The Silver Linings Playbook by Matthew Quick Review 4/5

Overall Impression: Packed with heart and soul; an impressive portrayal of mental illness while remaining light and completely hilarious. The Silver Linings Playbook by Matthew Quick

I wouldn’t necessarily have chosen this book to read myself, I thought the film looked fantastic but I was quite happy to just wait and watch it. However, my bud over at Escaping Reality with Books kindly bought the book for me as a belated birthday gift, and I’m so glad she did! This was such a fun and fascinating novel keeping me glued to the pages even during my sleep deprivation from the 24 Hour Readathon. Because of this, it could be argued my reactions to this book are not what they would normally be. I don’t make a habit of reading novels all at once, and I’m not sure if this impacted my thoughts for better or worse, but all things considered I thoroughly enjoyed it!

Pat Peoples knows that life doesn’t always go according to plan, but he’s determined to get back on track. After a stint in a psychiatric hospital, Pat is staying with his parents and trying to live according to his new philosophy: get fit, be nice and always look for the silver lining. Most importantly, Pat is determined to be reconciled with his wife Nikki.
Pat’s parents just want to protect him so he can get back on his feet, but when Pat befriends the mysterious Tiffany, the secrets they’ve been keeping from him threaten to come out…

I’m not quite sure how to describe this book, but it begins with Pat’s release from ‘the bad place’ as he likes to call it and there is only one thing on his mind, reconciling with his wife Nikki. Pat believes in true love and silver linings. He insists his entire life is like a movie, the beginning up-part was when he met Nikki and he is currently experiencing the low section when he has lost her, but is quite ready for the swelling ending with smiles and rainbows thank you very much. 
Sessions with his therapist have given him time to reflect on his marriage and he has come to the conclusion that he was not a good husband and is ready to better himself by getting fit, being nice and reading all of Nikki’s favourite books. Reluctantly he moves back in with his parents and immediately puts his plan into motion, but he is confused. Why won’t anyone talk about Nikki? Where have all his wedding photo’s and video’s disappeared to? How come no one will tell him where she is?
Then he meets an old friend who introduces him to Tiffany, a standoffish widow with a flair for the blunt, but Pat is so wrapped up in his own problems that all he wants is for Tiffany to leave him the hell alone…

Matthew Quick’s writing feels so refreshing, within the first few pages he makes his protagonist Pat feel unique. You can tell a lot of thought has gone into creating him from the purposeful repetition of words to the simplistic sentences giving him a childlike quality. The closest narration I can describe it to is Charlie in The Perks of Being a Wallflower but it is far more complex, realistic and layered. He doesn’t get caught up in weighty descriptions, instead giving a few key details of people, situation or places that are vivid and relies on the reader to make up the rest. He gives each chapter wacky names like ‘the concrete doughnut’ and ‘I can share raisin bran’ that help add to the overall feel of the book. Quick sets up so many questions at the start of this novel about past events and really makes you work for the answers – What is wrong with Pat? What happened between him and his wife? Why does he have such a violent reaction to the musician Kenny G? Consequently, it is really damn satisfying when you finally get the answers!
The change in structure in the book towards the end was also an interesting choice, Pat decides a certain section of his life is like the montage in a movie and so for a while we get information in small little snippets. I’m not sure it was needed but it was successful as it allows the reader to gloss over a lot of details that could have made the book longer than it needed to be.

The plot for the most part, keeps a steady pace that makes the pages whizz by as you try to put together the pieces of Pat’s fractured life that led to his breakdown. The fact that I was able to read this book almost non-stop is a large testament to the authors skill at entertaining and keeping the reader engaged. I think it may also contain my new favourite book scene too. 🙂 The section where Pat and Tiffany are sitting in the diner and their individual quirks combine into this completely bizarre yet raw and honest scene just somehow struck me as so poignant, and it has been stuck clearly in my head ever since.
However, I did feel The Silver Linings Playbook dragged on in a few places mainly around two thirds of the way through. The stories focus takes a slight shift here, delving into Pat’s parents relationship issues and although it was vaguely interesting I just wanted to find out more about Pat and Tiffany’s story and their interactions with each other.
Another slight criticism I have is the books emphasis on American football, a topic that is completely uninteresting to me. Even so, I was surprised how little it bothered me. Normally it would put me off a book in an instant but the author uses it in a clever way, the football is never just about the football, it’s about the connection Pat has with his family, a way for him to feel normal for a brief period of time or to reflect his turbulent emotions and assessments of the world. Considering this, I still feel that it dragged on for a little bit too long and I kept mentally thinking reel it back Quick, you’re getting sidetracked. But luckily that is exactly what happened not long after I wished it.

