Thursday, March 8, 2012

Before I Go to Sleep Presents Worst-Nightmare Scenario in Literary Thriller Format

S.J. Watson's debut novel Before I Go to Sleep had been on my to-read list for months, ever since its release last summer. Several blogs I follow urged their readers to pick up the new thriller, and I fully intended to do so. Last week, in browsing my (small, but extraordinarily well-stocked) local library, I came across a copy -- not even on the "New Books" shelf, but already shelved with all the other fiction books.

I literally came home and -- taking a break to go out to dinner -- did not stop until I'd read the entire book. In one night. Although I love to read, it's rare that I ever do that anymore. During the school year, I'm teaching and planning and grading. I also just got married and became a stepmom. And from November until February, I spent loads of time with my brother and his family -- they live in Africa, and were here on an early furlough for my wedding. So all that adds up to not a lot of reading time -- or, at least, not hours of reading time in a row.

Before I Go to Sleep practically forces reading like that, though. Told in daily journal entries over a month's time, amnesiac Christine Lucas relates the details of her days. The things that happen, the events she miraculously remembers (sometimes). After an accident, Christine has been without memory for an untold period of time. Each day she wakes up surprised to find herself living in a middle-age body beside a man she (moments later) learns is her husband. Christine is capable of neither short-term memory during the day, nor long-term memory for previous events. She relies solely on her husband, Ben, and neuropsychologist Dr. Nash.

The journal begins when Dr. Nash suggests Christine begin logging her memories and the day's events in a notebook. When she re-reads her entries each morning, she is able to come to some kind of terms with the life she is living. Additionally, Dr. Nash's hope is that the notebook will eventually help Christine improve.

Although a book about someone living with such extreme memory loss would be interesting in and of itself, author S.J. Watson pushes the envelope and takes his literary novel to another level with the inclusion of thriller elements. One day, in reading through her journal, Christine finds the words: "Don't trust Ben," penned in the front in her handwriting. No further explanation is given, and so each day Christine must find herself weighing the possibility that it was written in her memory-loss-induced paranoia or that she can't, in fact, trust the one person on whom she relies.

Reviews of this debut novel abound on the internet. If you need further coaxing to read this amazing novel, here are some other reviews from my blog reader feed:

Book Addiction
Book Hooked Blog
S. Krishna's Books
Linus's Blanket
Jen's Book Thoughts
Purple Sage and Scorpions
Jenn's Bookshelves

Before I Go to Sleep is S.J. Watson's first novel. My only hope is that he's hard at work at his home in England on a second novel of the same caliber. Read an excerpt of the novel here.


  1. I've had this one on my list for a while but still haven't gotten to it.

  2. I was glad I saved this one to read over Christmas break when I could read it in a single day. It was such an engaging, exhilarating read!

  3. This is an amazing book from cover to cover. It captivates right from the start and is a fascinating read based on a very clever premise. As a result of an accident, the protagonist Christine has a rare but very real brain injury; she can only remember new information while she's awake. As soon as she sleeps, her brain erases everything, so each morning she wakes up lost and confused and wondering how she got to be middle aged. The story makes you realize that memory and trust are closely tied together. S.J. Watson creates a lot of suspense by building on this concept and keeps you guessing by slowly revealing the intentions and character of Christine's husband Ben, her doctor Edmund Nash and the circumstances of her accident. The pacing is intense so beware, once started this book is hard to put down.



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