Before I Go To Sleep
S J Watson
‘As I sleep, my mind will erase everything I did today. I will wake up tomorrow as I did this morning. Thinking I’m still a child. Thinking I have a whole lifetime of choice ahead of me …’
Memories define us. So what if you lost yours every time you went to sleep? Your name, your identity, your past, even the people you love – all forgotten overnight. And the one person you trust may only be telling you half the story. Welcome to Christine’s life.
I’m glad I didn’t read ‘psychological thriller’ before I purchased this book, because it might have put my somewhat small-minded book-snob side off buying it. And how glad I am that I bought and read this book. It is totally gripping, wonderfully constructed and beautifully written.
Before I Go To Sleep follows Christine, who suffers from amnesia, try to cope with every day life. Each time Christine falls asleep, her memory is erased. Sometimes she wakes in the morning expecting to be a child and discovers that she’s actually a married woman. Sometimes Christine remembers slightly more, but never really anything beyond when she was 20 or so. So when she looks in the mirror each morning and doesn’t recognise the person staring back at her, Christine’s horror starts afresh every day. Christine certainly doesn’t remember her long-suffering husband, Ben, who is trying to help her make sense of her life – which she always forgets as soon as she falls asleep.
However, it quickly transpires that Christine and Ben have developed systems to cope with Christine’s memory loss. There’s notes every where in their house to prompt her, remind her who she is. But it seems Christine is also trying to help herself in her own way too. In secret, Christine has begun seeing Dr Nash, who thinks they can help her regain her memory. Dr Nash encourages Christine to keep a journal, recording her day and what she remembers. Dr Nash phones or visits Christine most days to remember this. This journal is what makes up most of the novel.
The problem for Christine – and therefore thrill of this book – is that she doesn’t know who to trust. Why has she decided to keep the journal a secret from her loving, patient husband? Who is Dr Nash and what does he really want? And what the hell happened to Christine to make her memory disappear? As I hurriedly read each page to find out, I found myself suspecting everyone around Christine of being sinister.
Watson has written multi-dimensional characters, which I found only added to the intrigue. One minute I really felt for Ben, who loved his wife so much but had to deal with her not knowing who he was – the next minute I thought Ben was a little too over-protective of Christine. Or I’d think Dr Nash was so lovely and selfless, then I’d decide he was surely up to no good and was going to exploit Christine’s fragile state. In the end, the story came to a gripping climax that I hadn’t guessed at all.
I loved this book for much more than it being a gripping read. It invoked emotions and the characters definitely felt really vivid while I was reading it. It made me ponder life and got my brain cogs going about what life would be like if my memory was stripped from me. So if you’re like me and think “psychological thriller – ugh, not for me” I’d say give this book a second thought because it’s so much more than that.