Before I Go To Sleep

SJ Watson

Christine 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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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

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  • WOW! I went to WH Smith today as soon as it opened practically, and bought all the books - as I always do! I started reading this at around 2pm, and have just finished it - without a gap at 7pm! I could not put it down! I am impressed Judy managed to stop for guests! Really gripping, pacy read, and just when I thought I'd predicted everything, I was wrong! Great writing style, and frustrating - in a kind of good way! Had me saying stuff out loud to the characters! More from this author please!


  • Wow great book could not put it down, and I was lucky enough to get it for free from Amazon

    Valerie Springham

  • I loved this book, it was very deep and I didn't guess the end which is good for me as I normally suss whats happening too soon which is often disappointing for me, chilling book couldn't put it down and caused me some very late nights!!


  • I downloaded this to my iphone.... Best Story I have read for a long long time. Totally gripping. I finished it (like Judy) in two readings and actually re-read the ending again, just to make sure I had not missed anything. Brilliant. More please Mr Watson.


  • Loved this book, it is gripping right until the end. I look forward to the authors next novel

    Karen L S

  • I bought this book from recommendation by Richard's twitter page. What a compelling read. A real page turner. I could not stop thinking about it when I was even reading it. Many congrats on the authors success.


  • I couldnt read as fast as Judy lol - its taken me 2 days - i bought this ebook for my Kobo Touch

    This book is superb, a page turner if ever there was one

    Every emotion will be stirred for the reader from beginning to end, you'll be sucked in and never want 'the days in the diary' to end

    Col Johnston


  • For me, this book just didn't work on any level. The main narrative device - the journal - didn't ring true; and this is because that's all it was (a device used to move the plot forwards in a very clunky manner). For it to ring true in any way, it would have to have been written like a real journal - instead, it was written like a novel. It became particularly unbelievable towards the end when the character was still writing lengthy prose in a situation which would have called for quick notes and jottings. It felt like oh so much padding, simply because the plot alone was rather thin. We have a whole letter narrated in the journal (and then physically placed inside the journal by the character). Again, this spoils any element of reality. Someone wouldn't sit there copying out the contents of a letter into a journal (they'd simply mention the letter and place it inside). But, of course, we need this artifice because, otherwise, the author would have nothing to write about. After all, this is an ongoing and dreary repetition of the fact that the narrator wakes without memory each day.

    Then, suddenly, towards the end, we lose the device entirely and enter into a first person narrative that simply couldn't be sustained given the narrator's memory issues (which has been the crux of the novel thus far - and is made all them more confusing because there is no change whatsoever in the tone of voice).

    The final kicker for me (plot spoiler ahead) is when we're supposed to believe that she's only been out of her care home for 4 months (taken out by her imposter lover) ... so we're really expected to believe that some bloke she had a brief fling with 20-odd years ago has waited all that time for an opportunity to be with her. Come on! Oh, and how convenient that the staff at the care home didn't know what her real husband looked like. As if they would allow a release form to be signed on behalf of someone with no memory under such dubious circumstances. This really was a book that was plot for plot's sake without any substance or edge or truth, reality or credibility behind it at all.


  • Oh dear, seems I am the only person to review in the negative. I think it is extremely well written, however the repetition of Chrissy@s daily routine nearly drove me bonkers, as riveting as the storyline was, this routine got quite boring and I couldn't wait to get to the end.

    sandra maycock

  • Down loaded thios to my IPAd and read it at 2 sittings, gripping storyline but slightly dissappointed at the end re the fire and how XChrissy escaped whilst tied to a chair. This is the firsy book i have read after being reviewed by R & J but will surely back for more....

    Rob Fell

  • I really enjoyed this book. But i knew very little about it before starting to read it. As a result i started the book turning each page with eager anticipation, not really understanding what was going on, my mind whirring with could it be this, could it be that and as a result by the end of chapter 1 i was hooked! So my reccomendation would be to read this book knowing as little as possible about the main plot. If you like fiction books, based on human stories, if you like Jodi Piccoult with a thriller twist, then this book is for you!

    My only niggle with this book (without spoiling the plot) is that the diary was written in the same style as other passages. A change in style would have made this seem more real, but i justified this by the fact that Christine trained to be a novelist and therefore wrote the diary as a novel.


  • Wow,what can I say other than totally gripping.I could not put this book down. The best book I have read in months.Original and intriguing.


