Wednesday, 6 February 2013

The Silver Linings Playbook by Matthew Quick (4/5)

First published: 2008
Page count: 289

The back says: Imagine that your life is a film directed by God. A romcom, obviously, complete with happy-ever-after ending. Before the credits roll, there will, of course, be tears, tantrums and misunderstandings, but you know you’ll get there – and get your girl – in the end.

Welcome to Pat’s world.

It’s a world of silver linings and true love, but also a world where God makes movies and Kenny G lurks in your attic – and when Pat inadvertently befriends the tragic Tiffany, he begins to question whether or not he might just have got the genre wrong.

I say: I really adored this book; it was tragic, funny, confusing, sad, really original and just plain delightful.

Pretty much everything the film wasn’t.

So, we meet Pat on the day that he is being released from a mental institution, thinking he’s only been there a few months and hoping to get well enough to get back with his (in his mind) wife, Nikki. We find out straight away that he’s done something which has brought about “apart time”, but we’re not clued into what exactly it is. Everyone around Pat seem reluctant to talk about Nikki and what happened, so he spends his days working out and focusing on becoming a better person. He moves back in with his parents; his mother bending over backwards to make sure he takes his pills (which he doesn’t) and his father ignoring him.

A part of the deal for his release is that he has to see Dr. Patel every Friday for therapy. At first he’s reluctant but quickly realises that Patel isn’t like the other psychiatrists and actually listens without judging.

There’s also Tiffany, Pat’s best friend’s wife’s sister, who has some serious issues of her own – one of them being following Pat on his daily runs. They soon become friends, and Tiffany promises to get Pat in touch with Nikki if he agrees to perform in a dance competition with her.

And then we have Kenny G – the most hilarious part of this novel due it its total randomness. Pat is afraid of Kenny G (or Kenny 6 as my old boss used to insist) and every time he hears “Songbird” he goes berserk. It’s really quite sad when we find out why he’s so afraid of him, but in the meantime we get gems like this:

“After I returned to New Jersey, I thought I was safe, because I didn’t think Kenny G could leave the bad place, which I realize is silly now – because Kenny G is extremely talented and resourceful and a powerful force to be reckoned with.” – p 34

I guess the main reason this is hilarious is because Kenny G is as cheesy as they come, but goodness me did I laugh out loud.

The Silver Linings Playbook is basically Pat’s diary that he’s keeping in order to be able to show Nikki all the progress he’s making during “apart time.” I found it very endearing, but also heart-breaking, the way that Pat has almost been reduced to a child’s mentality. He’s trying really hard to focus on getting better and controlling his outbursts, but because he initially refuses to take his medication, improvement is slow. Adding to that the confusion of trying to come to terms with the fact that he hasn’t been away for a few months, but rather for a few years, I really felt for Pat. The one thing that keeps his father in the same room as him is football, and even that’s confusing because all of the players he knew are no longer a part of the team. His brother functions as a link between what Pat thinks he knows and what’s actually going on, and I liked their relationship.

I read this in one sitting because I got so caught up in the story and wanted to find out what Pat had done to land him in “the bad place.” Also, it was hilarious, and not just Kenny G, but Tiffany had some kooky ways about her that were awesome. The ending was perfection and the only reason this isn’t getting a full 5/5 is because there was so much football talk that I could have done without.

Aside: I tried watching the film, but could only manage half of it. Now, I know the cliché about the book always being better, however in this instance they ruined the beauty of the story; i.e. replacing the Kenny G song with a Stevie Wonder song. Ha! But in the film version they give away the reason Pat was in the hospital right away taking away a lot of his confusion which was quite integral to the plot in the book. They also have his father talking to him, which again was a huge issue in the book; Pat being ignored and trying everything to get his father to simply acknowledge him. And blah blah blah... nobody really cares what I think about this – not even me – so I’ll just stop here.


  1. This definitely seems like a book I might like. I haven't seen the movie yet!

    1. Book before movie. Esp since they disclose stuff in the movie which would really ruin the book.

  2. This sounds right up my street. I like a quirky book. Glad I haven't seen the film or it might have spoiled it.

    1. This is quirky enough for days (I don't know what that means). I'm still laughing at the Kenny G stuff - it's just so silly. Also, the fact that he thinks his life is a movie... I want to read more from this author.