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Before I Go To Sleep by SJ Watson is a psychological thriller with a clever but potentially restrictive concept behind it: Christine, the narrator, is suffering from a severe form of memory loss that causes her to wake up each morning with no memory of the day before. Now 47, she can remember nothing past her early 20s. Every day, she awakes horrified to see her middle-aged self in the mirror and to find herself living with Ben, a husband she doesn't recognise, in a house she's never seen.

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.
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on 19 June 2016
Very interesting psychological thriller. Tempts you to read more and more and cannot put down the book - Couldn't stop reading it. In some places is quite predictable but i could not predict such an ending! Mystery, thrill was leading while reading this book.

As always book is far better than movie. I was so impressed after reading this book so hen i heard that movie will be in cinemas i was really excited. But sadly was very dissapointed after watching it. I recommend everybody who saw movie to read the book as it is far more better.
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on 4 February 2015
This is a book I could not put down once I started reading. The premise is intriguing: What if when you woke up every morning, you could not remember anything of the day before or any day before that. You wake up beside an unknown man, who says he is Ben; your husband. He becomes your only sense of understanding your life by gently and lovingly explaining everything, as much as he seems able, each and every day.....curious for more aren't you, so reas the book!!
This has Echoes of the film Memento for me, that film is one of my favourites and messes with your mind as much as this book does.

This is Christine’s story only, hers is the only pov you get and I found it to be scarily realistic, horrifying and brutally day to day. Full of every day, common, relatable events that slowly begin to unravel and reveal the real truth of Christine’s life. S J Watson did extensive research for this book and it shows throughout, I can't tell you more than I have as it would spoil the twists and turns the author uses as you're left as confused, frustrated and angry at her memory loss as much as Christine is throughout this book. All I can say is read this book it's way better than the film as this is exactly how the author meant the story to be told!!
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on 29 March 2012
I definitely liked this book - but not as much as I expected to when I eagerly pre-ordered it in January. I think this was mostly because of the word 'thriller' emblazoned across it; for me that conjures expectations of a taut, suspenseful page-turner, when in fact it was more of a slow-burning literary novel that just happened to have a crime driving it forwards. It was a great book, just not in the way I expected when I started reading, and I think that dented my overall enjoyment somewhat.

It opens as Christine wakes up. She has no idea where she is or who is lying beside her. Fumbling her way to the bathroom, she is horrified to find a fifty-something woman staring back at her in the mirror. Around her reflection are photos that she has no recollection of posing for, and the man in her bed introduces himself as her husband Ben. Before he goes to work he explains that she had an accident and now has amnesia, waking up every morning unable to remember where she is, sometimes feeling like a twenty-something woman, sometimes even feeling like she is still a child. A little while later Christine gets a call from her doctor, who meets her for coffee and hands her a journal that she has been writing for the past few weeks. Back home she opens it and is confronted by a scrawl across the front page: 'Do not trust Ben.' She reads on, determined to piece together her history... Who is telling her the truth, and who is lying - and why?

Much of the book is made up of this journal, which is simultaneously a great device and a slightly irritating one. It contributes quite heavily towards the slower pace of the novel, because Christine repeats herself so much, particularly earlier on. You could argue that this is made necessary by the subject matter - she has amnesia, after all - but as a reader I admit I found it a little dull at times. At the same time, it did mean that as each piece of the puzzle fell into place, it had quite an impact. Like Christine, I had to read between the lines as the daily entries built up, trying to work out how her returning memories fit together, who she could trust and what might really have happened to her. It was a good mental workout!

