Archive Review – “The Silver Linings Playbook” by Matthew Quick

Review first published 18/12/12

The Silver Linings Playbook: A Novel

From Goodreads:

An enchanting first novel about love, madness, and Kenny G. The Silver Linings Playbook is the riotous and poignant story of how one man regains his memory and comes to terms with the magnitude of his wife’s betrayal.

During the years he spends in a neural health facility, Pat Peoples formulates a theory about silver linings: he believes his life is a movie produced by God, his mission is to become physically fit and emotionally supportive, and his happy ending will be the return of his estranged wife, Nikki. When Pat goes to live with his parents, everything seems changed: no one will talk to him about Nikki; his old friends are saddled with families; the Philadelphia Eagles keep losing, making his father moody; and his new therapist seems to be recommending adultery as a form of therapy.

When Pat meets the tragically widowed and clinically depressed Tiffany, she offers to act as a liaison between him and his wife, if only he will give up watching football, agree to perform in this year’s Dance Away Depression competition, and promise not to tell anyone about their “contract.” All the while, Pat keeps searching for his silver lining.

In this brilliantly written debut novel, Matthew Quick takes us inside Pat’s mind, deftly showing us the world from his distorted yet endearing perspective. The result is a touching and funny story that helps us look at both depression and love in a wonderfully refreshing way.

It sounds a little strange, but I bought this book on the back of seeing a film trailer… and I only managed to read it after seeing the film due to my Christmas reading.

Less of my woes, what did I think of the book.  Well, it certainly demonstrates that literature and film are totally different media.

In the case of both the book and the film, the story follows lead character Pat (Solitano in the film and Peoples in the book) who has been released to the care of his mother following a stay at a neural health facility.

The book follows Pat, from his first person perspective, as he seeks a reconciliation with his estranged wife, Nikki, whilst he seeks to become a better person alongside reintegrating with his family and friends, following his beloved Philadelphia Eagles, and developing a friendship with Tiffany, a young woman with a past as troubled as Pat’s own.

 

Pat is written as an eternal optimist, despite the knocks that life has delivered upon him.  He sees life as a movie in which he is the leading actor and God as the director.  His role is to get the perfect happy ending through self improvement, both physically and intellectually through reading the books that form Nikki’s teaching syllabus.

However, this optimism is also Pat’s Achilles Heel as the motivation for his actions is purely to reconcile with Nikki as opposed to any real genuine desire to improve.  Saying that though, it’s hard to dislike Pat as you follow him through his personal triumphs and tribulations.

Now I’m going to preface my next point by saying that I am a fan of Jennifer Lawrence’s acting – not only in general but also specifically as Tiffany.  The character of Tiffany in the film is in her early to mid twenties which lends weight and a maturity to the choices that she makes which come over as having a sense of altruism – despite the fact that she assists Pat with his “quest” to gain his assistance with the dance competition which she wants to take part in, plus the underlying emotions behind her reasons for wanting him to take part in the task which are borne out of an emotional need.

The Tiffany of the books is described as being roughly in her late thirties/early forties but she is no less volatile than Lawrence’s portrayal of Tiffany as their common story behind Tiffany’s emotional damage is explained (albeit with the literary Tiffany’s back story being explained later in the book in comparison to her film counterpart).  She also comes across as more manipulative than the film version of Tiffany as her plan comes into effect later in the book.

Whilst Pat’s Mom is portrayed similarly between the book and the film, Pat’s Dad is a very different proposition.  In the film, Robert DeNiro portrays Patrick Snr. as a man who has as many issues as his son with the character being caught between OCD and superstition in his “work” as a bookmaker taking bets on Eagles games.  The literary version of Patrick comes across as an unlikable man who makes very little effort to engage with his son following his release from the hospital and a man who sees his wife as a bit of a doormat.

The supporting cast are pretty similar between the cinematic and literary incarnations, albeit with some differences borne out of the difference between a book and a film, where the dialogue of a book can be shorthanded by an action or a conversation in a film with the only major differences being the exclusion of Jake’s (Pat’s brother) wife in the film and the appearance of Pat’s friend from the hospital, Danny – as portrayed by Chris Tucker in the film, much earlier in the film than the book.

Speaking of differences, the film’s conclusion is not the same as that of the book with the dance competition taking place approximately two thirds into the novel with the emotional aftermath taking place in the book’s final third.  However, this is a case of what works in books not  necessarily working on the silver screen and, in my opinion, both endings are equally valid.

“The Silver Linings Playbook” is a story that portrays the issue of mental health with sensitivity, but it also portrays it with optimism and humour.  However, the main theme is that we are all stars in our own films called “Life” and it’s up to us as to whether we allow some external power – whether it be a supreme being, whatever your religious persuasion, or circumstance – has direction of our lives… or whether it is down to us as the actor to demand a rewrite for our character and get that “silver lining”.

Rating: 4/5

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