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  • BN Editors 6:00 pm on 2019/06/17 Permalink
    Tags: a woman of of no importance, , best of 2019, , , , every man a hero, , , , land of the ozarks, , midnight in chernobyl, must read list, , , , supermarket, the border, , , the lost girls of paris, the matricarch, the moment of lift, , the second mountain, , the silent patient, , women rowing north   

    The Best Books of 2019… So Far 

    The year isn’t over, but so many fantastic new books have already been published, that we would feel amiss if we didn’t stop to recognize some of our favorite reads thus far. Divided in separate lists of fiction and nonfiction, here are 30 books that have amazed and inspired us in 2019.

    Fiction

    Ask Again, Yes, by Mary Beth Keane
    Readers will immediately feel pulled into this absorbing story of two families whose lives are forever entwined. As next-door neighbors in a New York suburb, and colleagues at the police department, Francis Gleeson and Brian Stanhope first met in the 1970s. The two men were never exactly friends, but in the ensuing years, their children Peter and Kate have grown up together and are quite close. When a shocking act tears the neighbors apart, can either family find a way back from the depths of trauma? Will Peter and Kate’s now-forbidden relationship overcome their parents’ misgivings? Keane’s new book is tender and wise, literary fiction of the highest caliber.

    How Not to Die Alone, by Richard Roper
    Years ago, Andrew made a split-second decision to pretend he was a family man in order to secure a job. His seemingly benign lie has come back to haunt him when a new employee and mentee, Peggy, enters his life and his heart. Like the rest of Andrew’s colleagues, Peggy assumes Andrew is married with two daughters, so how can he come clean after all this time? Each moment of his career feels like a glimpse into his own future; as an administrator in the U.K.’s Death Council, Andrew is responsible for going through the belongings of people who have died alone. If Andrew doesn’t make some changes, he may very well share their fate. Don’t miss this clever, poignant read.

    Sunset Beach, by Mary Kay Andrews
    Drue Campbell’s life isn’t going the way she expected. Once a gifted athlete, an injury has ended that dream before it began. She’s jobless and unmoored, and when her estranged father shows up at her mother’s funeral, having recently married her high-school frenemy, things seem to go from bad to worse. But then she finds out she’s inherited her grandparents’ beach house, and her father offers her a job at his personal injury law firm, which she takes in desperation. Fielding phone calls isn’t very exciting—until she stumbles into a murder mystery that leads her to an old cold case involving a missing person that might be connected to her own family. Drue’s life is still not going the way she expected, but she’s certainly not bored. A sharp, fast-paced novel with a quirky, unconventional protagonist, this one is an unforgettable beach read with bite.

    The Border, by Don Winslow
    After losing everything but his career in the war against drug kingpin Adán Barrera, Art Keller finds himself at the top of the DEA, with Barrera defeated. But the war on drugs has come home in a flood of cheap heroin that’s killing Americans at a record pace. As Keller moves to block this deadly invasion, he finds himself fighting not Mexican drug cartels, but his own bosses in Washington. Politically motivated enemies are one thing, but Keller begins to suspect the shocking truth—the incoming administration is actually partnered with the very cartels he has spent his life fighting. Winslow concludes his bloody, operatic trilogy delving into the chaotic war on drugs with a suitably intense final act.

    The Confessions of Frannie Langton, by Sara Collins
    Set in the early 19th century, this story follows Frannie, a slave owned by John Langton, who is given to George Benham in London. Benham has Frannie spy on his wife, Meg, whom he suspects of scandal, but Frannie and Meg become lovers. When George and Meg are found murdered, Frannie is arrested—but claims she cannot remember the events leading up to their deaths. This breathtaking novel combines all the pleasures of a historical romance and a murder mystery, made all the more complex and tragic by Frannie’s status as a slave.

