bully: “Christian glared at me.” “Christian looked irritated.” “Christian rolled his eyes at me.” “Christian laughed that annoying laugh of his.
We have Professor Diomedes who is Greek and is “an unorthodox man’that’s it folks. That’s his character. Also, (view spoiler) Yuri is another pointless and unbelievable addition to the story. He is the head psychiatric nurse and comes from Latvia so he obviously has to be weird about women. Makes perfect sense. Then we have Stephanie who has very little page time or importance Theo having never even know of her existence knows immediately, before she even speaks, that she is Caribbean). We also have the “jolly Caribbean dinner ladies” (who, surprise surprise, are only mentioned once).

We have a few ‘ugly’ characters who are either ‘mad’ and or violent (Elif, a ‘massive’ Turkish woman, who spends her time shouting or grunting because she is a patient and that’s how ‘ugly’ and mentally ill people behave. Lydia, Alicia’s mean aunt. She is grotesquely ‘fat’ and has lots of cats. She basically just glares, scorns, and spits at people). Paul, Alicia’s cousin, still lives with his mother so he looks like ‘virgin’ and in spite his size he seems ‘stunted’. Kathy and Gabriel are the antithesis of credible (actors and fashion photographers manage to be self-engrossed and 1 dimensional). We have Gabriel’s brother…who is the typical chip-on-my-shoulder character (he has acne, he is balding, he is just a ‘lawyer’, boohoo). Jean-Felix owns a gallery so he is the embodiment of some sort of art-vampire.

THE NONSENSICAL PLOT
✖ Nothing much happens. It’s quite clear that the words that exist before the ‘twist’ serve as filler. Theo moans about this and that. That’s about 70% of the novel.
✖ There are a series of stupid things happening for no apparent reason. (view spoiler)
✖ The Grove is not a forensic unit. I am sure that Theo should be doing a bit of paperwork to cover his 1 to 1s with Alicia. And everything that (view spoiler)
✖ The ‘big twist’ (view spoiler)

IN CONCLUSION

The Silent Patient might not be the worst novel I’ve read but—in my humble opinion— it’s a badly written, poorly developed book. Worse still, The Silent Patient comes across as being ‘soulless’.
A ‘twist’ needs—demands—a story. I want to read characters who vaguely resemble or talk like real people. If you want to play with stereotypes (a la Christie) don’t make your characters take themselves so seriously. A parody of a certain ‘personality’ should at least be funny and or amusing. Adding a strong setting and a coherent storyline wouldn’t do any harm either. The Silent Patient is a messy, flat, painfully dull, ‘Hollywood-type’ of book.

Pre-review:
I’m not sure what’s up with these hyped so-called thrillers but…

If you liked Verity, An Anonymous Girl, The Last Time I Lied or the unintentionally hilarious Jane Doe…chances are you will like The Silent Patient.

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BOOK REVIEWS

AS LONG AS WE BOTH SHALL LIVE: BOOK REVIEW

As Long as We Both Shall Live by JoAnn Chaney
★★✰✰✰ 2 of 5 stars

So here’s the thing: if you want to kill your wife, don’t. Don’t kill her, don0t touch her. Ditch the bitch if you have to, get on with your life. Or make it work. But kill her? Nope.

As Long as We Both Shall Live has one of the most captivating prologues I have ever read….sadly the rest novel doesn’t live up to it.

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This novel tries too hard to come across as a hard-boiled detective story. With plenty of weird and unpleasant metaphors (ie. a man’s ‘thin’ lips are like ‘tuna’ ? w-h-a-t!) and an abundance of ass&balls jokes it just felt like being inside the head of an eight-year-old boy who has just learned ‘naughty’ words. These odd descriptions, unfunny quips, and the ‘trying-too-hard-to-be-hard’ dialogues pulled me right away from the story. Bit of pity since I wanted to like Chaney’s wicked humour.

There is this Detective Loren (the typical vulgar bully with a heart of gold) who is completely unprofessional. He is insubordinate and threatens witnesses and suspects alike. Really? Am I to believe that the secretary he cornered hasn’t put a complaint with his name stamped on it?

“Your boss-man, is he porking anyone in the office?”
Loren asked, a grin slowly blooming on his face.
“Pardon?”
“Oh, you heard me, Jilly. Is there some hot little piece of ass in the mailroom that might be riding his baloney pony during lunch hours?”

First of all, who even talks like that? Secondly, why does the narrative try to make this guy, Loren, seem like the typical ‘bear with the heart of gold’?!
His backstory served little purpose and only slowed the main narrative. Moreover, by giving this Loren-character the stage, the female detective, Spengler, is cast off to the sidelines. I would have rather had more of her personal life than Loren’s. Spengler is presented to us as the typical ‘attractive woman in an all men’s club’. Her colleagues – all men – make vulgar remarks about her and find her to be a ‘cold bitch’. This is such a bloody cliché. A) Why does she have to be uber beautiful? B) Why are all men depicted as dogs-in-heat?

