Silver Linings Playbook – Matthew Quick

Silver Linings Playbook is a strange one. It has been widely publicised recently with it being awards season in the film industry and the buzz that surrounded the adaptation; this has all culminated in a best actress Oscar for Jennifer Lawrence a few days ago. But I admit to being unaware of its existence as a book before I saw the film which in itself is a bit of an oddity as something like this would not usually have escaped my grasp.

 We all know the usual train of thought; the film is never as good as the book. But maybe it was because I saw the film first, or maybe it is a personal preference, but I’m going to come out and say it immediately. I preferred the film. That is not to say it is not a good book. I enjoyed the book but it just didn’t have the wit and impact of the excellent film. Whether that is down to the brilliant acting in the film, or the less than perfect book is anyone’s decision, but I am inclined to go down the acting route and also some changes to the story which made for a better viewing experience and storyline.

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 Anyway the book, it is the story of Pat Peoples, mentally unstable and trying to start his life fresh having been let out of a mental facility. His driving force in his aim to get his life back on track is the knowledge of reconciliation with his estranged wife Nikki, however although this drives everything he does, we immediately know that he is never getting back with her. Pat is not so enlightened though and spends the whole book trying to improve in order to win her back. The story focuses on his relationship with the equally unstable Tiffany who is his best friends’ sister in law. I won’t give any more away, it is up to you to either watch the film or read the book now.

 He is a complex character, a man who has obviously made many mistakes in his life leading up to this point. He obviously did not treat his wife well before ‘apart time’ and now he is trying his best to ‘be kind instead of right,’ even though what he thinks is being kind is really just being normal. His social graces are not good and normal life is a struggle for him to contain his character. His reactions are dictated by how he is treated, for example when his mother is nice to him, he reciprocates this by eating all of his pills without fuss. The same as how he has a great relationship with his therapist Cliff, who treats him as an equal and it brings the best out of him.

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The main plot is of course the developing friendship between Pat and Tiffany and how they help each other to overcome their personal problems. Essentially this is a mentally unstable love story but for me it is too obvious and contrived. It is too convenient. Of course there are countless stories where you know the two protagonists are going to end up together but to have two women involved from the word go and to also know from the word go which one he is going to end up with is slightly tedious when you have to get through nearly 300 pages before what you already knew is confirmed. Even if the woman he is going to end up with is completely crazy and has psychopathic-like tendencies you know she will be the one because that’s the type of tale it is. However there are other interesting relationships in the book. In fact every relationship that Pat has is scrutinised to some extent; the relationships with his father, brother, best friend. This is well executed by Matthew Quick as it gives us more insight into Pat’s mind as we see the struggles he has with different people and how he attempts to overcome them.  

I see this review sounds fairly critical but to be fair the book is not bad by any standards. It is well written and on a sensitive subject. There are some creative ideas in it, like an exchange of letters which drives the plot in a non traditional manner. I think the story was there, but in my opinion just not fully realised. The minds who have adapted it for the screen did a terrific job of bringing what was there to life. Like I said though I saw the film first and it could well explain my issues with the book, so to conclude I’d have to say if you’ve already seen the film then you’re not missing much by not having read the book. This is what makes me think that maybe there’s a reason I hadn’t heard of the book before the film was made. However if you haven’t seen the film yet, give the book a go and let me know what you think from the other way round, I’d be interested to know.

★★★  Click here to buy Silver Linings Playbook from Amazon

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