Bleak Books with Olivia: The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides

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.

Netflix and Read: You

If you’ve been paying attention to the Netflix world these past few months, you might have heard of a little show called You starring Penn Badgley, Elizabeth Lail, and Shay Mitchell. What you might not have realized (because I didn’t until after the fact) is that it is based off of the novel You by Caroline Kepnes. The novel is available to check out as a digital copy or as a physical copy; follow the link to reserve your spot!

What appears to be a chance meeting for Guinevere Beck in Brooklyn has actually been carefully orchestrated by East Village bookstore owner Joe Goldberg, who had Googled the name on her credit card when she visited his shop. Beck’s social media profiles are all public and tells Joe everything he needs to know without doing much besides scrolling through her posts. Joe begins obsessively taking over Beck’s life by choreographing event after event to make Beck fall into his waiting arms over and over again, and wedging himself so deeply into her life that he becomes her boyfriend. There is no limit to what Joe will do to remove any obstacle standing in his and Beck’s way, even if it means murder.

Reminiscent of Humbert Humbert of Lolita, You will have you darkly rooting for Joe while also being kind of terrified by how easy it is to stalk people (or be stalked!) in today’s world, where lots of your information is readily available with a simple Google search. The Netflix show is equally creepy, if not more so because Joe’s actions are placed directly in front of your eyeballs.

Psychological thriller fans (and anyone who uses social media) will love being creeped out by this duology by Caroline Kepnes. Be sure to look for the second book, Hidden Bodies, which continues Joe’s story.

Happy Reading (and Watching)!