Before I Go To Sleep
SJ WatsonChristine wakes up every morning in an unfamiliar bed with an unfamiliar man. She looks in the mirror and sees an unfamiliar, middle- aged face. And every morning, the man she has woken up with must explain that he is Ben, he is her husband, she is forty-seven years old, and a terrible accident two decades earlier decimated her ability to form new memories.
But it’s the phone call from a Dr. Nash, a neurologist who claims to be working with Christine without her husband’s knowledge, which directs her to her journal, hidden in the back of her closet. For the past few weeks, Christine has been recording her daily activities—tearful mornings with Ben, sessions with Dr. Nash, flashes of scenes from her former life—and rereading past entries, relearning the facts of her life as retold by the husband she is completely dependent upon. As the entries build up, Christine asks many questions. What was life like before the accident? Why did she and Ben never have a child? What has happened to Christine’s best friend? And what exactly was the horrific accident that caused such a profound loss of memory?
Every day, Christine must begin again the reconstruction of her past. And the closer she gets to the truth, the more un-believable it seems.
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Inspiration behind the book
Wow. What a creepy, disturbing, unsettling and thoroughly frightening novel this is. I loved it. So compelling is Before I Go To Sleep that I finished it in two straight readings, before and after lunch. Only good manners and the presence of guests kept me from reading it during lunch. It is one of the most arresting debut novels I have read in years.
SJ Watson creates, from the first page, a psychological thriller with which the reader completely identifies. It is impossible not to imagine how one would cope with the extreme stresses and challenges that Christine wakes up to each and every day.
Although she has absolutely no memory of the past, she is able to remember what happens during each new day as it unfolds. But when she goes to sleep, everything is wiped clean. So Christine keeps a diary in which she records her daily re-births. Her husband, Ben, tells her about her past; she obsessively writes it all down. She sees a psychiatrist who is trying to restore her memory, and she writes his comments down too. Gradually, through the diary, she dimly begins to reconstruct the person she once was and might still be. But one day, she opens the pages to read a freshly-written sentence.
Don't trust Ben.
Christine is aghast. She has no comprehension what this warning to herself means.
We've all had those 'where am I?' moments on waking; that momentary dislocation when we can't quite get our bearings. Then memory floods back and we start our day, and forget all about the brief memory short-out. For Christine, there is no snapping back to reality. Every morning is the same for her. She wakes in a strange bed, next to a strange man. She has no idea who he is or how she got there. Did she get blind drunk in a club the previous night? Would that explain why the person gently snoring beside her is in his forties, while she is twenty years younger?
She finds her way to the bathroom, splashes her face, and turns to look in the mirror. The person staring back at her in growing fear and confusion is a middle-aged woman. And yet...peeping out from behind the lined, pouched face is her younger self. What has happened to her? Who is she? What has she become?
Before I Go To Sleep is a jolting, sometimes terrifying exploration of what it is like to lose one's memory, utterly and completely. Our memories are what define us as individuals. Without them, who are we? And if we cannot even remember yesterday, how do we make sense of today? Christine's terrible predicament draws us into a nightmare world - and not only because of her terrible affliction. Gradually, she begins to suspect that the people who say they want to help her may, in fact, be her worst enemies...
Reviews & Comments
Richard and Judy's posts
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