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.