Now, the biggest problem with this novel is that it was trying to ‘outdo’ (view spoiler) and the narrative perfectly acknowledges this: view spoiler
Now, I’m not suggesting that this type of ‘borrowing‘ doesn’t work. Barbara Vine (who wrote a number a brilliant psychological mysteries) uses a similar technique,(view spoiler). Here however this comes across as little more than a cheap trick.
For a long portion of the novel Matt and his relationship to his now dead wife, Marie, get very little page-time. They seem so barely sketched out that I never started to care about who did what. Their motivations and actions are incredibly unbelievable and melodramatic. The wife vs. husband jokes got old fast. (view spoiler)

You could call it Stockholm Syndrome, or you could call it marriage. Tomayto, tomahto.

Their daughters, and Marie’s friends make one-time only appearances that are completely laughable.
Lastly, I did not like the way in which the novel portrays men. They are all crass and or stupid. And the story wants to make it seem like Loren, the worst of them all, is actually the best of the lot? Nah.
And why is a woman breaking the law any better than a man breaking the law? Spengler is so unprofessional in that she seems (view spoiler).

It was unfortunate, but sometimes a woman had to take extreme measure to teach a man a lesson.

Disappointing, unbelievable, and with an incredibly over the top finale that is 100% soap opera, the only good thing about this novel is its prologue.

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BOOK REVIEWS

AN ANONYMOUS GIRL: BOOK REVIEW


An Anonymous Girl
by Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen

★✰✰✰✰ 1 of 5 stars

A better suited title for this novel would be An Edgy Girl.
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This is the mostly badly written book I have ever read. An Anonymous Girl is a bad version of the rather dodgy film Cruel Intentions with an added sprinkle of a soap opera.

If you enjoyed this book, please look away now.
If you are thinking of reading this book, I entreat you to think twice.

 

I don’t like to be the ‘bad guy’. And by ‘bad guy’ I mean the type of reviewer who writes harsh reviews and is overly critic about certain genres. I always try to remind myself that people will have different tastes and it isn’t fair to be too critical or rude about a book… in this case however I can’t quite comprehend how this book has so many positive reviews. What in the whole history of literature is happening? Have I landed in some alternative reality? Did I read a completely different book?

I was tempted to pinch myself while I was reading my copy of An Anonymous Girl to see if I was actually awake and reading or if I was having a nightmare. Turns out, I was wide awake and reading what I have come to regard as the worst book I have ever had the displeasure to read.
My review will include incriminating evidence some quotes from An Anonymous Girl which will corroborate my unfavourable review of this novel.

I do not expect all psychological thrillers to be as well written as the ones by Gillian Flynn or Tana French. While I do consider some of the authors that I read to be ‘guilty pleasures’ (Colleen Hoover, Harlan Coben) I do not believe in the existence of ‘lowbrow fiction’.
I started An Anonymous Girl thinking that it would be one of the many – far too many – Gone Girl wannabes. I didn’t expect to be mind-blown but I was hoping to read a suspenseful and entertaining mystery.
A few pages in, I lowered my already low expectations.
So…here goes my ranty review.

THE WRITING

I could talk about the idiotic plot – which revolves around the typical triangle of people, with shifting ‘power dynamics’, betrayals, jealousies, yadda yadda yadda – the unbelievable and one-dimensional characters, the predictable and laughable twists….or I could address the main problem…the writing.
This ‘novel’ (calling this a novel feels wrong) is so badly written that I am surprised it was published in the first place. The writing reminded me of a text that has been translated by Google translator. Yes, it is that bad.
Jessica Farris and Dr. Shields are the main characters and narrators of this story.
Jessica is a the typical lead, forgettable and as bland as toothpaste. She thinks she is different from others because of a ‘traumatic event’ which might or might not be her own fault (insert predictable saw-that-coming twist here), and Dr. Shields is the ‘intelligent’ and ‘manipulative’ villainess (a Bond villain cast off ).

1) Jessica’s point of view included a lot of cheesy observations. We are to believe that her focus is on making money and her family but really all she cares about is clothes. She sounds like an effing advert:

The first rule: my unofficial uniform. I wear all black, which eliminates the need to coordinate a new outfit every morning. It also sends a message of subtle authority. I choose comfortable, machine-washable layers that will look as fresh at seven P. M. as they do at seven A. M.

This sounds like the voiceover of some tacky ad? Or…this reads a lot like lazy handwriting, and I am sure there are other ways of telling your readers that a character dresses professionally.
Or this actually seems like a rip off from the opening scene of American Psycho, but whereas that was satirical…this isn’t.

My skin is darker than Dr. Shield’s, and my fingers are shorter. Instead of elegant, the color looks edgy on me.

This is hilarious. What the actual fork? What kind of person would use the word ‘edgy’ to describe their clothes/appearance/makeup…? An angsty rebellious teenager? I don’t even think they would…real people wouldn’t. I doubt that a ‘professional’ twenty-eight year old woman would refer to her nail varnish as being ‘edgy’.

Her neck is long and graceful, and no amount of contouring can create the kind of cheekbones she possess.

