‘A funny, romantic and uplifting novel’ – The Silver Linings Playbook by Matthew Quick

Pat Peoples has spent an unknown (to him) number of years locked up in a mental institution following an incident connected with his wife Nikki which he doesn’t remember.  Now he has been discharged from ‘the bad place’ and is back living at home with his parents and is determined to change his ways and turn himself into the man Nikki would like him to be and so end ‘apart time’.  To do this he practices ‘being kind instead of right’, runs for miles wearing a bin bag and works out continually as Nikki ‘likes a man with a developed upper body’.  Everyone from his mother to his therapist Cliff, however, seems hell bent on steering him away from Nikki, something Pat is at a loss to understand.  Then Pat meets Tiffany, the widowed sister-in-law of his best friend Ronnie, an unstable woman with severe mental health problems of her own and Pat’s life changes dramatically as, with the help of Tiffany, he uncovers the secrets his parents are keeping from him.

Although on the whole I thought Quick’s characterisation was excellent and that Pat was a well drawn, authentic and likeable character, I wasn’t always convinced that his voice was that of a thirty five year old man as he often sounded childlike and too innocent, but with amazing insight.  This veered to within a whisker of portraying him, a man with mental health issues, as the clichéd idiot/savant.  In the end though Quick just about pulls it off.  For a story told in the first person the other characters are impressive.  They all leap off the page with strong compelling voices.  Pat’s father, Patrick, is aloof, difficult, often violent, unreasonable and emotionally stunted and yet the triumph in Quick’s writing is that we still like him and will him on to be there for his disturbed and unpredictable son.  Cliff the therapist could so easily have been a prop to Pat’s mental illness, but isn’t.  Instead he has a storyline of his own, as do most of the other characters, yet they don’t fight for attention on the page.  Tiffany is loveable because of her honesty and failings and Jeannie, Pat’s mother, has just about enough pluck to enable us to not only sympathise with her position, but to admire her too.

This story could so easily have been depressing:  In Pat’s world both the people he knows and the authors he reads in an effort to improve himself for Nikki (Hemingway, Plath and Fitzgerald), seem to focus only on the negative and the reader senses right from the start that although Pat seems optimistic that ‘apart time’ will end with the ‘inevitable reunion with Nikki’, we are not quite so convinced.  What distinguishes Pat from the other characters is his determination to look for silver linings and find the happy ending he craves and that is what in the end makes this a funny, romantic and uplifting novel.  Quick’s writing is light and easy to read and the titles of the chapters are humorous steering the reader towards Pat’s optimism, for example: ‘Tiffany’s head floating over the waves’ and ‘As if he were Yoda and I were Luke Skywalker training on the Dagobah system’.

Any Cop?: Now that this book has been made into a film by David O. Russell staring Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence I’m sure it will be a huge success.  I did enjoy it.  The Silver Linings Playbook is a quick, easy read with a happy ending, great as a mood lifter for dark and cold evenings.

Julie Fisher


About this entry