Sorry all – my 12-year old self couldn’t help it with this title 🙂
Artist Alicia Berenson is accused of a horrible crime – shooting her photographer husband Gabriel five times in the face and killing him. When the police arrive, she refuses to speak, and doesn’t utter another word for 6 years following the crime. Her one statement is a painting, entitled Alcestis, based on a greek myth where Alcestis sacrifices herself for the life of her husband. Due to her silence and apparent mental illness, she is housed in the Grove, a secure forensic unit in North London. Theo Faber is a psychotherapist who became somewhat obsessed with Alicia’s case after her arrest and confinement. He finds a way to transfer into a position at the Grove, where he plans to treat Alicia in the hopes that she’ll speak again.
The story of her treatment is told mostly through Theo’s perspective, and is interwoven with his messy personal life – his wife Kathy is cheating on him and he becomes even more obsessed with Alicia’s case. He starts to investigate family members outside his hospital hours in order to understand her better. You also get the lead up to Gabriel’s murder in the form of Alicia’s diary, which hints at her mental state before the crime.
We read this for my book club, and discussed it last night. We all agreed it was a page-turner, with a pretty unexpected ending. We also liked that Theo explained some of the psychotherapy techniques he was using while treating Alicia. Alicia’s diary, while helpful in telling her story, also made us laugh, as her full sentences were so detailed it seemed a bit hokey. Not many people keep journals that way! I would recommend the book – it was very engaging and keeps the reader on their toes.