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Before I Go To Sleep by S. J. Watson

June 7, 2011

Blurb

Memories define us.

So what if you lost yours every time you went to sleep?

Your name, your identity, your past, even the people you love – all forgotten overnight.

And the one person you trust may only be telling you half the story.

Welcome to Christine’s life.

Review

Before I Go To Sleep is S. J. Watson’s debut novel, released in April 2011 by Doubleday, imprint of Transworld Publishers. There has been such a huge amount of hype surrounding this novel, and with many recommendations from my own colleagues, I really couldn’t wait to read this! The question is, does it live up to the hype?

Before I Go To Sleep is based around the character of Christine – a middle-aged woman who wakes up every single day not knowing who she is, or where she is. Christine has a rare form of amnesia, and she has no memory of her life, apart from some very vague early memories. She wakes up in the mind of someone much younger, and has no idea how many years have actually gone by. She cannot even recognise her own husband lying next to her. We watch as Christine pieces her life together little by little, having no option but to trust what this man, her husband, is telling her. However, Christine is contacted by a doctor who says he has been helping Christine for some time to try and improve her memory. He says that Christine has kept a diary hidden in her wardrobe which should explain everything to her. But on the inside cover of this diary, the words ‘do not trust Ben’ are written. So who can she trust – the doctor or her husband? Can she even trust herself to be writing the truth in her diary, or is she merely inventing memories?

The premise of this novel certainly sounds exciting and gripping. It looks like the kind of novel you could get through in a day, just constantly turning the pages to find out what is really going on. Sadly, this just didn’t happen for me. I admit I am part of a minority here when I say I didn’t enjoy this book at all. There are almost fifty five-star reviews on Amazon for this novel, and I feel like I must be missing something.

The concept of Christine, an amnesiac, keeping a diary, seems utterly ridiculous to me. But even more so, is the way this doctor calls her every morning to tell her it is hidden in her wardrobe and she must read it to discover who she is, and to keep writing in it. And yet, all this is done behind her husband’s back. It just doesn’t ring true for me – I don’t see how her husband could fail to recognise any of the signs that his wife is sneaking off to write in her diary, or the bizarre questions she asks him, fishing for information on topics that she shouldn’t be able to remember!

The other problem I had when reading this novel, is that Christine is a female character so obviously written by a man. Some of the things she says just aren’t typical of a woman’s thoughts, in my honest opinion. For instance: “I am his wife; he should not have to seduce me as if we have only just met every time he wants us to have sex.” I made such a noise when I read this that my other half turned to ask what was wrong! There are also some of the most ridiculous sex scenes I think I’ve ever read in this book – some really unnecessary scenes that I really don’t think an amnesiac would be doing. I think she’d be a little more concerned of what’s really going on in her life, rather than pleasing her husband or herself for that matter.

As for the inevitable ‘twist’ in this novel, I unfortunately worked it out almost from the beginning, but thought to myself that this can’t possibly be the truth as it would be so obvious. So instead I kept creating other scenarios in my mind of what the twist could possibly be, but I needn’t have bothered – it was there all along. When you’re reading a ‘thriller’, you don’t really expect to work out the twist from the beginning do you?

I think S. J. Watson had some pretty good ideas somewhere in this story, but sadly for me the concept of the diaries didn’t work, and I think he definitely needs to work on the writing from a female perspective! In my opinion, the writing is clunky and has let this story down in a big way for me. It was promising to begin with, and certainly had potential, but it just didn’t live up to it or the hype surrounding this book. I honestly cannot understand what people love about it so much – I was more bored than gripped. But like I said, I am part of a minority in this, so if you think this is your type of read, do give it a go – you may love it as much as everyone else!

Before I Go To Sleep has also been acquired for film by Ridley Scott’s production company, Scott Free, with Rowan Joffe to direct. Filming is scheduled to begin in 2011.

Rating: 

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