Of course, both Jessica and Dr. Shields are beautiful. We will be reminded of this. A lot.

Her periwinkle turtleneck sweater and silk skirt skin her long, lithe body.

What is the obsession with clothes?! And why do we have to be constantly reminded

 that these two women dress like fashion models? And why use ‘lithe’ and beautiful every other sentence…

As soon as I am beside her, I smell her clean, spicy perfume.

Enough already! This is not a perfume ad!

Excessive focus on appearances and clothing-wear aside, Jessica’s POV had a lot weirdly phrased observations or sentences:

I rub Germ-X on my hands and pop an Altoid in my mouth before I ring the buzzer for Apartment 6D. I’m five minutes early. Another rule.

The first sentence is so superfluous. Why specify that you put cream on your hands and an Altoid in your mouth? Where else would you put them? And what is the deal with these short snappy sentences?! They do not create a rhythm or build up suspense, they simply come across as being artificial and oddly contrived.
And why does Jessica sound like an unbelievably stupid guide book?

Intellectually, I can’t see how this could hurt anyone.

Intellectually, I don’t see how this book is so hyped. Also, using intellectually isn’t very…’intellectual’ or believable. It sounds like something that a pantomime actor would say. Who in the world would say: Intellectually, I see your point or some nonsense like that. No one.
But Jessica gets even better, and here are her remarks after an encounter with the most hilariously badly written ‘drug addict’ in the history, a man who within half a page we discover – shock horror – is paranoid and beats his girlfriend up…yep, *drug addict alert* …or maybe that is how they behave in csi or soap operas…

“The guy was bad news!”

“But that woman you sent me to? Her boyfriend was clearly on drugs.”

Jessica saying ‘that guy is bad news’ non-ironically did make me laugh, so cheers for that.

Anyhow, these quotes are just a few examples of why Jessica’s narration is terrible: she sounds like a mix between a l’oreal voiceover and an off-key new adult novel – yet, her chapters seem somewhat competent – yes, I kid you not – when compared to Dr. Shields’ POV.

2) Prepare yourself for the never written before Dr.Shields: the manipulative, sexy and dangerous woman…who sounds like a forking A.I.
The best way to let your readers know that you are reading from the POV of a mysterious and seductive woman is to make her sound like a forking sexy robot. Because distancing the reader through a stilted and impersonal narration is a clever way of introducing them to the ‘villain’ of the story.
A few examples below:

It was the question you didn’t answer, though, the one you struggled with as you scraped at your nails, that holds the most intrigue. This test can free you, Subject 52. Surrender to it.

Dun dun dun….
Does she have to sound so theatrical?

You stand out, and not only because of your unconventional beauty.

From every angle, you are enchanting.

This time it is Dr. Shields who is checking out Jessica. Sounding like some sort of predator. And just reminding us readers that we are indeed reading of two beautiful women.
Since Dr. Shields is an intelligent woman here are a few of her insightful nuggets:

It is easy to judge other’s people choices. It is far more complex when the choices are your own.

Trust is a necessary component of a committed relationship.

A fortune cookie would provide me with the same information. 
The worst aspect of her POV is that it refers to Jessica – and occasionally Thomas – in the second person:

Your motive for wanting to flee must be scrutinized.

I am all for experimenting with point of views…when done well. This is far from well done.
Why make objects the subject of your phrases?

His glass of water is procured. Then the green phone icon is touched.

It doesn’t sound edgy. It sounds ridiculous.

“I’ll get it,” he is told.

The buzzer is pressed for Apartment 4c.

These phrases do not build suspense. They do not intrigue or mystify readers. They were just bloody irritating.

Thomas insisted he go up to his room while Thomas paid the check.

This one phrase puzzled me. I can’t believe that no one picked up on it. It sounds super odd. ‘Thomas tells his friend x to go to his room while Thomas pays’….what in the hell?!

The Tylenol is in the medicine cabinet, but tucked behind a box containing a new skin-care cream. More than a cursory glance will be necessary to locate it.

Really? Again with these superfluous phrases? And who even thinks like that? She really does come across as being a robot.

3) Special mention of those infamous “moral issues”:

He could be so committed to his job that he finds it hard to turn off, kind of like the way I’m beginning to find it difficult to stop thinking about moral issues.

Oh yeah. Those ‘moral issues’ keeping me up at night…
Don’t be fooled. This book is not concerned with an exploration of ethics & morality. This book cares about the exaggerated and “dangerous” relationship between two beautiful women who believe that they are in a Bond film. The ‘tension’ between the two is so oddly contrived and their interactions are beyond credible.
The so called ‘art’ of seduction and flirting are the novel’s main concern.

FINAL THOUGHTS

This book in my opinion is rather trashy. I don’t enjoy writing those words but that is what I have come to believe after wasting hours of my life on it. I kept hoping that it would at least provide some sort of twist that would make up for the horrid writing…but no.
I am not saying that the authors are not capable of writing, I believe that most people could probably write a decent piece of fiction, but this is indeed the most badly written book I have ever come across.

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