Before I Go To Sleep by S.J. Watson
Published: 2011 by Harper Perennial
Source: Received from publisher for review
On page one of Before I Go To Sleep, Christine Lucas awakes in a strange bed next to a strange man and she begins to panic — what have I done this time she admonishes herself. When she goes into the bathroom she sees pictures displayed of her and the man with whom she spent the night. They portray an older, flabbier version of herself and she panics. Running back into the next room, she is met by the man who tells her that he is her husband.
Christine has lost her memory, and it has been gone for many years. Each morning when she wakes everything is completely new to her — who she is, where she is, and who she is with. In the reader’s first encounter with her, Christine’s husband Ben explains her situation to her (again, obviously it’s not the first time he has had to do it) and, once she’s calmed down, he leaves for work.
Christine then receives a phone call on the cell phone Ben has her carry with her. It is from a Dr. Nash, her therapist, reminding her of their appointment today. Of course she doesn’t remember, and he agrees to come by to pick her up; in the meantime he tells her about the journal she has been keeping and that she should take it from its hiding place and review it. When she finds it, she sees what has been written on the first page: DON’T TRUST BEN.
Most of the rest of the novel is this journal, Christine’s account of her days with Ben and with Dr. Nash and the snippets of memories that she is recalling. As the journal progresses, her memories become clearer but at the same time her present situation becomes less so: Why shouldn’t she trust Ben? Why should she trust Dr. Nash, especially when Ben isn’t aware they are meeting? What really happened to her that caused such a memory loss?
It seems that she must work through these questions on her own, and for the reader (this reader anyways), they are not clearly answered until the end of the book either. There are so many small twists in the story, things that we are learning along with Christine, and I really felt empathy for her situation; at the same time, there are clues to indicate that something isn’t quite right with what she is being told.
I don’t normally read thrillers like this, but I very much enjoyed this novel. For me “page-turner” aptly describes it; in fact one day when I was reading the book during my lunch break at work a significant plot twist occurred just as I had to return to the office, but when I got home that night I plopped down and started reading before I did anything else. As I mentioned above, the uncertainty of Christine’s situation lingers throughout the novel, and I liked the fact that I had the same uncertainty of the outcome until the very end.
After reading the novel, I had another surprise. For some reason, I assumed that the author, S.J. Watson, was a woman. I can’t explain why, though I think the fact the main character is female and the author bio on the back cover explains that this novel is Watson’s first – the result of of a rigorous and selective writing program. So I was truly shocked when I saw a photo of the author:
It doesn’t change my opinion of the book or anything, but it does make me think about how judge things.
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