Having heard that The Silent Wife was an excellent psychological thriller, I added it to my RIP VIII reading list with very little apprehension. I figured that even if the book didn’t live up to the hype surrounding it, at least it would be a short, moody read for October
I’m not sure a synopsis is necessary. Harrison has created a portrait of a failed relationship – a relationship that goes to an extreme in its ending. Jodi and Todd have been together for 20 years and now they are hurtling towards a brick wall that neither one will survive intact. Both aren’t people you’d really want to be friends with, but as psychological studies they are fascinating.
I really wanted to emphasize how unlike Gillian Flynn’s writing this is. The comparisons are everywhere and do Harrison no justice. Flynn focuses on twisted, grotesque imagery and surprise turns. Harrison delves more deeply into the mind and what makes a person tick – particularly the darkest places we generally don’t explore. Both can be hard to read but for very different reasons.
The Silent Wife works best as an almost clinical analysis of humans gone wrong. I think it’s the kind of book that you could study in a psychology class. The ending is spoiled on page two so there’s no need to worry about how things will turn out. This tactic works brilliantly because knowing how the book ends lulls you into a complacency that is rocked by how the events actually unfold.
Harrison’s writing could be called plodding and wondering. There’s very little dialogue between anyone. She often focuses on the mundane through Jodi or Todd’s eyes (the narrative switches back and forth), but I think this is required for painting a full picture of who these two troubled people are and how they got where they are in their lives. It’s the sort of novel that makes me look at the people around me and wonder what’s really going on in their heads – even what’s really going on in my own head or my husband’s head.
I gave The Silent Wife three stars. It was enjoyable, particularly the second half. I’m not sure it’s for everyone, but if you like a good psychological character study of two terrible but interesting characters, read this one. It’s only too sad that Harrison passed away earlier this year. I think she really could have become a magnificent storyteller.