    The Unhoneymooners, by Christina Lauren
    Olive Torres has found herself at a bit of a low point. She’s just been laid off, for one, and now she has to spend her twin sister’s wedding attached to best man Ethan Thomas, who just happens to be her nemesis. Then something rather horrible but also rather wonderful happens: Everyone in the wedding party gets a bad bout of food poisoning. Ethan and Olive, however, are not afflicted, which means they get to go on the honeymoon that the bride and groom can no longer enjoy. The two form a temporary truce and head off to Maui, where they soon realize they have more in common than they’d ever imagined. This witty, heartfelt, enemies-to-lovers romance will leave you utterly charmed.

    City of Girls, by Elizabeth Gilbert
    Gilbert serves up a frothy mixture of period piece, salacious gossip-girl drama, and coming-of-age energy as she tells the story of 19-year old Vivian Morris. Vivian, kicked out of Vassar, is sent to live with her Aunt Peg in New York City as World War II boils over across the ocean. The move suits Vivian just fine, as she finds working at her aunt’s disreputable theater, drinking and flirting in nightclubs, listening to jazz music and falling in love with an actor to be the best possible way to spend her time. As Vivian is slowly forced to face the consequences of her actions and her adventures, she also becomes aware that her privileged existence is in sharp contrast to the horrors unfolding around the world as Gilbert expertly ramps up the psychological complexity in this gorgeously told story.

    Supermarket, by Bobby Hall
    This first novel written by Bobby Hall—a.k.a., rap star Logic—is a dense, dark thriller that will keep surprising you. Flynn is a depressed young man who takes a job at a supermarket because he needs something—anything—to give him a reason to get out of bed in the morning and leave his mother’s house. At the store he journals, observing the weirdos and freaks he works with, the customers, and the adorable coworker he’s falling for. When a horrible crime is committed at the supermarket, everything changes, and Flynn begins questioning his reality. It’s no surprise this sublimely creative breakout novel became an instant bestseller.

    On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous, by Ocean Vuong
    This nonlinear roman à clef debut from a critically lauded poet is written as though from a son to his illiterate mother. It depicts a family history of intergenerational abuse mixed with fierce love. The letter writer, known as Little Dog, feels like an outsider in a variety of ways. As a teenager, he emigrated to America from Vietnam with the three women who make up his world: mother, grandmother, and aunt, each traumatized by the Vietnam War. As a young gay man, and the first of his family to attend college, he attempts to reconcile the violence of the past with a future that won’t hold still or accommodate narrative conclusions. In short, it’s like real life: messy, tragic, lovely, and painful all at once.

    The Silent Patient, by Alex Michaelides
    Six years ago, artist Alicia Berenson painted a psychologically dense work based on a Greek myth, then allegedly tied her husband, Gabriel, to a chair and shot him in the face. Alicia hasn’t spoken a word since, spending her time in a drugged daze at the Grove, a secure forensic facility in North London. Theo Faber is the wounded, gifted psychotherapist who convinces Alicia’s doctors to let him try to get her to speak. Theo’s work with the silent patient is interspersed with excerpts of Alicia’s diary leading up to the day of Gabriel’s murder. As the clues about what truly happened begin to fall into place, Theo’s personal and professional worlds blur dangerously, leading to an explosive conclusion.

    The Sentence is Death, by Anthony Horowitz
    The second novel in the addictive Daniel Hawthorne series features Hawthorne’s investigation into the murder of a famous divorce lawyer—found bludgeoned to death with a very expensive bottle of wine. But the victim wasn’t a drinker. And what’s to be made of his enigmatic last recorded words: “You shouldn’t be here. It’s too late…”? Horowitz’s famously recalcitrant detective is accompanied once again, in a brilliantly meta twist, by novelist/author Anthony Horowitz, whose inexperience in the arena of crime solving is made up for by his enthusiasm. This elegantly written series is full of shocking twists and manages to feel at once like a crime fiction classic, and a fresh, modern take on the genre.

    The Lost Girls of Paris, by Pam Jenoff
    An abandoned suitcase discovered in Grand Central Terminal in 1946 contains the photographs of twelve female spies. The owner of the suitcase has been killed and now it’s up to young war widow Grace Healy to uncover what happened to the women who were sent behind enemy lines, never to return. Grace is joined by her late husband’s best friend, Mark, as she digs for the truth about the group’s leader and its most vulnerable spy, a young mother named Marie who worked as a radio operator sending covert transmissions out of Paris. Perfect for fans of Resistance Women and Lilac Girls.

