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12 February 2012

Before I Go To Sleep, by S.J. Watson


Christine has woken up and doesn't recognize her surroundings, the man sleeping next to her in bed, or the older and wrinkled face peering back at her in the bathroom mirror. The pictures around her show the same woman in the reflection, but Christine doesn't understand how she can look as though she's in her forties when she should be in her twenties.

Upon learning from her husband, Ben, that every morning starts out like this, Christine is devastated. She is halfway through her life but can't remember anything past her late twenties. An accident destroyed her memory and while she can remember everything throughout the day, going to sleep reboots her and she starts all over again the next morning. She wakes each day unable to recognize her husband, her house, or what happened to her mother and other family members and friends. Every morning starts out in this same way.

When she receives a phone call from a doctor, she learns that it's a call she gets from him each morning. He's directed her to a journal she's been keeping for the past few weeks, and it becomes her daily reminder and re-education on how she now lives her life. It's a ritual each day she has to re-learn, so the events her journal describes are emotions and moments she has to go through and experience as though new, again and again. When she reads her unsettling advice to keep the journal secret from her own husband, the frightening possibilities pile on. Religiously documenting each day's events forces her to question if its simply paranoia or if she truly is in danger. Christine's psychological thriller begins its emotional ride.

I was surprised by this book. Immediately, I was pulled in, hooked with each page I turned, and ultimately found it to be a satisfying suspense novel. Not knowing who to trust or what to believe, Christine's horrible nightmare of the same daily education of the loss of her life is heartbreaking. I was comfortable with its repetition since I was anticipating it, but I can't imagine listening to the audio book version. (A search through my trusty Google Reader confirmed that with Heather's and Sandy's thoughts, so I would maintain my recommendation that reading versus listening to it would be the best choice.) I understood and expected that each day's start would be the same, but the author was able to skip a little bit of each morning from the prior entry so it didn't feel tiresome for the reader, which can be challenging when dealing with a Groundhog Day flow. This disturbing and frightening novel kept me on the edge of my seat and all I could imagine was the horror of not knowing where you were every day when you woke up, or not recognizing your own husband sleeping in bed next to you, or wondering why you look like you're in your forties when you feel you haven't even reached thirty yet. Nightmare.

While I felt it was a bit too neat and tidy with its conclusion, it successfully kept my attention and I couldn't put it down. I'm not surprised to hear that this has been optioned for a film with Ridley Scott's production company; I think it would make an excellent film and may translate even better into that medium. I'm looking forward to it.

Others said:

Publisher: Harper Perennial
Release Date: 2/7/2012 (paperback)
Pages: 358

About the Author
S.J. Watson was born in the Midlands, lives in London and worked in the NHS for a number of years. In 2009, Watson was accepted into the first Faber Academy "Writing a Novel" course, a program that covers all aspects of the novel-writing process. Before I Go To Sleep is the result.

Before I Go To Sleep has become a phenomenal international success, sold in 42 territories around the world. It is a New York Times and Sunday Times bestseller, and won both the Crime Writers' Association Award for Best Debut Novel and the Galaxy National Book Award for Crime Thriller of the Year. Before I Go To Sleep has also been acquired for a film by Ridley Scott's production company, Scott Free, with Rowan Joffe to direct.

Follow the author:

Many thanks to TLC Book Tours for including me in this tour which goes through the first week of March 2012. To read all of the reviews at each tour stop, click here.

22 comments:

  1. This one has been a huge hit in the UK and seems to be everywhere at the moment. I have it on my kindle and I was saving it for a holiday read and I love pages turners for that kind of thing

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  2. I really need to read this book -- I keep saying that, but many have enjoyed it. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

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  3. A neat, tidy ending usually doesn't bother me too much if the rest of the book is satisfying. This sounds good to me!

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  4. This was one of my favorite books read in 2011 - it was just so engrossing.

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  5. I think I would have much preferred this one in print, but the story did hold my attention and keep me interested until the end. I thought that some things stretched credibility a bit, but when I put the book down, I was asking myself a lot of questions about memory and its place in our lives. A very interesting book to say the least, and I am glad that you enjoyed it. Your review was lovely, and extremely perceptive. Thanks for sharing it!

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  6. Like someone else said, this book is MASSIVE in the UK. My sister and mum have both read it and have been nagging me to do so for quite a while. I think I'll place a hold on it at the library - might get it in time for Christmas :P

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  7. I really enjoyed this one too! I think it would make an excellent film and hope it gets made.

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  8. I'm on the tour for this one and can't wait to start it. I think my review is due next week so I will start on it in the next day or two. It sounds like I am in for a treat!

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  9. I'm totally excited to read this one. It's exactly the kind of suspense I like. Of course it's checked out at the library but holds are wondrous.

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  10. You know, actually the audiobook is fantastic, because it is narrated by one of the best: Orlagh Cassidy - she won awards in book narration. I chose it as my best audiobook for fiction in 2011. It's really worth the try. Thanks for your great review. mine is here: http://wordsandpeace.com/2011/11/21/83-before-i-go-to-sleep/

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  11. I admit, I have not paid ANY attention to all the reviews I've been seeing of this one, but now that I stopped and read a review it looks pretty good. Like Groundhog Day or The Housekeeper and the Professor, but menacing! Cool!

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  12. I received this book as a Christmas present, but haven't gotten around to it yet...but your review makes me want to bump it up to the top of my TBR pile!

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  13. I did listen to this one and really enjoyed it! I had a friend read it at the same time and she mentioned that the writing was not great--something that I didn't notice while listening. Because the narrator (name escapes me) really used her tone and inflections to convey her emotions, it didn't necessarily feel repetitive to me. Definitely looking forward to the film! Will be interesting to see how they handle Christine's broken memories.

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  14. Fabulous review! I had heard so much about this book but just read the synopsis now and it sounds fantastic!

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  15. I really enjoyed this book as well. It would make a great movie so I hope that comes to fruition.

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  16. I loved this book! I stay away from it for awhile because I thought the plot wasn't original. I was really surprised by how much I enjoyed this one. Great review!

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  17. I really enjoyed this book as well. I found myself so caught up in the story that I couldn't put it down. (And I'll admit that the ending took me by surprise). I didn't realize that a movie was being made based off of it but I'm definitely going to have to see it. Great review!

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  18. I can't imagine losing part of my memory every night - I'd never EVER want to go to sleep!

    I like that the author didn't repeat each morning in so much detail, and that you were able to appreciate the repetition without being bored by it.

    Thanks for being on the tour Natalie!

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  19. I have considered trying this one for a while but something has held me back...you make me want to give it a go.

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  20. I LOVED this one (and, yes, one of my first thoughts was that it would make a great movie). It kept me guessing about a lot of things throughout, especially who was good and who was bad. :)

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