William Morrow Pub
May 3rd, 2022
The Patient by Jane Shemilt is a story of vengeance, betrayal, obsession, and over stepped boundaries, with second chances in finding happiness.
Shemilt draws upon her experiences as a medical doctor. “When I was a medical student, I hung around the teaching hospital a lot. A young man came in the middle of a psychosis, in full blown mania. He said he felt like he was in the middle of a runway where the airplane was about to take off. This struck a real chord with me because I was chronically sleepless, creating a weird, wired feeling. Although I never suffered any kind of psychosis I felt a kinship with this guy, knowing what he meant. I wanted to write about him one day. This was the starting point for this story.”
Mental health issues play a large part in the books Shemilt writes. “I write about mental health. There are aspects I want to draw attention to, foregrounding something not frightening. I did it with this book and the next book, The Therapist that will come out in April next year. It begins on a Greek Island. It has shocking behavior by some English school boys against a young Greek girl that plays out over twenty years. In this one I also used my experience. I did go to the setting of this new book. The experiences make you who you are.”
Readers meet Dr. Rachel Goodchild, a doctor who seems to have everything: a loving husband, a good daughter, and a great practice. Yet, when French architect Luc Lefevre comes to her practice for a consultation concerning his depression, Rachel becomes immediately attracted. She meets him again when his wife throws a party at their restored a historic home in Rachel’s neighborhood. The attraction between her and Luc continues at the party and turns into an affair. Months later Rachel and Luc are both being detained for pending murder charges.
Rachel went over the line with the doctor/patient relationship. She went beyond the boundaries. The author noted, “Interestingly, the setup in meeting a patient is like the beginning of an affair: alone, one person is trusting the other as they reveal intimate secrets, and the other one is in control, an inequality of power. I played with this, what if the doctor had boundaries that got blurred. Rachel was untethered from her usual rules because of her life. Luc had no boundaries because of his disorder. This was a reciprocal relationship.”
Rachel allows her sense of ethics to go out the door with her awakened passion. Mainly because “I wrote Luc as an attractive and an articulate guy. A multi-layered person. On first impression he is charming, disheveled, and haunted by his illness. He is wounded and carries these wounds with him. He is very gifted, a wonderful artist and architect.”
The story shows how disgrace and scandal have consequences no one could have predicted and could ruin both characters’ lives. The relationship seemed inevitable, starting off with innocence and transgressing to be genuine.