Wednesday, 15 June 2011

Before I Go To Sleep by S J Watson

Christine Lucas suffered a car accident that causes an anomaly with her memories - every time she goes to sleep, she forgets who she is and what has happened to her over the last twenty years. On the morning we meet Christine she is called by a Dr Nash, who tells her about a journal she has been keeping. The reader discovers, along with Christine, what her story is - and is drawn into a taut emotional thriller that keeps you guessing from page to page. Don't trust Ben.

Before I Go To Sleep is an incredibly thought-provoking novel, as well as an exciting psychological drama. The nature of memories, and how they create a personality, are discussed thoroughly here, as we follow Christine's story. This lifts Before I Go To Sleep into truly literary realms, providing plenty of arenas for debate.

Without our memories, who are we?

How much do memories define us?

Is lying to someone in their best interests?

This debut novel by S J Watson seeks to explore these matters, and does so within a story structure that works unbelievably well. First of all, we wake with Christine, in an unfamiliar bed, with a strange man next to her. We feel her panic, we're desperate to know what is going on and who this man is. We're aghast with her when we find out that this man is her husband. We're curious about Dr Nash, and finally we're completely engrossed as we read the story of Christine's journal, learn about what has been taking place over the last twenty years.

While the plot is simply excellent, Watson's prose cannot be dismissed as something lesser. It is his prose that keeps the reader turning pages - its simplicity, starkness and, at times, bluntness creates the atmosphere of dread and claustrophobia.

At times I was deeply uncomfortable with the subject matter and found myself confronting ideas that demand dissection. This includes the nature of consensual and non-consensual sex. If you are told that a man is your husband, if you believe this to be true and yet feel uncomfortable when he initiates sex, is this non-consensual? I have to say, every single time I put down Before I Go To Sleep, I found my thoughts returning to it. I was desperate to go back to Christine and couldn't bear the idea of not finding out what was happening.

This is one of those books where you would pay extra for another copy if your original was missing the last chapter! Before I Go To Sleep is the type of novel where you seriously consider only catching a few hours sleep yourself in order to finish reading it.

It is breathless, highly accomplished and damn near perfect. Go and buy this book today.


  1. Sounds like the premise is something like a cross between Memento and Dean Koontz's False Memory. Could be quite interesting is pulled off correctly!

  2. Oh my wishlist it goes! Love the sound of this, thank you =)

  3. Just finished reading this on your recommendation, Amanda, and I'd say damn good call... for the most part. Before I Go To Sleep really impressed me till the last chapter, wherein there was that dodgy reveal - I won't spoil it for everyone else - and I've come away feeling so deflated, because the rest of this thriller debut was incredible.

    Ria has it nailed, incidentally. I couldn't stop thinking of Memento throughout, but the Koontz hadn't crossed my mind till now...