    A Bend in the Stars, by Rachel Barenbaum
    With the real-life solar eclipse of 1914 as its inspiration, this heartpounding historical drama set in WWI-era Russia depicts the Abramov siblings at the most pivotal moment of their lives. Raised by their matchmaker grandmother, physicist Vanya and surgeon Miri (who is stigmatized because she’s a woman) have grown up to become formidable game changers in their respective fields. In fact, Vanya’s work could end up proving or disproving Einstein’s theory of relativity. But amid the outbreak of war, Vanya disappears and Miri must risk her life to locate him.

    Disappearing Earth, by Julia Phillips
    In this intense, original, must-read debut, two sisters vanish from the Kamchatka peninsula in Russia, and over the course of twelve chapters (each representing a month in the year that follows), readers will come to know the female denizens of the isolated, shoreline community as they respond in very different ways to the crime. From the girls’ mother, to witnesses, detectives, and other possible victims, every character is vividly rendered, as are the locations and histories that wind around the story like vines.

    Black Leopard, Red Wolf, by Marlon James
    This novel is a deeply literary work, bordering at times on the poetic in its imagery, but it is also enormously fun, with imaginative worldbuilding and a plot that is both measured and propulsive. The Black Leopard is a mercenary able to shape-shift into a jungle cat, and the Red Wolf, also called Tracker, is a hunter of lost folk, with an incredible sense of smell that enables him to hone in on his quarry from vast distances. Sometimes with Leopard and sometimes alone, Tracker works his way across Africa in search of a kidnapped boy, moving through a beautiful, densely detailed world of violence, storytelling, dark magic, giants, and inhuman entities.

    Non-Fiction

    From Scratch: A Memoir of Love, Sicily, and Finding Home, by Tembi Locke
    In this vibrant and poignant real-life story of love, loss, and Sicilian cooking, actress Tembi Locke describes three summers she spent in Italy with her daughter, Zoela. Locke met her future husband, Sara, on a street in Florence—his traditional Sicilian family didn’t approve of the courtship with a black American who was also an actress. The two ultimately married and created a life in Los Angeles, before a devastating cancer diagnosis changed everything. Reconnecting with her husband’s family, Locke comes to find solace at the table of her mother in law, and discovers the healing power of family, community, and food. The book concludes with a large selection of the recipes that she describes, rounding out the experience of reading her moving story.

    Midnight in Chernobyl: The Untold Story of the World’s Greatest Nuclear Disaster, by Adam Higginbotham
    The HBO series has provided a much-needed revival in interest in the 1986 accident in what was then Soviet Ukraine. Of course, there’s a great deal more to such a significant story then even a very well done miniseries can offer, so Higginbotham’s definitive, years-in-the-making chronicle is perfectly timed. The author spent over a decade conducting interviews and researching documents, some available for the first time, to provide a detailed accounting of not just the disaster, but of its context: of the time and place, of the carelessness and lies that made it seem almost inevitable, and of the difficult aftermath. This new accounting tells of Chernobyl through the stories of people who lived through it, making it both compelling history and a timely reminder of the costs of carelessness.

    Women Rowing North: Navigating Life’s Currents and Flourishing As We Age, by Mary Pipher
    A daughter, sister, mother, grandmother, caregiver, clinical psychologist, AND cultural anthropologist, Pipher is uniquely qualified to discuss the challenges and joys of aging for women in the modern world (more than two decades ago she similarly analyzed the difficulties of being a teenaged girl in the media age). Ageism becomes more prominent with each passing year, and misogyny never goes away, but Pipher also shows that older women can, and often do, turn their experiences and struggles into a reserve of wisdom and gratitude that can serve them well and lead to lasting happiness. Pipher doesn’t just offer platitudes, but real, sensible advice on things like life-centering exercises, finding friends and community, avoiding isolation, and even navigating end-of-life care in the face of loss. It’s an essential book for women stepping into old age (and those who hope to get there someday), but also for the loved ones of those women.

