Before I Go to Sleep by SJ Watson

This is a fantastic book, one that I kept reading too late into the night. It is a thriller unlike any other I’ve read. It has a highly original plot and the writer has been able to write a very difficult subject with surprising ease.

The main character, Christine, has amnesia. Every day she wakes up not knowing where she is, who she is, what has happened in her life. Every morning she wakes up and starts when she sees a strange man in bed next to her. She flinches when she looks in the mirror because she expects herself to be young, except she’s now in her 40s (I get the same feeling every morning). She remembers herself at a younger age, usually 20, sometimes younger.

The man next to her every morning explains that he is her husband, Ben, that he loves her, and that they have been married many years now. He has stuck photos around the bathroom mirror to remind her of her life.

Every day he explains to her that she had an accident that caused her amnesia, that she got run over, and that she was in hospital for a long time. She relives the horror of hearing what happened to her every day.

SJ Watson has been incredibly clever in the way she reveals Christine’s life to us. On the day we meet her, she receives a phone call from a Dr Nash, who explains he is her doctor and that she must look for her journal in the box in her cupboard. She finds it and discovers that she writes in it every day, so that reading back reminds her of what has happened before this day.

Every day Dr Nash comes and picks her up from the house and they work on trying to get Christine to remember more about her past. Slowly fragments of memory come back, just slivers at a time, flashes of scenes. Slowly she starts putting fragments together to create memories, all the while writing in her journal so she can keep track and remind herself each new day of what she has remembered. How SJ Watson kept track of this all in her mind, I have no idea, let alone in her character’s mind.

The things Christine starts to remember are not the truth that her husband, Ben, has presented to her and she starts to query him, however, she has such little confidence in her memories that he is often able to tell her that she’s got it wrong and that he had told her otherwise. “Don’t you remember?” (I’m a bit like that already, and don’t have amnesia.)

I won’t go into more of the story, as it will give everything away, but Christine slowly remembers more about her life, so the tension builds until an unexpected climax. Sometimes things tie up a bit too neatly, I think, but it must have been extremely difficult to try to bring all the elements together.

This is a debut novel; I think it could have done with more careful editing, but it is a great, easy read and one that kept me gripped till the end.

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Author: Nella

Passionate reader, sometime writer, part-time librarian. I couldn't survive without books. And, I suppose, my children. Or my cats. Or my dog. I read books and look after others.

6 thoughts on “Before I Go to Sleep by SJ Watson”

  1. Great blog! Do you have any helpful hints for aspiring writers? I’m hoping to start my own blog soon but I’m a little lost on everything. Would you suggest starting with a free platform like WordPress or go for a paid option? There are so many choices out there that I’m totally confused .. Any recommendations? Thanks a lot!

    1. Hi there – sorry, your comment got filed away as spam! Starting out as a writer isn’t easy, I know. The most important thing is to write every day – easier said than done, I know – it really helps you get into the practice of being a writer. A free platform like WordPress or one of the other blogging sites is a great way to start because you know that your words are going out into cyberspace, even if you feel no one is reading them! Tell all your friends about it, tell them to tell their friends etc. A paid option is preferable, in that you get money for your services, but these jobs are difficult to come by. In South Africa, where I am, there are thousands of freelance writers all looking for work. Offer your services for free at community papers or magazines, try submitting book reviews to magazines – anything you can think of. Eventually you might get noticed, or someone will remember your name. It happened to me – I was initially asked to proofread and then asked to write.

      Good luck – there’s not too much money involved in freelance writing or editing, but it’s a wonderful line of work.

      Nella

      1. That’s inspiring, thanks for following my blog too, I’ve never been to South Africa, but I am sure it has many wonderful aspects that inspire as well. France is great once you crack the language and accept that you must make your own way in all things.

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