Have you ever read a book all the way through just to close it for the last time and say “wow, that was bleak”? Well, I’m here to make the case for those dark, dreary, haunting, and disturbing reads that keep you up at night long after you put them down. Welcome to Bleak Books with Olivia, your resident creepy book lover at the Aurora Public Library District.
Let us dive into the dark, disturbing world of psychological thrillers, shall we? This genre is a staple of my “bleak books”, described by yours truly as novels where our deepest fears manifest and grow within the minds of the characters. I would recommend these books to anyone that loves the psychological aspects of true crime stories, serial killer documentaries or are just fascinated with the ways that our brains can be our own worst enemies.
The Silent Patient is a book that will mentally shake you to your core. Meet Alicia Berenson, a famous painter who is also notoriously known for brutally murdering her loving husband by tying him up and shooting him five times at point-blank range directly into his face. She then attempts to commit suicide at the scene and refuses to speak another word. Naturally, her art becomes an overnight sensation as people from across the globe study each painting for some kind of clue that would explain this heinous crime and Alicia’s subsequent silence.
Theo Faber, a criminal psychologist, thinks he may be able to find the answer and becomes obsessed with uncovering the truth, working his magic to infiltrate the psychiatric ward where Alicia is staying, and manipulating the staff in order to become her personal psychologist. As he meets with Alicia, he discovers through her silence that there is much, much more than meets the eye. A sprawling web of lies, obsession, and passion ensnare Theo as he descends into the darkness that has consumed Alicia, and slowly, Theo realizes Alicia may actually be the one in charge here. The shocking rollercoaster ride of an ending will simply leave you at a loss for words, not unlike Alicia herself.
The number one thing that I enjoyed about this book is the gripping, unrelenting pace at which it was written. It was because of this that I could not put the book down and was finished with it in a number of days, which is VERY FAST for me, a reader who has major attention deficit issues. Virtually no time was spent on themes and concepts that I often find wasteful, such as world-building and descriptive writing. Instead, the majority of the novel is spent within the thoughts of Alicia and Theo, tying them together with a remarkably thick rope that normally wouldn’t exist between two characters who are supposed to be complete strangers. The novel is built so that we exist entirely within the realm of the mind, constantly aware of inner monologues and the twisted thoughts that we fear to share with the rest of the world. Alicia and Theo are stripped to their rawest forms in this novel, making it a true psychological thriller. The novel even manages to get the readers to reflect on themselves, asking “In that moment, would you not do the same? Can any blame truly be placed?” The characters are manipulative and deceptive, betraying us at every turn. Right from the beginning, you know something is very wrong and it’s only going to get worse, giving the book a deeply sinister tone. The book is unsettling, disturbing, and shocking, making it a truly bleak book.
Thank you for joining me on this dissection of one of my favorite Bleak Books. I hope to see you again sometime soon! Please take a look in the Adult Fiction section at the Aurora and Dillsboro Public Libraries for my favorite Bleak Books (including this one!) If you meet me in the library and have any Bleak Books suggestions, please let me know! I’m always looking for a new book to disrupt my life for a couple of weeks.