Another important thing to note is that in Pat’s quest to read all of his wife’s favourite books a lot of the endings of famous classic are spoilt such as The Great Gatsby, The Scarlet Letter, The Catcher in the Rye, The Bell Jar, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and A Farewell to Arms. This didn’t bother me too much as I just made sure to skim the names so that although I knew what happened to certain characters I didn’t know who, but it is definitely something readers should be aware of if they are considering picking up this book!

Where this book really shines though is in it’s wonderfully flawed characters. I fell in love with Pat’s personality and have never come across a character quite like him before. I just wanted to reach into the book and give him a hug, or a good shaking depending on the scene, lol. 😛 His breakdown seemed to reduced him to a more naïve and childlike state in order to cope with the world. The fact that he calls the psychiatric hospital ‘the bad place’ and his separation from Nikki ‘apart time’ is a good example of this. He uses obsession and denial to cope with the difficulties of everyday life. His thought process seems completely pragmatic to him, but saddening to everyone else who knows that there cannot always be a silver lining and as much as we wish it, life is not a movie either. His reactions to literature like The Great Gatsby are somehow hilarious, heartbreaking and insightful all at the same time.
Tiffany is also a beautiful character with her own severe issues and struggles with depression. We do not get to hear as much about her due to the book being narrated by Pat, who for the majority of the time is obsessed with Nikki and therefore pays little attention to anyone else, but slowly we build up a sense of Tiffany, her unusual reactions and angry outbursts. She is just as screwed up, raw and lost as Pat is but in completely different way. For that reason every scene they are in together is fascinating and funny. When Tiffany starts following Pat every time he goes jogging it may first seem strange, but is soon revealed to be a disguised attempt at reaching out and healing.
There are a lot of other interesting characters in here too, but I feel that I have waffled on for quite long enough, and I would much prefer it if you discovered their awesomeness for yourselves. 😉

I think this is one of those books that can’t necessarily be put into words, the magic is in reading it. There is something so beautiful about novels when two irrevocably damaged people come together to help each other heal, almost as if two broken and lost people have the ability to make some kind of patched up whole. I would recommend this book to anyone who loves complex flawed characters, dark humour and strained family dynamics. I think anyone 15+ male or female would enjoy being swept up into this whirlwind story, and it gets a very high four stars from me! 🙂 Now can’t wait to see the movie!

Some quotes I liked:

“Life is not a PG feel-good movie. Real life often ends badly. Literature tries to document this reality, while showing us it is still possible for us to endure nobly.”

*   *   *

“Life is hard, and children have to be told how hard life can be…So they will be sympathetic to others. So they will understand that some people have it harder than they do and that a trip through this world can be a wildly different experience, depending on what chemicals are raging through one’s mind.”

Writing Style: 5/5
Originality: 4/5
Entertainment: 4/5
Character Development: 5/5
Would I recommend this book? Definitely!

Overall Impression: 4/5

Image Sources:
Book Cover: http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/13539044-the-silver-linings-playbook

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26 thoughts on “The Silver Linings Playbook by Matthew Quick Review 4/5

  1. I’m glad you found a good book to keep you awake through your read-a-thon! The premise of the unreliable narrator in Pat sounds interesting. And we’re always the stars in the movies of our lives, aren’t we?

    • Thanks Tony me too, I wasn’t sure if I was going to read it at first but so many other people told me I should and that it was perfect for the readathon. So glad I listened!
      Pat is very very interesting. 🙂 We are indeed!

    • If you’re referring to the caption on my readathon photo during my highly caffinated state them yes. :L It was completely irrelevant to the actual story though.

      I think you might really enjoy this book if you gave it a try Michael! I think you’d like the humour. 🙂

  2. I really wanted to see this movie, but I was iffy on the book (which for me is normally sacrilege, it’s just that with so little time to spare now I try and budget what I have for what I like best), but this review might have convinced me to give it a shot. I just have such a massive pile of things to be read at the moment… but I’ll definitely keep this up for consideration. The quotes you put up are absolutely beautiful.

    • I felt exactly the same way. Normally I’m so pro reading the book first but for some reason I didn’t feel bothered about the novel so I was happy to just bypass it, especially with so many other books I definitely wanted to read! I’m so glad I didn’t though because it was such an enjoyable read, interesting from a Psychology point of view too.

