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Sunday, January 22nd 2012

10:38 PM

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


Before I Go To Sleep

by S.J. Watson


A stunning debut, Before I Go To Sleep is the first novel in a long time that I simply could not put down.  A psychological amnesia thriller, S.J. Watson manages to keep the suspense level high, as the reader struggles  along with the heroine to rebuild her lost life one memory at a time.

Imagine waking up every morning not remembering who you are or anything about your life...like who the strange, hairy man is lying next to you.  You look in the mirror and you're at least twenty years older than you thought.  You were sure you were in your twenties, but your face and body tell a different story.  Then imagine trying to feel love for the guy in your bed, who is apparently your husband of twenty-two years. 

But Christine tries, every day, to regain whatever feelings she might have once had for Ben, since he so obviously loves her and takes good care of her.  If only she felt she could trust him, that task might be somewhat easier.  However, as it stands, something doesn't feel quite right.  If only she could remember....

Her story is told through her journal, which she begins writing at the urging of Dr. Ed Nash, an amnesia specialist, trying to make a name for himself.  She's not sure she can trust him, but she does like the idea of the journal that she can build on by stringing the few memories she has together to figure out who she is and where she's been.  Lucky for us, she just happens to be a novelist, and her journal reads as lyrically as any first-rate prose.  When pondering whether her son, whom she learns about anew every day, ever learned to drive and took her anywhere fun, she writes:  "Or did he decide there was no point, that whatever enjoyment I might have had at the time would disappear overnight like snow melting on a warm roof?"

The one caveat of her sessions with Dr. Nash--she mustn't tell Ben about them, or about the fact that she's keeping a journal.  Ben turned down Dr. Nash's offer to help Christine, and she's bound and determined to figure out what Ben is protecting her from.  After only a few days of journaling, it becomes obvious that Ben is lying about something--several somethings, in fact.  While she continues to wake up not knowing who she is, the journal is helping fill in more and more holes.  Dr. Nash calls her every morning to reintroduce himself and tell her where she keeps her journal hidden. 

As Christine's hellish life unfolds for her, so it does for us, too.  Reading her journal, you'll feel as though you're experiencing everything with her for the first time.  You get a true sense of how it must feel for her every single day, as she rediscovers who she is and what her mission is.  Along the way, she's not sure who to trust.  Ben?  Her journal warns her not to, while, at the same time, reminding her that she loves him.  Dr. Nash?  She wants to trust him, but often feels more like an experiment, not sure if he has her best interests in mind. Her best friend, Claire?  Christine recently remembered Claire and how close they were, but why has Claire stayed away, and is she telling Christine the whole truth about what happened all those years ago? 

I loved this book, from beginning to end, and never felt let down as far as the suspense went.  There was no good place to stop--ever.  It's one of those books where everything disappears around you while you read, as you become fully immersed in Christine's nightmare.  So, here's my warning to you, do not pick up Before I Go To Sleep unless you've got a spare day you don't mind losing to a well-written, memorable book. 


Bonnie Crisalli






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