    Lake of the Ozarks: My Surreal Summers in a Vanishing America, by Bill Geist
    Author and recently retired CBS News correspondent Geist was popular for over three decades for his lighthearted, wonderfully corny human interest segments covering some of the weirder corners of American life. In his latest, the baby boomer looks back to his own childhood in the midcentury American midwest. Specifically, he revisits the middle-class summer vacation hot spot, Lake of the Ozarks, and the eccentric personalities who influenced Geist’s life and career. It’s a charming, often very funny, portrait of a bygone era.

    Maid: Hard Work, Low Pay, and a Mother’s Will to Survive, by Stephanie Land with Barbara Ehrenreich
    In her already acclaimed new memoir, Land recounts the years of her early adulthood, when a summer fling became an unexpected pregnancy, derailing (for a time) her hopes of college and a journalism career. In order to provide for herself and her child, the single mother worked maid service jobs by day while attending college classes at night, all the while writing about her experiences. She recounts her story here, shining a bright light on the stigma that attends being one of the working poor—of the judgement and dismissal by employers and government aid workers, and of the impossibility of sustaining a family on a minimum wage. The book is compassionate, but also honest and unflinching about what life is like for the people who often work the hardest for bare subsistence wages.

    Howard Stern Comes Again, by Howard Stern
    At some point, the king of shock jocks became true radio royalty with a career spanning over four decades and success across multiple mediums. His first book became a hit movie, and his second was also a bestseller—but that was over 20 years ago, and much has changed in the life of Howard Stern since, from hisdeparture from terrestrial radio, to his mega-bucks deal with SiriusXM, to shakeups in his personal life. It’s clear in this memoir that he has plenty of new stories to tell about his life, his celebrity encounters, and his perspective on the ever-changing realities of the radio business.

    Furious Hours: Murder, Fraud, and the Last Trial of Harper Lee, by Casey Cep
    In the 1970s, one Reverend Willie Maxwell was accused of killing five of his family members for insurance money. After he had given the eulogy for the stepdaughter he’d allegedly murdered, he himself was shot by another relative. The same lawyer who defended the Reverend secured an acquittal for the vigilante. No one was more intrigued by the sordid story than Harper Lee, author of To Kill a Mockingbird, who spent years working on a never-published true crime work to rival that of her friend Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood. In this fascinating new book, Casey Cep explores both the original crime and Lee’s obsessive, ultimately futile work to craft it into a powerful work of non-fiction.

    The Pioneers: The Heroic Story of the Settlers Who Brought the American Ideal West, by David McCullough
    David McCullough, two-time winner of the Pulitzer Prize, returns with an in-depth study of the settlement of the Northwest Territory, telling the stories of the hardy and fearless pioneers who traveled into the unknown determined to enlarge and enrich our country with their bare hands and at risk of their very lives. The movement west began sooner than most people realize, with the first settlers—veterans of the Revolutionary War—arriving in Ohio in 1788. McCullough tells the story of the town they carved out of the wilderness through the eyes of five historical figures, who becomes characters in a story about bravery, tragedy, diplomacy, and the conquest of a wilderness that wanted nothing more than to sweep them aside.

    Stay Sexy & Don’t Get Murdered: The Definitive How-to Guide, by Karen Kilgariff and Georgia Hardstark
    Kilgariff and Hardstark helm the immensely popular podcast ‛My Favorite Murder,’ and here offer a combination memoir and self-help book that crackles with their easy banter and personal chemistry. You might think self-help and true-crime—even the humorous kind of true crime the podcast trades in—would be an odd combination, but Kilgariff and Hardstark effortlessly link the two, showing how many of their own mistakes put them into vulnerable positions that wouldn’t be out of place as the introduction to an unsolved assault or murder. In the end, their message is simple and powerful: stop being polite and start advocating for yourself. That message is delivered with warmth and wit, making this a thoroughly enjoyable romp through the messy lives of two very interesting people.

