Before I Go to Sleep by S J Watson

Just finished reading Before I Go to Sleep.  This is a psychological thriller about Christine.  Christine suffers a rare form of amnesia where every day she awakes with no recollection of the previous day’s events.  Years have passed and yet each day she wakes up she  thinks she’s in her twenties, not her forties.  She doesn’t know the person lying next to her in bed, she doesn’t know where she lives, what the year is or… well… you get it!

Now, this is a difficult story to talk about without giving away too much and really that would just be wrong.  This story is just so much more rewarding with the slow reveal.  I really enjoyed this book though.  I wanted to read it a long time ago but then, as is sometimes the case, the urge sort of ebbed, new books appeared and they also appealed and at the end of the day you can only add so many books.  Then, the other day my friend brought this book for me to read.  She said it was compelling and that I wouldn’t be able to put it down and frankly she was right.

This is a great premise.  It’s a little bit horrifying to read about.  You just don’t realise how BIG a thing your memory really is.  You totally take it for granted.  It’s just there.  But it makes you who you are.  I mean, I can’t even listen to a song without thinking back to a specific memory.  Imagine waking up and thinking you’re twenty years younger – the irony of it – we all say ‘oh, I’m forty but I still feel like a teenager but she’s forty but literally her mind is that of a teenager.  She hasn’t moved forward and every day she wakes up thinking  she’s a young woman.  She wakes up and finds she has sagging skin and wrinkles.  Her whole history has to be relayed to her every day.  It’s really something to read about.  I was fascinated and scared at the same time.  I feel like walking around with a hard hat on just to avoid any bumps to the noggin!  On top of that, how can you trust anyone?  Everything you do you’re relying on someone else.  You’re so vulnerable.  Anyway, enough of that.

Yes, I thought it was great that the author made me think all those things.  I looked at my family and all the wealth of memories we have together, good and bad, and tried to imagine all that gone.  I guess you wouldn’t hold any grudges, argument with your husband, forgotten the next day, kids not cleaning up, forgotten the next day, naffed off with someone in work, etc, etc.  So, back to Christine, the only way she can have memories any more is to write things down and reread it each day.  Again, this is a great idea.  Okay, she has to write down everything before she forgets, and she has to be reminded daily that she has a journal so that she even goes and reads it, but this whole idea is brilliant to read about.  These are now her memories.

Of course there is repetition but frankly I don’t see how you could avoid it in this novel.  I suppose you could just say ‘this is Christine’s typical day – I’ve outlined it once, now ditto that for the rest of the novel’ but I don’t think that approach works here.  You’re not just trying to get rid of dull repetition, like a person’s regular routines, you need to see what it’s like for Christine EVERY day.  It’s just too bad if a bit of that might become repetitious for the reader – imagine how Christine feels.  And, that there is the whole point.

Now, on top of that, things start to develop, because Christine is keeping a journal and so she’s more aware of things.  She starts to ask more questions and things start to take a different turn.  And, there comes the other part of the novel that I really like.  I pretty much had my own idea of what was going on in this book but the author makes you constantly turn around and think you’re wrong.  Just like Christine.  I mean, I didn’t suffer the same kind of doubt as she did and she was definitely burdened with a huge amount of paranoia on top – which is easy to understand – but you can’t help reading and having an opinion, then thinking you’re wrong, then thinking you’re right, then thinking maybe not.

If I have any criticisms, I think they would be minor.   A bit of repetition – but I thought that was necessary.  I felt that there were actually a couple of times where I was reading and Christine seemed to be remembering too much – but then I guess she was reading her journal daily – and, I think that was a little bit of the author trying to dispel going over the same ground too much.  I think the only thing I could say is that at the very start it took me a few pages to be sucked in and it’s certainly not cheery reading.  In case you’re having thoughts of 50 first dates – yes the premise of falling asleep and waking each day afresh – that’s the same.  But this is not a comedy.  It’s a bit more dark and you certainly won’t be laughing.

But, that aside, this is a good book.  It’s an excellent debut.  And it definitely deserves to be read.  I recommend this book without hesitation.

Before I go to sleep

Before I go to sleep

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4 Responses to “Before I Go to Sleep by S J Watson”

  1. TBM

    This one does sound interesting. I couldn’t even imagine this. I know my memory is starting to slip with the years, but this would be traumatic.

    • lynnsbooks

      It was really good actually. I went off the notion of reading it there for a little while but I’m glad I did now.
      Lynn 😀

  2. Broc's Bookcase

    Loved this book and totally get what you mean about no realising how important our memories are to us. The whole idea of this book was really unique and like you the slow reveal was just amazing.
    What I really liked about this book was that where Christine forgot all the new things that she learnt we didn’t and so I had expected that we figure stuff out way before she does and we are waiting for her to catch up. But I didn’t find that, it was very cleverly written that even though we knew everything that had happened we still figured stuff out around the same time as Christine did. It really was fascinating to read and I am so excited to see the film! Great review 🙂

    • lynnsbooks

      No, you’re completely right. This book sucks you in in such a way that whilst you should actually be able to guess what’s going on you don’t even attempt it. You just let the author lead you on (by the nose) and then ‘wham’ comes the surprise! Didn’t see it coming and like you I’m looking forward to the film.
      Lynn 😀

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