I'd certainly say that this is a thought-provoking novel. It really makes you think about how an individual's identity and sense of self is tied to memory, to a personal history filled with experiences and people and places, and how bewildering it would be to have to start afresh every day. There are little moments scattered through the book that really hammer home how carefully Watson must have had to consider each and every page, and how impossible a linear narrative would have been without the journal. Christine doesn't know about 9/11 and the war on terror, for example. She's never seen a mobile phone before, has no knowledge of her own middle-aged body, and has no real feeling of love for Ben because to all intents and purposes, she's meeting him for the first time each morning. This would be a great novel for a book club, because there's just so much potential for discussion - in fact, there are a set of questions at the end of the book for that purpose. I'd definitely recommend it - just don't make the mistake of expecting a fast and frenetic read like I did!
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on 22 February 2015
The book is about a woman suffering from a condition following a horrific attack in which each morning she awakes to find she has lost all her memory and thinks she is in her late twenties still. She doesn't recognise the man who she wakes beside each morning and who claims to be her husband Ben. She gets strange calls from a doctor who asks her to check her journal in her wardrobe each morning. She isn't sure what and who to believe and the story gets more frightening as it goes on

Absolutely fantastic debut thriller. Yes as stated in earlier reviews it is definitely unputdownable. Loved the references to Crouch End and Ally Pally which is where the book is based. The film itself which is quite disappointing does not do justice to this book so don't be put off if you saw the movie first. Give the book a chance.
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VINE VOICEon 2 January 2012
Whilst this novel starts off reasonably slow, it is subtly building up the story and just when you think you know it all, it picks up pace and really starts to mess with your mind.

Chrissie has amnesia. When she wakes up each day, it's like a new beginning. She doesn't recognise her husband, and has no recollection of her life. Each day she must rely on her husband to tell her who she is and how she came to lose her memories.
With the help of Dr Nash, she begins to journal any memory flashbacks has, building up a journal of her life.
But it seems that the memories don't match the story that she has been told is true...

This is a cracking read with a few juicy twists and turns to keep you guessing, and successfully manages to keep you in the same state of confusion that Chrissie is in.

When I came to the last half of the book, I had to finish it in one sitting - which meant staying up half the night because I HAD to know how it ended.
Excellent, and deserved of 5 stars.
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VINE VOICEon 12 January 2012
No spoilers, I promise! I thought this was a fab book, especially when I found out it was written by a bloke. Totally convincing first half, you get into the swing of Christine's life, the waking, the puzzle, the photos around the mirror, the phone call from Dr Nash, the search in the wardrobe, the writing of the journal. "Don't trust Ben!"

Puzzles are carefully positioned throughout the story - Brighton, Adam, the best friend, etc. The build up is SO GOOD, so well done, you end up absolutely DESPERATE to find out what it's all about, because you just can't guess - which way is it going to go?

More and more layers build up on Christine's life story, until you begin to get a glimmer of what might have happened...... but you will probably be wrong....

For me, the only let-down was in the final 20 pages, when the story returns to Brighton. I felt at times the author was writing a script for a film, some of the scenario seemed a little unlikely..... (Please comment below if you agree!)

Ultimately though, I loved it, and would definitely recommend this one to people of all ages!
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on 15 December 2014
An enthralling thriller with an engaging plot and solid characters, and a twist at the end that I didn’t see coming. The story is based around Christine, an amnesiac who forgets everything about her existence the moment she wakes up.

I thought it was well researched and demonstrates the frustrations of amnesia on a good level. A very well written novel with nice pacing and adequate suspense, which kept me entertained up until the end.

Overall, an enjoyable read that I’d recommend to anyone who enjoys psychological thrillers. A really good, clever debut novel - definitely a page turner.
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on 15 June 2017
How frustrating it must be to wake everyday and have no recollection of your past let alone what had happened the previous day.Also how cruel to be manipulated by someone who claims to love you.I'm not a fan of watching films after reading the book but must admit I'm intrigued !
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on 28 October 2012
I'd like to give this 4 and half stars, since despite it being a bit repetitive at times, perhaps a little implausible in a few places, as others have mentioned, and almost too easy to read, once a got part way through it I found it very hard to put down. I just had to find out who Christine could and couldn't trust, and what happens to her in the end. It also illustrates how important memory is to our sense of identity, and our life narrative. It's a book I would recommend. And if you liked this one you might also like Into the Darkest Cornerand Still Alice both of which I highly recommend.
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