    A Woman of No Importance: The Untold Story of the American Spy Who Helped Win World War II, by Sonia Purnell
    “She is the most dangerous of all Allied spies. We must find and destroy her.” That was the message sent out by the Gestapo in 1942 regarding Baltimore socialite Virginia Hall, who had escaped to London from Vichy-controlled Paris and joined up with the spies at the Special Operations Executive. Referred to as “the limping lady” because of her prosthetic leg, she returned to France to coordinate the underground resistance effort. Her cover blown, she then escaped on foot to Spain before venturing back into France again to lead guerrilla forces in advance of the Normandy landing. Hall’s is an incredible true story, and its told like never before in this book by celebrated journalist and historian Sonia Purnell.

    Every Man a Hero: A Memoir of D-Day, the First Wave at Omaha Beach, and a World at War, by Ray Lambert and Jim DeFelice
    The number of individuals who can recount firsthand their experiences during World War II is sadly dwindling, but that doesn’t mean there are no new stories left to tell. Ninety-eight-year-old Ray Lambert was a combat medic and among the first wave of Allied soldiers to land at Omaha Beach on D-Day. Lambert grew up on a farm in Alabama during the Great Depression before he and his brother enlisted for service that took them to some of the war’s most important and harrowing battles. Timed for the 75th anniversary of the D-Day landing, Lambert’s memoir is a powerful addition to the library of works about the greatest and most terrible conflict in history.

    The Second Mountain, by David Brooks
    Part of what makes finding meaning and purpose so difficult is there are so many ways we can seek to do it: we might do deep personal work. We might grow a family. We might lead a city through a crisis or head up a classroom. Everything from writing a book to praying in solitude can bring meaning to our lives and the wider world. Writer and commentator David Brooks has thought deeply about how to blend these commitments into a coherent whole that feels personal and full of purpose. In The Second Mountain, he encourages readers to understand their calling in life and engage with their world. His words will resonate with everyone from graduates to grandparents, but his real aim goes beyond individual readers. He hopes to infuse our entire society with more meaning and purpose. There is a powerful image in Brooks’ description of two mountains. Those who are striving for fame, security, or validation are on a mountain they’ll never stop climbing—if they do reach the top, they’ll realize the accomplishment feels hollow. Life is really about climbing off that mountain and onto a different one, built decision by decision, the shape of a meaningful life, full of days driven less by outer markers of success and more by how we can serve others. On that second mountain, we begin a quest to focus on others through work, faith, family, and service to the community.

    The Moment of Lift, by Melinda Gates
    No one can say Melinda Gates hasn’t had an impact on the world; she’s devoted much of her life to serving in powerful ways. In The Moment of Lift, she argues that if we lift up women, we will lift the entire world, including the people most desperately in need. As she details the issues women around the world face, including everything from child marriage to harassment, it’s impossible not to feel inspired to take action. If you’re not sure where to get started, Gates offers issues that will call to those on the second mountain. She encourages readers to join the movement in her new book; part manifesto, part memoir, and part call to action. We don’t need to be perfect to begin. We don’t need to become bodhisattvas to find purpose. We need simply to reflect, focus on what matters, and when the path curves, swerve toward meaning, service, and connection.

    The Matriarch: Barbara Bush and the Making of an American Dynastyby Susan Page
    Even before publication, this memoir of the former first lady made headlines for its candid observations about the current state of presidential politics, but journalist Page covers the entirety of Bush’s life, informed by extensive research, personal diaries, and interviews with family, friends, and Mrs. Bush herself during the last six months of her life. Sometimes controversial and frequently underestimated, Barbara Bush molded herself into the powerful head of a family that produced two United States presidents while navigating he rrole as a prominent woman across generations of change.

