I really enjoyed the film The Silver Linings Playbook (I don’t necessarily think it’s the Best Picture, but it’s certainly a very good one, with excellent performances), and so I thought I’d check out the book. The book is a bit darker in mood but similar in content (and most of the changes for the film make sense to me) – a romantic comedy about broken people, about family, and learning about saving yourself.
Pat has been released from a psychiatric institution into his mother’s custody. He and his wife separated a while ago over an incident that Pat can’t quite remember and refuses to think about. Instead he focuses on fixing himself in order to win back his wife. He narrates this journey of self-improvement as a sort of love letter to her, but it gradually becomes more of a document of his own survival and tentative re-connection to the rest of the world, including his court-mandated therapist, own family and the mysteriously promiscuous widow Tiffany. Tiffany inveigles him into committing to something he has never done before, and in doing so causes him to awaken in some ways – not always with immediately positive effects.
Pat is an endearing hero – lost, lonely, but optimistic, with a faith in the future that is inspiring, even if it is misguided. The only thing that slightly bothered me about the book was the register of his voice – he was a history teacher in a high school before his breakdown, but he sometimes writes in a childish and simple way. I suppose this could be the result of his mental illness, but it’s never explained, and it just occasionally seems as if the author went too far, for example with the repetition of the phrase “apart time” for Pat’s separation from his wife. I don’t know; I don’t know enough about bipolar disorder or amnesia to determine how realistic it, and indeed the rest of the novel is. But this is just a minor quibble – over all, The Silver Linings Playbook is sad but hopeful, and funny in a warm sort of way.