Review: The Silver Linings Playbook by Matthew Quick

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Rating: ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆
Date read: February 02 to 10, 2013
Read count: 2

So much hype, so little to back up that hype.

I still don’t see what all the fuss is about with this book. The writing is good for contemporary fiction, the prose poignant at times, the characters OK, but the story overall could have been dealt with better. It could have had more nuances since this is a novel about mental health. There could have been more emotional consequences for the main character and those close to him.

Too many novels these days that deal with mental health and the mental health systems deviate to having passive narration and passive main characters who just float through the story while not really doing much of anything except take in their surroundings and everything that’s happening around them. The point is things are happening around them–not to them, not even at them–and so not much affects them. This is pretty far from reality. People who have been institutionalized don’t return to their lives and live passively.

If this book had been my first foray into fictional accounts of psychological health based on actual accounts of the author’s experience, then I would have been impressed with Quick’s writing, comedic timing, self-deprecating humor, and engaging narration. However, (un)fortunately, this was not my first book of this kind, and so I was underwhelmed.

The whole story seems flat, and the characters are too narrow in scope and emotional range, with one minor character in particular coming off as stereotypical. It makes me wonder if Quick has ever had a lasting relationship, or even a meaningful encounter, with a person of color, or maybe he’s one of those writers who have few firsthand experiences and so he on media representations to draw out his story. You know which character I’m referring to, people who read the book.

As for the book vs. movie issue, it’s no contest that the movie is better. This is one of those rare instances where the movie is better because it’s better made. It’s composed with more emotional depth that is not present in the book, and so the overall impact of Pat’s dysfunctional problems are shown and felt, rather just happening to him. The movie also shows character growth, which again I did not see in the book. Pat changes with each obstacle he’s faced with and overcomes. I did not get a strong sense of any emotional growth in the book because the growth mostly happened in Pat’s mind.

The characters, their problems, mental illnesses, and everything else in between are more alive, for lack of a better world, in the movie.

Original review to be found here.

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