Thursday, July 7, 2011

A Review of "Before I Go To Sleep" [42]

Before I Go to Sleep: A Novel  by S.J.Watson
Harper, ISBN 978-0062060556
June 14, 2011, 368 pages

When Tess Gerritsen, without doubt one of my favorite authors, calls a book the best debut novel she has ever read and Dennis Lehane say a book is an extraordinary thriller...well, you just know I have to read it.
And keep my fingers crossed that all the hype will not leave me disappointed.

The book in question, Before I Go to Sleep, starts with an intriguing premise.
Christine wakes up in a room that she does not recognize, sleeping next to a man that she does not know. She sneaks off to the bathroom to get dressed, looks in the mirror and sees a face that is 25 years older than she remembers herself. She is surrounded by photos, tacked to the wall, of herself at different ages, many with that man in the bed she woke up next to, none of which she has any memory of. The man tells her that he is her husband Ben, and that she suffers from a rare form of amnesia, caused by a head injury received in an accident. It causes her to wake up every day with no memories of the past except some vague images of when she was young. All she has is what Ben tells her and some photographs, photographs of places and events she does not know.

After Ben goes off to work, she receives a phone call from a man who identifies himself as Dr. Nash, a neurologist, and says that they have been working together to try to regain some of her memory. He calls her every day to tell her this, because of course she never remembers it, and to tell her that they have been doing this without the knowledge of Ben. He also tells her that she has been keeping a journal and tells her where she has hidden it, so Ben will not find it. She goes and gets the book and is very nervous as she opens it, wondering what secrets it might hold...
"The first page is unlined. I have written my name in black ink across its center. CHRISTINE LUCAS. It's a wonder I haven't written PRIVATE! beneath it. Or KEEP OUT!
Something has been added. Something unexpected, terrifying. More terrifying than everything else I have seen today. There, beneath my name,  in blue ink and capital letters, are three words.
There is nothing I can do but turn the page.
I begin to read my history."

And so, of course, do we.
Can she trust Ben? Why couldn't she trust her husband?
How about this Dr.Nash? How do we...and Christine...know he is who he says he is?
Everyday she starts again, trying to figure it out, following the clues, re-reading the journal, adding to it what she has learn today, along with a few confused memories that have started to return. It is dangerous to not know who you can trust, but sometimes memories can be dangerous as well.

I must say that I am usually a bit suspicious of books that have a gimmick at the center of the story, so the whole amnesia thing had me concerned. By and large, I think the author was quite successful at pulling it off. Yes, maybe it got a tiny bit repetitious and a bit slow toward the end but then things start to break loose, we get all caught up in what I thought was a good solid ending, nicely tying up all the loose ending, and that was forgotten. And am I shallow for enjoying a book that really only has three main characters, instead of a few that I have read recently that almost have me making a list to keep them all straight? Sometimes I appreciate quality over quantity.

On the one hand, this a fascinating portrayal of a woman dealing with, as best she can, an incredible and scary medical issue, and on that level alone it is very interesting. We can not help but put ourselves in her place and imagine how we would deal with it. I must admit I doubt I would do nearly as well as our heroine. OK, I would be totally freaked out.
Then, on the other hand, the book is also an intriguing and rather scary and creepy thriller that will keep the reader a bit confused and trying to make sense of what is going on, right along with Christine...right up to the exciting, if not totally surprising, ending.

A good debut thriller and I will certainly be watching out for Watson's next book.

My thanks to the publisher and to TLC Books Tour for providing me with a copy of this book to review. Be sure to check out the other stops on the TLC tour for some more reviews.


  1. Liked this one very much. Recommended it last night at my mystery book group meeting. Some have not liked the ending, but I was satisfied with it. This was a very interesting book.

  2. I agree the ending was rather weak, rather predicable.

  3. This one sounds like quite a page turner to me. I've very curious about the husband. I hope to read it soon.

  4. A good book!!
    Thanks, I enjoyed the visit. :)

  5. You've convinced me to read it - Sounds fabulous!

  6. Glad to see this turned out better than you expected! Thanks for being a part of the tour.


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