Wednesday, 9 January 2013

Before I Go To Sleep - S.J Watson | A Review

'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 ...' (Before I Go To Sleep - S.J Watson)

S.J Watson’s debut novel Before I Go To Sleep is an outstandingly brilliant thriller that takes the reader on a dark and disturbing journey which questions the complex ideas of identity and memory.
The novel opens with its young protagonist Christine Lucas waking up in an unfamiliar bed besides an old man with a wedding ring and no recollection of the night before. After scurrying to the bathroom however, things take a sinister turn as she realises that the reflection looking back at her is one of a middle aged woman recognisable to Christine as herself.

"The face I see looking back at me is not my own. The hair has no volume and is cut much shorter than I wear it; the skin on the cheeks and under the chin sags; the lips are thin; the mouth turned down. I cry out," the narrator tells us. "The person in the mirror is me, but I am twenty years too old. Twenty-five. More. This isn't possible."

Christine soon learns from her husband, Ben, that after being involved in a car accident many years ago, she developed a rare form of amnesia which has meant that she is capable of retaining memories for only until she falls into a deep sleep at which point she forgets everything (Rather like 50 First Dates but fear not as the storyline is far darker and more thrilling than any film starring Adam Sandler could ever be but that’s beside the point!). However, after Ben leaves for work, Christine receives a phone call from a Dr Nash, who informs her that he is a neurophysiologist who has taken an interest in her case and is calling to remind her to find her journal. At this point of the novel, I admit, I was rolling my eyes, the idea of a forty something year old keeping a journal with extensive enough detail to actually learn everything about herself and her life is unlikely to be read entirely (The novel is rather long with over 500 pages..) however, I overlooked this as I was interested to see where the story would lead too.

Indeed, the novel becomes most engrossing when both the reader and Christine begin to doubt Ben after discovering a warning not to trust him written on the first page of Christine’s journal. Could Ben simply a loving and patient partner feeding her a modified version of her life so as to ease her mind? Or is there a more sinister act in place as he manipulates her perception of the world in which she has no memory with which she can see past his web of lies? It is however, refreshing to see that the theories the reader develops throughout the story are at times shared by the often paranoid Christine who will look into her theories and is often shocked by details that she comes across which keeps the novel unpredictable and shocking. In many ways, the novel is thrilling due to how startlingly real the entire novel is in that it takes place in a domestic, ordinary life as opposed to a the futuristic horrors of say Stephanie Meyers, The Host.  

Watson stated that the idea behind Before I Go To Sleep came to him after reading the obituary of a man who underwent an experimental procedure in order to cure his epilepsy by removing parts of his brain which, they realised later was also responsible for forming new memories and thereafter lead the rest of his life from the moment his operation took place (aged 27) until he day he died aged 84 without being able to form memories. 

I found myself captivated by Watson's attention to detail and empathy and was without a doubt kept guessing and held in suspense until the very last page. A book that will without a doubt linger in your mind long after it has been put down (case in point, the fact that I’m writing this review a year after reading it).

4/5 stars. 

A.N: A film adaption of Before I Go To Sleep is currently being planned and is set to be produced by Ridley Scott and will star Nicole Kidman as Christine. 

No comments:

Post a Comment