Memories define us. So what if you lost yours every time you went to sleep?
This is the premise of S.J. Watson’s debut novel, which follows the story of Christine who suffers from a type of amnesia which prevents her from forming memories beyond one day. Which means that every time she goes to sleep, she forgets who she is, where she is, and what has happened to her. Which leaves her very, very vulnerable.
I thoroughly enjoyed reading this novel and like Gone Girl – a similarly styled novel of mystery and misdirection – I couldn’t put it down. Memories are something we take for granted where we’re young; we’re always on a quest to make new memories to look back on fondly in the future. In fact, the only way we grow and develop as people is by using our memories to build upon what we’ve learnt before. Watson, then, does a fantastic job of conveying the fear and paranoia Christine experiences of not knowing who she is and the bleak future that lies ahead of her.
The novel is well paced and the unreliability of her journalling – which we come to trust so much by the middle of the book – is explored through a thrilling look into her mindset when she was in the hospital. How much of her journal are memories and how much is fiction? How can she know what to believe? The characters of Dr Nash and Claire were also convincing and multi-dimensional, particularly the affection Nash has for Christine underneath his professionalism.
As with Gone Girl, Before I Go To Sleep relies on plot twists and suspense which, for the majority of the novel, are thought out and keep you hanging. However, just as with Gone Girl, the final major twist in the story – *SPOILERS* that who she thinks is Ben, her husband, is actually her attacker, the cause of her amnesia ** – is inevitably shocking, but pushes the reader’s suspended disbelief a bit too far, I felt. The complications and intricacies of Mike getting round the system and being able to look after her seem a bit tricky to believe, though Watson did do a god job of conveying the character’s obsessiveness that would explain his motivation to go through the whole process.
Overall, the novel is very readable and entertaining, particularly if mystery and suspense thrillers are your cup of tea and I would definitely recommend it as something to read if you’re travelling or having a lazy day in.