- Hardcover: 320 pages
- Publisher: Harvill Secker (11 Jan. 2018)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1911215477
- ISBN-13: 978-1911215479
- Product Dimensions: 16.3 x 3.3 x 24.2 cm
- Average Customer Review: 180 customer reviews
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 72,905 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
If I Die Before I Wake Hardcover – 11 Jan 2018
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"This is a debut to be reckoned with." (Barry Forshaw Guardian)
"The author conveys a real sense of the true horror of being locked inside a body that won’t move with a brain that still works. And she persuades us to stay with the story to its strangely exhilarating conclusion." (Christina Appleyard Daily Mail)
"If I Die Before I Wake is a captivating thriller by an exciting new voice. I read it in two days because I had to know who did it! Koch keeps you guessing until the very end." (Mary Lynn Bracht, author of White Chrysanthemum)
"I loved If I Die Before I Wake. I was completely gripped - a sign of a true story-teller. It's utterly compelling and has an ending that will rip the heart out of you." (Jo Spain, author of The Confession)
HOW DO YOU SOLVE YOUR OWN MURDER? An edge-of-your-seat psychological mystery novel from a thrilling new writer.See all Product description
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All of that changes when Alex realises that detectives are taking a closer look at suspicions surrounding his death, and he assumes that after eighteen-months it must relate to an insurance issue with his climbing equipment. What if it wasn’t fate that caused Alex to fall? As he notices that his visitors style of talking shifts to that of bereaved relatives tending a graveside he works through his own list of potential foes, from grudges at work to the more contentious stories he has covered in his journalism career, including a campaign to reopen the investigation which saw nineteen-year-old William Ormand convicted of the murder of Holly King. The more he ponders things it all seems to come back to the anonymous letter which implied he has fathered a child and cheated on Bea, that he kept hidden from his loyal girlfriend. When Bea stumbles on the letter and feels betrayed she is determined to discover the truth behind it and contacts Alex’s old friends and puts her own life on hold to investigate, losing weight and unable to sleep. As Bea’s anxiety grows she begins to suspect she is being followed, reporting silent phone calls and scared to be alone, making Alex fear that the person who attempted to murder him is now after Bea next. As he concentrates on trying to convey some sign of life to his visitors and doctors, the internal monologue of his suffering is raw with emotion, distraught about the growing distance with Bea and his concerns for her safety. Suddenly solving his own murder and steering the woman he loves clear of danger all begins to take on far greater importance.
It is the details of Alex’s experience at the hands of the medics, from the physical pain that he can feel from suctioning, mattress deflation and fourteen-hour overnight feeds to the and limbs left awkwardly positioned that resonate the most. The respective tenderness and truculence of nurses Pauline and Connie along with the doctors rounds add a warm humour to proceedings. Emily Koch captures Alex’s feeling of futility with no escape and no way of solving the mystery apart from his memories and with the inability to distract himself these aspects are multiplied exponentially. Although the relationships seem one-sided perhaps most interestingly is how Alex’s awareness of his sisters concern deepens when he sees how vociferous she is in urging the doctors to run more diagnostic tests and her anger that Bea has so easily moved on.
Unforgettable as a narrator, Alex is also unreliable to boot for an array of reasons, from his haziness and memory loss of the events just before his fall, to his limited vision (“amorphous shapes”), his lapses in and out of consciousness and the added confusion of his frequent battles with pneumonia. Piecing together his unordered patchwork of memories, Alex’s limited clues are the titbits of information he overhears. Although I was utterly captivated throughout Alex’s story I had some reservations about the initial pace, which failed to hint at suspicions surrounding his fall until about fifteen percent of the way through and arguably took too long to be fleshed out in any substantial depth. Admittedly this is partly due to Alex’s inability to ask questions and because he is only privy to the conversations of his surrounding visitors and medical staff, so in that sense it certainly conveys his very real sense of frustration. As Alex’s thrashes out who could want him dead, the tension takes a firm hold on the reader and the novel undoubtedly takes on a growing urgency.
Whilst a sufferer of locked-in syndrome seems an unlikely narrator to have widespread appeal, after a meeting with Alex Jackson and a window into his world I doubt there will be many readers who are left disappointed and do not take a great deal from his journey. If I Die Before I Wake plays out to a mesmerising and powerful conclusion and is an impressive and beautifully crafted novel that is guaranteed to stay with the reader. A clearly well researched story which captures the plight of a sufferer of locked-in syndrome sincerely and this has paid dividends for Emily Koch in a very convincing debut.
Review written by Rachel Hall (@hallrachel)
The story unfolds entirely in his hospital room and because of this it is necessary for various people to visit him and discuss relevant details to the plot that the reader wouldn't otherwise know. (Not being too specific to avoid spoilers.) Unfortunately after a while I started to lose patience..it just seemed to me a bit forced that absolutely everybody who visited him would reveal a nugget of information.
However, this was still a good read..the last few pages are stunning, very beautiful and I will definitely look out for more from this author.
I loved that it was well-written and unique, I liked the protagonist’s voice, and the tagline was so intriguing I absolutely had to read this novel. Koch did a great job of not just telling the story through flashbacks, which was really impressive, although it also meant that a lot of the story sort of dragged slowly along. I found myself skimming large chunks because nothing was actually happening.
An intriguing idea and very well written. A good summer read on the beach.
It made me cry in places and laugh in others, what a beautifully written book, thankyou for such a great experience. I look forward to your next book.
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