Matthew Quick’s The Silver Linings Play Book is the final choice for the current series of The TV Book Club. The last time I opted to read one of their choices, I made a good call, with Liz Jensen’s excellent The Rapture; this time, however, it wasn’t such a good call.
We meet Pat Peoples just as he’s about to be released from a psychiatric unit (the ‘bad place’, as he calls it) to move back in with his family. Pat believes his life is a movie directed by God, and that every cloud must have its silver lining. He’s lost track of time in the hospital, and can’t even remember why he was admitted – but Pat looks forward to the end of ‘apart time’, when he’ll finally be able to go back to his wife, Nikki. In the meantime, Pat finds himself gaining the attention of Tiffany, a friend’s sister; he tries to ward her off, but perhaps he should be doing the opposite.
Don’t get me wrong: when The Silver Linings Play Book is at its best, it’s very good – but there’s something that stopped me getting along with it fully, and it took me a while to put my finger on exactly what that something was. It’s partly the somewhat-naive tone Quick uses for Pat’s narrative voice, which does create his character well – and is particularly effective when the calmness of that tone acts as a counterpoint (almost a mask) to Pat’s periodic outbursts, reminding us that he’s still in a fragile state – but gets annoying after a while. It’s also that the novel seems content to amble along for about half its length before really getting going. Most of all, perhaps, it’s that I just didn’t find the book as touching as it tries to be.
So, The Silver Linings Play Book is okay, and rather better than okay in places, but, overall, I found it unsatisfying.