    The British Are Coming: The War for America, Lexington to Princeton, 1775-1777, by Rick Atkinson
    Rick Atkinson, best known for his Pulitzer Prize-winning works on World War II, steps further back  in time to chronicle the first two years of the American Revolution. This is the first book of what will be a trilogy covering the entirety of the war. With an incredible level of detail and benefittingfrom new research (including access to materials only recently made available), Atkinson begins with the battles at Lexington and Concord and focuses on the lives of the extraordinary individuals who play key roles in the country’s founding and the subsequent, seemingly unwinnable conflict. This isn’t a whitewashed look back: the author considers the British perspective on the war and isn’t shy about exploring the hypocrisy of the slave-owning American leaders.

    What’s the best new book you’ve read in 2019?

    The post The Best Books of 2019… So Far appeared first on Barnes & Noble Reads.

     
  • Jeff Somers 3:00 pm on 2019/04/24 Permalink
    Tags: , alex michaelides, , , , the silent patient,   

    Agatha Christie, Sleight of Hand, and Psychological Complexity: An Interview with The Silent Patient Alex Michaelides 

    There’s no shortage of excellent thrillers to read in the modern world, but every now and then a book comes along that rises above the rest and becomes that book that gets passed from person to person like a virus, accompanied by breathless endorsements and the sort of giddy joy only book lovers recognize. Well, we have our first bona-fide phenomenon thriller of 2019, the twisty, buzzy The Silent Patient, by Alex Michaelides.

    The Silent Patient has the bones of an old-school mystery, fused with a modern energy similar to The Girl on the Train or Gillian Flynn’s novels. It’s the sort of book you immediately want to recommend to your book club or best friend or, you know, strangers on your morning commute, just so you’ll have people to discuss it with. And then we thought, wait a sec, we’re Barnes and Noble, we can excitedly discuss the book with the author. So we reached out and sat down with Alex Michaelides himself to fanblog all over him, chatting about Agatha Christie, working as a scriptwriter in Hollywood, and, of course, the genesis of his remarkable debut novel.

    You obviously have a deep love for old-school mystery-thrillers like the works of Agatha Christie or Patricia Highsmith. How did those old-school cool novels influence The Silent Patient?

    Well, I grew up on the tiny island of Cyprus, in the Mediterranean. It was before the internet, and there was nothing to do in the summers except read. I was thirteen when I discovered Agatha Christie, and devoured all of her novels over one summer at the beach. It was probably the happiest reading experience I ever had, and it made me into a reader—and, I suspect, a writer. So later on, when I began thinking about writing a novel, I knew I wanted something to replicate that experience I’d had on the beach. And the plan was to take a Christie-style plot and marry it with a deeper psychological complexity. I tried to imagine what Christie might be writing now, if she were alive and had my life experience. Of course it’s not just Christie—I’m a huge fan of Patricia Highsmith, P.D. James, Ruth Rendell, Dorothy L. Sayers, all women actually! There is something so satisfying about encountering a story that works on one level and yet when you reach the end you realize you have been looking at everything the wrong way up. I think that sleight of hand, like a magician’s trick, is what appeals to me the most.

    Like all magic tricks, at its core writing is all about process. They say write what you know, and you drew on your experience working at a therapeutic community to write The Silent Patient. How much ‘real life’ is in the story?

    I was pretty messed up as a teenager, neurotic, anxious, depressed—and I had a lot of personal therapy for many years. I also studied it a couple of places at a postgraduate level—but never finished my studies, as I felt strongly that I was a writer not a therapist. As part of my studies, I worked at a secure psychiatric facility for teenagers. It was one of the most formative experiences of my life, and certainly the most humbling. It was incredible, helping kids heal and get well—and it went a long way to healing the messed-up teenage part of myself. I didn’t know I was going to write The Silent Patient then, but later on when I knew that I wanted to write a Christie-style book, I needed an enclosed location—the kind of thing she does so brilliantly—and I suddenly thought of the psychiatric unit. And instead of a detective, I could have a psychotherapist. Everything went from there. I didn’t use any of the people I encountered at the unit, but I did use the atmosphere and the emotions that I felt while I was working there. I kept notes at the time, and that helped me a lot when I came to write the book.

