on May 1, 2013
"Before I Go to Sleep," by S.J. Watson - first of all, I am in the middle of this novel, and am not finished yet. I will write a full review then. I just want to mention a few notes to prospective readers:
Almost everything on this review board is true about this novel. The writing is "pedestrian." The characters are not well-developed. The author does drag on, over-explain, and repeat himself. This is not really a thriller, in the conventional sense, it is more of an aggravating mystery...you want to know what is going on, but you do not really care. It is more of a page-turner because your own brain is trying to figure it out, not because you hope the main character, Christine, will be alright.
This is not an epic, life-changing novel; it is simply a summer-read, a pass-time.
Lastly, I find important to mention that there are sex-scenes in this novel that seem completely random or irrelavent. They simply jump off the page at you and arrest the reading-experience. They are haphazardly inserted into the story, and rather unnecessary. The descritions of sexual activity and appearance of men's (naked) bodies seems very elementary. It does not feel like a woman (main character) would describe it this way.
Just to be aware if you are thinking of reading/purchasing, that there are these random sex-scenes early on in the story, and so far, throughout.
on January 10, 2013
Christine's first person account of what it is like to wake to and perform for a man she has to assume is her husband, begins a compelling narrative which drew me in from the start. The impact of the opening chapter, where Christine looks into the mirror, startled to find a woman some twenty-five years older reflected in the glass, sustains the tension.
I had wondered how long the same power in the writing could last and, I have to say that, perhaps because of the writer's empathy with her main character, I was surprised - and delighted - to find that she could continue to engage my interest almost at the same level through what is an easily readable prose style.
The dialogue, opening between Christine and he who has to assure her that he has been her husband of twenty-two years, is crisp and well-paced, again reflecting the urgency that lies in Christine's emotional trauma as she tries to adjust to a man she had once loved and a world in which she had once had control over her life - both now wrested from her.
For me, there was a slight tendency for the continuous first-person narration to be a little unrelieved; in so far as we are much reliant on Christine's perceptions to unravel the strange and frightening world in which she must fight to re-adjust. Even so, if too many other characters had carried the narrative from their points of view, then I think that some of the superb portrait of panic and desolation that Christine feels would have been lost.
Really, really enjoyed this one even though suspense/thrillers aren't my usual genre. The premise here reminds me of the movie 50 First Dates -girl wakes up each morning with no memories of the previous day(s) and essentially relives each new day as her first, being told about her accident and looking at photographs of her missing life. This isn't a comedy though. The story here is dark and mysterious, with an impending sense of everyone/everything is not as it seems. As the reader you have the task of trying to figure it out who the bad guy is, who's lying to Christine and why. I didn't figure that out or see the big twist coming until I was right on top of it, so this was a super fun read for me.
At times the story does get repetitive because we're continually in Christine's head, being retold or reading and relearning everything from her journal over and over again. By the same token the first person narrative also got to be a bit much but really this couldn't have been written any other way.
We begin with Christine waking up in a stranger's bed. She can't remember how she got there but her twenty-something self tells her that she must have hooked up with the man at a party. Christine is not hung over though and soon learns that she's no longer in twenties either but from the same decade as the middle aged man washing up in the bathroom. And now he's telling her that he's her husband Ben, and that she suffered a devastating injury resulting in a rare form of amnesia, leaving her unable to retain memories from one day to the next.
Left alone Christine begins to putter about the house, what does she do all day anyways? Does it matter? She soon receives a phone call from a man claiming to be her Doctor; he explains that she has been keeping a journal and where it is hidden. It is through this journal that Christine begins to piece her life back together, forming a fragmented picture from those she is supposed to trust. But not everything adds up and as the days go by and the journal entries get longer Christine realizes that she is receiving two different versions of her life from her Doctor and her husband.
Relying completely on the journal Christine begins testing her husband and finally doubting herself as confusing memories return. Are they real? When the last day's journal entry reads "Don't trust Ben" who will she turn to? What is the truth?
I found this scary and sad in the sense that Christine has lost 20 years of her life. Imagine being in college and waking up at 45! Repeating the same day over and over, not knowing what is real, just relying on those you think you can trust. Realizing that you've probably been having the same conversations, asking the same questions and being told the same horrible truths (lies) every day.
This was a great read, it's not perfect but made me stop and think. It has also been optioned for film by Ridley Scott's production company. And I think it will make a fantastic movie
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on January 11, 2012
I really enjoyed the book, it is told in a very intriguing way- which created a thrilling anticipation to the climax of the story. I must have read the book cover to cover in a couple of days, as I really couldn't put it down! I would definitely recommend it to fellow amazonians, although because of its mystery/thriller nature it's not really a repeat read.
on June 14, 2012
Before starting the review, I want to let you know that I seen the '50 first Dates' and 'The Vow' movies while I was reading the book. I can assure you that the book is not like those two movies.
