Before I Go To Sleep Paperback – 2 Jan 2012
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"Quite simply the best debut novel I've ever read" (Tess Gerritsen)
"Brilliant in its pacing, profound in its central question, suspenseful on every page - and satisfying in its thriller ending" (Anita Shreve)
"A deft, perceptive exploration of a fascinating neurological condition, and a cracking good thriller" (Lionel Shriver)
"A terrific first novel - well-written, genuinely unsettling and psychologically very plausible. Thrillers seldom come much better than this. Loved it, read it in one" (Joanne Harris)
"An exceptional thriller. It left my nerves jangling for hours after I finished the last page" (Dennis Lehane)
Memories define us. So what if you lost yours every time you went to sleep? An original, haunting and deeply chilling debut thriller, and a Sunday Times bestseller in hardcover.See all Product description
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If this sounds rather limiting, don't worry. Watson gets round the issue of Christine's short term memory by having her write a journal every day at the suggestion of the mysterious Dr Nash, who calls her daily to remind her where it's hidden, and it's this journal that makes up a large portion of the novel and which Christine uses to piece together what's been happening to her over the previous days. And written on the first page, in large capital letters, are the words 'DON'T TRUST BEN'.
Before I Go To Sleep is a tense, claustrophobic read with a heroine in an almost unbearably vulnerable position, trying to piece together decades of her own life from scraps of conflicting information from people who, despite their claims to know her, might just as well be strangers. To make matters worse, Christine knows she's suffered from paranoia in the past along with her memory loss, and may not be an objective judge of other's motives. But despite Christine's necessary vulnerability, she makes a strong and complex heroine and certainly one who is not without flaws. Watson manages to build enough interest into her character to prevent her from becoming merely a damsel in distress.
The central mystery is whether Ben is withholding certain facts from his wife for some sinister reason, or whether he is desperately trying to protect her from reliving past traumas - and if so, what those traumas might be. Ben himself is largely presented by necessity as an average Joe trying to make the best of a difficult situation; he's neither pantomime villain nor saintly carer. There's also Ed Nash, Christine's doctor, who seems keen to encourage Christine to keep secrets, and we find ourselves questioning his motives too. Unfortunately, Dr Nash isn't a particularly well-drawn character and his blandness does nothing to add to the potential intrigue. This struck me as rather a wasted opportunity.
Although Before I Go To Sleep kept me turning the pages with increasing nervous tension right to the end, this really is a novel where you have to suspend disbelief. There are far too many convenient coincidences and the way certain red herrings are explained away at the end is irritatingly lazy; it's easy to pick holes in the plot, particularly as the story comes to its end. I'm also not sure how much of a 'twist' I think the ending really is, although whether this really matters is debatable.
Overall, though, Before I Go To Sleep is a cleverly-structured thriller with a convincing protagonist - I found it surprisingly easy to imagine myself in Christine's shoes, although there are times when it's hard to approve of some of the choices she makes. If you're prepared to put aside misgivings about the realism of certain aspects of the story and you're looking for a page-turner, you could certainly do worse than this one.
We follow a woman called Christine who is in her mid forties and has amnesia. The book starts with Chris wondering where she is, who's bed she's in, thinking she's had a one night stand but when she goes to the bathroom she gets the shock of realising she's 40 not 20. It was really interesting to watch her as Ben, her husband, tried to explain what happened and tries to explain her illness, what she normally does everyday and give her a brief run down of events before he leaves for work. We learn that Chris wakes up every morning and has forgotten what she has done the previous day, resulting in her only remembering things from before her 'accident' that led to her memory loss. It was really insightful into what it must be like, how dreadful and terrifying it must be to wake up each morning and be told that there's 20 years of your life gone by that you can't remember.
The layout of the book was really interesting it started as a general narrative of Christine dealing with what was going on since she's woken up. However once Ben leaves for work Chris gets a call from a doctor who she has apparently been secretly meeting, after she meets with the doctor he gives her her diary which she has been writing in to try keep track of what she's been doing and to try remember things. Once Chris starts reading the diary the format of the book changes into the diary and we are reading what Chris has wrote. I loved the diary it was so intense, she starts to realise that there are things Ben is not telling her about her past and other strange things that start to come up. Watching her figure stuff out and remember certain memories from her past which were not adding up with what Ben was telling her was so entertaining
I had so many questions reading the book, wondering who to believe and what was true it really made you think. I enjoyed how Chris gradually remembered different memories from her past, how she stayed on track with what happened over the previous days and what she discovered with the help of her diary. Once I was around half way through the book I could not put it down, things no longer added up there was so much unknown and second guessing and I need to see what she was going to do next.
The ending was amazing, I thought I knew where the book was going and I was kind of disappointed that I had guessed it but no I didn't guess it at all. I was so shocked, I really didn't have a clue that, that was going to happen. It was so fast paced and action packed at the end, I was gripping on to the book trying to read as fast is I could. I also liked how the story ended I was happy for Chris and was glad that something good finally happened to her.
Overall I really enjoyed this book it was intense, thrilling, thought provoking and so much more. I like Chris as a character and was invested in her story. I am glad I read this book it was deffinetly a good suspense novel to introduce you to the genre.
I loved SJ Watson's skilled writing and was looking forward to reading more by him.
I sadly did not enjoy SJ Watson's second book, 'Second Life' due to an annoying plot.
But I cannot wait for his third 'Blackwood Bay' which due to be released June 2018 and hope he is back on form.
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