    Many have noted the symbolism of a woman who doesn’t speak, combined with the themes of Alcestis in The Silent Patient, which ties into what’s going on today with #MeToo and other movements. Was this intentional?

    You know, it wasn’t intentional, as I wrote The Silent Patient before the #MeToo movement began. But there was a synchronicity there, for sure. When they were bidding for the movie rights, I had many producers, male and female, comment on the fact that Alicia does not speak and asking me how I felt it related to #MeToo. It was quite clear to me that when a person is imprisoned, and not believed, not being heard, then her only recourse is not to speak. So silence in my thinking is a last resort; the last weapon available, when everything else has been taken away from you. That was what interested me about Alicia—as well as the silence in the Greek myth of Alcestis. Alcestis dies to save her husband, and yet when she’s brought back to life at the end of Euripides’s play, she refuses to speak when confronted with her husband. Why? Is she overjoyed, overcome with emotion? Or is she deeply furious, angry with him, betrayed and hurt that he let her die? The refusal to conclude, the refusal to supply a definite answer, is so powerful, and has been haunting me my whole life.

    We hear you’re adapting your own novel for a film version—are there any special challenges to turning your own work into a different medium? Did you think about a film version as you were writing it?

    I think writing for screen and for novels is very different. A friend of mine is a critic, and he always says something I find very helpful—that screenplays are about contraction, and novels are about expansion. Meaning that for a movie you try to keep everything going, keep the plot ticking along. Whereas in a book you can slow down and go into someone’s thoughts and spend a day with them as they walk round the park or think about their life. And discovering that transformed me as a writer. I feel very much that I’m more of a novelist than a dramatist. I never really imagined it as a film. And I think the silence will be extremely challenging. Having said that, making the film is an incredible opportunity. It will be very exciting to take the book apart and put it together again for another medium. I am very pliable these days. I think you have to be, if you’re going to succeed as a writer. It’s never good to get stuck on ideas or lines or bits of dialogue.

    What’s harder—writing a novel or getting a movie made?

    I would say each is hard. The motivation to keep writing every day, for months at time, is a big part of writing a book. But it’s much harder—as in emotionally more painful—to make a movie. I personally have found film-making to be a soul destroying process. A movie with a decent script and a great cast can be derailed by production problems that are nobody’s fault. It’s heartbreaking. So the decision to write The Silent Patient was a last ditch attempt to try and be in control of the creative process from start to finish, and get away from movies. So the irony I am now writing the screenplay is not lost on me. I have a feeling it’s going to be different this time, as I’m working with some amazing people.

    Speaking of writing, The Silent Patient contains a DefCon-5 kind of plot twist that has people’s heads spinning, yet it works perfectly. Did you start with the twist, or did you start with the premise or the characters and find the twist as you outlined? What’s your position on ‘spoiler etiquette’?

    It was rather a magical moment, the way it happened. As I have said, the various strands came together—Greek Mythology, Agatha Christie, psychotherapy—and the idea was born in one moment, as I was walking through the park near where I live. I was trying to imagine a psychological detective story about a woman who doesn’t speak and the therapist trying to help her. I was trying to come up with an ending—and I remember asking myself, ‘what would Agatha Christie do?’ And then suddenly, I saw it. I sat down on the nearest bench and pulled out my phone and wrote down the whole plot, which I still have on my phone. The details changed of course, but the general movement of the story and the twist have remained the same. It was a really good day, that day.

    Regarding spoilers, I will always remember going to see The Mousetrap in London, when I was a kid. At the end of the performance, one of the actors steps forward and asks the audience not to reveal the ending to anyone else as it would spoil their enjoyment of the play. So I think it’s just good manners, don’t you?

    We do! So we’re not going to spoil The Silent Patient, we’ll just encourage everyone reading this to buy a copy immediately so we can all discuss it freely. Thanks, Alex, for taking the time to talk about your book with us!

    Shop all thrillers >

    The post Agatha Christie, Sleight of Hand, and Psychological Complexity: An Interview with <i>The Silent Patient</i> Alex Michaelides appeared first on Barnes & Noble Reads.

     
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