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
Character Development: 5/5
Would I recommend this book? Definitely!
Overall Impression: 4/5
Book Cover: http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/13539044-the-silver-linings-playbook