I´m surprised at the praise this book has gotten. I decided to read it because it´s present in every list I checked on GoodReads and the plot seemed interesting enough. As it turns out, it is just another book made at the expense of psychoanalysis always getting a bigger hype than it deserves and a writer who has not done their research and who only wants an easy story out of it.
The writing is boring. Both Alicia´s diary and Theo´s sections are written exactly the same way, almost as if the author was not able to voice convincing different characters. So much so, that at some point while reading, I thought possible one of the outcomes of the story would be that the diary had been faked by Theo in some odd plot twist. Theo is portrayed as a hero that comes in crashing every other therapist work and breaks through to Alicia within days. Alicia was in the hospital for, what? 6 years? And no therapist managed to make progress with her. Obviously by the end you can see that this progress was only due to Theo being the one that caused the issue in the first place. However, if you reflect on it, a few other things come to light:- Alicia had a traumatic childhood and the picture this book paints is that if you had a traumatic childhood you are on the brink of becoming irreparable and, apparently, a killer. - In 6 years nobody was able to help Alicia trust and communicate. So mental health is shown as something that stays static. Stale. Not only that, but mental institutions are also portrayed as places that just holds the patients in a prison-like manner. It takes an unstable psychotherapist to be hired for her medication doses and therapy treatment to even be reviewed. This is an inaccurate and frankly sad view of what mental health treatment is actually like in reality. - Alicia becomes a killer because of a combination of her childhood trauma and what she is put through by Theo. She also then becomes even more unstable by deciding not to talk in order to mirror a Greek myth. It again takes a unstable psychotherapist to look into her background and realise the connection between her naming the painting Alcestis and her real life experiences. What are all these other therapists at The Grove doing? None of the characters are well written, but the female ones are just a disgrace. To pick a few examples:- Stephanie is shown as this “stickler for the rules” who only hinders Theo´s methods. When he insists on being alone with Alicia while treating her and she attacks him, Stephanie tries to stop him from being alone with her again. Rather than getting support from her management colleagues, she gets interrupted and ignored by her counterpart Diomedes who decides Theo can continue as he was. Diomedes is represented as assertive, independent minded and a presence that Theo seeks when he wants advice. Funny how when then Alicia attacks another patient and Stephanie takes control of the situation, the description reads “Stephanie was standing with her arms crossed; her excitement was palpable. She´s getting off on this, I thought – being in charge, and having the last word – how she must have resented us all, overruling her, teaming up against her. Now she was relishing her revenge”. By insisting that protocols are followed that demonstrably protect both Theo and Alicia, Stephanie is not being assertive, she is “getting off” on her own authority. She isn´t independent minded, she is resentful and vengeful. The author has made such little effort to hide the plain sexism in his characters. - Indira – The sweet stereotypical maternal figure that always offers a kind smile. The only times she talks throughout the book is in group discussions where Theo´s methods are being questioned. Those times she is always there to say “I agree with Theo”. Surely if she was in agreement with the methods Theo is trying to introduce she would have already suggested them in the last 6 years? If she had, then this means it takes a strong white man to come in and actually get these methods applied. If she actually hadn´t, then she is just another female character put in place as a decorative vase to support a male character. - Alicia –Portrayed as a mystery that just doesn´t talk and needs to be saved (even if by the man that caused her issues in the first place) or portrayed (in her diaries) as someone that just sits at a café all day and only feels safe when she goes home to have sex with her partner (who she also paints a portrait of as JESUS CHRIST).
I could have given it the benefit of the doubt and maybe endured the sexism if the book had been written at a different time in history, but this was written in 2019 and I expect higher standards from both the author and the critical reception this book has received.
Maybe a more talented writer could have turn the plot into an enjoyable read, but this author was sadly not successful.