      I hope you decide to give it a go and I’m glad you like the quotes! 🙂

    • Thank you. 🙂 I hope so, I have already noticed from clips that they’ve changed things around a bit, and they messed with my favourite scene! :/ But hopefully most of the changes will be for the better, and I would love to see more of Tiffany’s side of the story so that’s great to hear!

  3. So glad you liked this book! I felt exactly the same way about it. I read Perks then this, and Silver Linings was in a totally different league. Quick absolutely nails Pat as a character, and his thought processes are so interesting, humorous and a little sad. I can’t put in to words how much I loved Pat. I love how they dance to Bonnie Tyler. Inspired.

    Any author that can create two mentally damaged characters with so many faults and oddities, yet make me love them because of their challenging behaviour, is a winner in my eyes.

    I had similar criticisms too, but I forgave them all because the book has so many strengths. A book from Tiffany’s point of view would be fascinating!

    I’ve bought the film, and need to set aside some time to watch it. I’ve heard there are quite a few differences but I’m interested to see what they’ve done.

    • Thanks so am I, I wasn’t sure I would! I will have to check out your review now. I agree, it is so much better than Perks, raw and just…I don’t know, like you said on a whole other level. 🙂 I’m interested to know, if you had read this first would you have given Perks the same rating? I loved the use of Bonnie Tyler too! I wasn’t sure when it first came up, I though seriously? But then it just clicked and worked so well. Although I did notice while watching a clip of the movie that they changed the song. 😦
      Me too, flawed characters are definitely my favourite kind, otherwise they are often boring so dealing with ones with challenging behaviour along with my interest in Psychology was PERFECT. 😀

      Yes I would have loved to hear more from Tiffany because she was so interesting, but you still definitely get the essence of her character, which is so beautiful.

      I plan on buying the film too, I can’t wait to watch it although I’ve already noticed quite a few changes they’ve made. :S

  4. I’m so happy that you read this and shared your thoughts! It’s now at the top of my TBR list. And will definitely come before I watch the movie (since books are almost always better!). So glad I found you during readathon. I might have never given this book a second look!

    • Thanks Nolatari it was my pleasure and it’s good to have you back. 😀 So glad you are deciding to give the book a go I thought it was a very enjoyable read.

      Haha, I am exactly the same with reading books before the movies, I hate it when I accidentally do it the wrong way round! Glad that I could be helpful. 🙂

  5. I think I’ve warmed up to reading the book after seeing your review. I haven’t seen the movie yet, though it is definitely something I’d watch, but I’ve been debating if I should read the book first. Although now I think I’ll finish off Catcher in the Rye before going into Matthew Quick’s book!

    • Ohh I’m glad the review has made you consider the book more! I felt a similar way before starting it, for some reason it wasn’t appealing to me..maybe it was the movie cover. I haven’t seen the film yet either but I really want to. From what I’ve seen from clips they have changed and shifted around scenes from the book so I would probably be best to read it first. if that sort of thing annoys you. 🙂

    • Woohoo so happy the review sold it! Ha ha, one of the many issues a bookworm encounters. I always try to read the book first but it is up to you, I have noticed that the film has changed quite a few bits in the film if that helps at all. 🙂

  6. I just love your review. I really want to read it now but I want to make sure I’ve read The Great Gatsby, The Scarlet Letter and The Catcher in the Rye first. Thanks for putting that in your review, I would have been so dissapointed with the spoiler alert. Though I should have read the books ages ago anyway, haha.

    • Thanks Kimberley. 🙂 Yeah definitely read The Great Gatsby first for sure, it completely ruins the ending!! The Scarlet Letter was quite a big spoiler too but I don’t think the one for Catcher in the Rye was very big so you could get away with not reading that one beforehand. Hope that helps!
      Ohh you’re not alone! I haven’t read any of the books it spoiled apart from Gatsby, I do plan to though. 🙂

  7. So glad that you liked it so much! And it wasn’t a belated birthday present, I’m sure I had it about a month before your birthday, I just didn’t see you til a while after… lol x

    • Thanks me too, I’m glad you got it for me! Haha I know it’s not the normal definition of belated and it definitely couldn’t be helped, but I wasn’t quite sure how else to describe it quickly so I just went with that. 😛

  8. Thanks for reviewing this! I watched the film last month and really enjoyed it. My mother bought the book recently for herself, but I think I’m going to borrow it. Very excited!

    • No problem Voyager it was my pleasure! The film was a lot of fun but I watched it very quickly after reading the book and they were so different! For instance they completely changed the ending. I actually ended up preferring the book.

      Definitely borrow it the book is a great read, 😀 although maybe wait a little for your thoughts on the film to fade, I wish I had waited a little longer.

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