Put very simply, Before I Go To Sleep, is an addictive book and a must-read for anyone who likes a good psychological thriller.
S.J. Watson’s debut novel is the story of Christine, a woman in her late forties who wakes up every morning, not knowing who the people around her are or where. She is and is shocked when she looks in the mirror to discover that she is twenty years older than she is in her head. Why? Her memory is damaged, seemingly beyond repair. She doesn’t even recognise her husband when she wakes, effectively with a stranger in her bed. A frightening prospect indeed. It is only when Christine starts keeping a journal that she is able to piece together her past. It is in this journal that she finds one morning an alarming message written to herself ‘Don’t trust Ben’. Is Christine’s mind creating false memories, or could something sinister be happening?
I know that memory loss as a premise has been explored before in science fiction and in films like Memento. I can’t really compare in any great detail, however in my limited experience, Before I Go To Sleep merits being called original. The perspective of a middle-aged woman, whose ordinary life is made extraordinary by this affliction is key in making the reader relate. Christine is not glamorous, she is just woman whose life has passed her by and who is both hungry to know more, and fearful of understanding the past. The feeling of ‘it could happen to you’ is ever present.
Watson’s angle is clever – he puts you in Christine’s shoes. The first person narrative creates a sense of intensity and because you being told the story by her, you have to relive the confusion when she wakes along with her. For this reason the book could have been quite frustrating, but too much repetition is cleverly avoided and instead there is a sense of claustrophobia which intensifies the reading experience.
Before I Go To Sleep is smartly plotted, written compellingly and the premise is well-executed. You will know if it is the kind of book you will enjoy. If it is, I say get your mitts on a copy and indulge!