Okay so where to begin. At first I felt like the title was really well chosen : Before 'I' go to Sleep. Like in other review, I had hard time to stay awake while reading the book (I even fell asleep on it once). But I would say the rhythm change a little bit in the second half of the book (around page 170). You can see the character evolve and you will start to love the book. Then in part 3, you will keep learning things until the end of the book. I have to confess that I guess the ending of the book a few pages before it was told. I will not tell more so I won't reveal any details of the book.
Would I recommend this ? Not to everyone. I would not qualify this as a Thriller, suspense nor action book. It's not even a psychological story.
on April 18, 2012
I haven't finished a book as quickly as I read "Before I go to sleep". Not every book, even really compelling mysteries, keep you flipping the pages compulsively, all the while thinking "I HAVE TO KNOW WHAT IS GOING ON!"
I had read some reviews which didn't seemed very thrilled, or complained that they figured it all out early on. Well, good for them. I relished every second of it (although I admit that I furiously tore through the last 100 pages pretty quickly over my lunch break at work--again, it's compulsive reading). The book enveloped me-- you become the character and her unease becomes your unease...her desire to uncover her past becomes your desire. The story-telling is fantastic, and Christine's voice is extremely well-developed.
As a fan of mystery novels, this book absolutely amazed me. It's creepy. It's good. I found the end satisfying. Read it read it read it!
on November 16, 2014
A surprisingly great novel that keeps you guessing at every turn. You know that something fishy is going on for most of the book, but you have a really hard time pinning it down until the end. I love this because as the main character has anterograde amnesia and the reason you can't figure out what is going on is because she is having such a challenging time figuring it out for herself. Because the main character, Christine, has anterograde amnesia, she can't form new memories. Each day is a brand new day for her (sort of 50 First Dates-esque) and Watson is able to keep it extremely realistic instead of being hokey. You really understand how challenging and frustrating life is for Christine (the main character) and empathize with her at every turn.
I just love a book where you're rooting for the main character and you're gripped until the very last page.
4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
The story begins with Christine a 27 year old woman who wakes up one morning with a strange man by her side and in a strange bed. She believes that this strange man beside her must be a one-night-stand. She probably drank too much and can't remember.She then goes into the bathroom and looks in the mirror and finds an unfamiliar, middle-aged face peering at her. The man comes in and explains that he is her husband, Ben and that she is 47 years old and was in a terrible accident 20 years ago which left her with a head injury.
Ben is a school teacher and one day while at work, Christine receives an unusual call from a Dr. Nash, a neuropsychologist who claims to be interested in her case and has been working with her, leading her to keep a journal of her daily activities and thoughts. He lets her know that her husband is unaware of him, his calls and sessions with her She then hides her journal in the back of her closet and does not tell her husband. You wonder if Dr. Nash is sincerely interested in helping her regain her memory or part of it OR is he interested in furthering his career? She asks Ben what her life was like before the accident. Why did she and Ben not have any children? What did she work at before the accident? What Happened in that terrible accident that caused her loss of memory? Every day when she wakes up, she has no memory of what she had done the day before, until she reads her journal when Ben goes to work. She has flash backs and records every little thing and every activity. This continues until............................
This novel is paced very well and is believable. Every page holds your interest until the thriller ending. This novel has to be one of the best reads of 2011.
FELICITATIONS Mr. Watson for an outstanding debut novel.
on April 7, 2014
This is an excellent, gripping, pshychological thriller that will keep you reading for 100s of pages at a time. Incredibly well worked out, and explained by the book's end. The book works. I suggest for thrillers like this you sit down and read it and not try and figure it out as you go. All that does is take the fun out of a book or film. It's been translated into 30 languages and soon to be a major film. Read the book first.
Any criticisms that a man can't write about a woman or vice versa always fall flat with me. Anyone with an imagination and the willingness to string words into good sentences should do so, ortherwise we would have a whole lot less of everything. As others have said it is Memento-like, and that to me a is a good thing, since Memento is a great movie. Check that out too sometime. Pleasant dreams.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on April 12, 2012
We thoroughly enjoyed this read and it provided an excellent platform for great discussion. Some found a slow, repetitive start but as the story was unfolding it did not seem to go fast enough. We did have some unanswered questions and we are hoping for a sequel. We voted this as a thumbs up!