  • Believed the hype, lived to regret it. One of the most boring, predictable and ploddingly written 'crime' stories I've read. Heavy handed hints meant the denouement, for this reader, was simply a strangely ungripping relief from the tedium of the book. Also, given the dominating role of the main character, why is she so uncharismatic, passed experiences accepted? Where was the editor for this first novel? Maybe they were bored into submission by page 5 and as they probably did not think for a minute the book would become the success it inexplicably has, maybe they just did the bare minimum - hence the turgid state of the final thing!


  • Just read this book in one sitting - didn't even stop for lunch!!! was hooked from the start. Absolutley loved it and will be recommending it to everyone i know who reads!

    Loraine Wood

  • Wow! What an amazing read. I would not normally pick this type of book, but i thoroughly enjoyed it from start to finish. The ending is very clever and i was truely surprised by it. Brilliant!


  • After hearing about the book on Richards Twitter feeds I saw the book in the shops. I told my gf about it and she bought it me. I read it in three sittings.. very unusual for me. Quite simply the book enthralled, beguilled and dazzled me! Never have i wanted to find out how the book ended so much! If you are in any doubt, please give it a read, its stunning and creepy with a real twist. I shall now check out the other books on the list!


  • Couldn't believe this is a debut novel, it is absolutely fantastic. I have to admit when I read the original synopsis I didn't think it would be my kind of think but I am so glad I read it. The story kept me glued, I couldn't wait to get back to reading it at every available opportunity. A fantastic read thank you

    Georgina Palmer

  • I thoroughly enjoyed this book - read it in one go, just couldn't put it down. I'd heard about this book a few months ago and was a bit worried that it wouldn't live up to the positive reviews. But it did, and more.

    I will definitely look out for more books by this author.


  • Couldn't wait to read it. When I did it was everything I thought it would be, but then it started to annoy me, but the ending did surprsie me. Especially as I am usually pretty good at sussing the plot. Going to pass it on to friends to see what they think


  • I read this book on my summer holiday and loved it. I felt it to be intriging and thought provoking. An excellent story, very believable with well formed characters. It was definately a nine out of ten for me.


  • I got this from the library on Friday and regrettably reached the last page this morning after 2 late nights of reading. What a gripping book, interesting plot and fantastic concept. But just WHO is SJ Watson? Can't seem to find out much about him/her. Why do people like to be so mysterious? Well done SJ (whoever you are) You had me gripped.

    Nicky Redmond

  • I take my time to read books. A few pages a night and a few in my lunch hour if I am not too busy. Ok so being snowed in this weekend probably helped but I read this book in 36 hours. My thoughts? Great read. Started to get slightly flat just past half way and I thought I needed something to pull me back in and boy did it! The ending was superbly written and I loved that it was an ending I hadn't even considered. Definitely up there with one of my top reads.


  • Absolutely loved this book. It kept me gripped from the start; right to the end. Throughout each chapter I was changing my mind regarding who to trust and not to trust. Great ending! Couldn't put the book down and have recommended it to several people (who are also loving it!)

    Sue Harris

  • I absolutely loved this book and like Judy, read it in 2 sittings; I just couldn't put it down. Unlike some of the other reviewers, I found the repitition integral to the plot as it bought to life the fact that every day started in exactly the same way for Christine. If this is her debut novel, I can't wait for more from this author.

    Nicola Foster

  • I absolutely loved this book - it isnt often in a book these days that I am kept guessing right till the end but this book did just that!

    I recommended it to a friend and she loved it too and was texting me through the book with her comments so it was like I got to read it twice with a fresh eye!

    Can really recommend this to anyone!


  • Possible spoiler! Enjoyable read. One flaw though - if the journal was burned - then presumably she ot cured enough to rewrite it all - along with the denouement.

    Perhaps just being "picky". It was still a good read and will work well on film or as a play.


  • I really enjoyed this book, it held me from beginning to end. The underlying plot was brilliantly thought out and unlike some books it had a good ending which brought everything together to a satisfactory conclusion. If this was the authors first book I can't wait for more. In the right hands it would make a fantastic 'edge of your seat' film.


  • This story is brillliant, it is so addictive you just don't know when to put the book down. Absolutly brilliant. Now need to decide on my next read, any suggestions?


  • So surprised when I found out SJWatson was male. Loved the book, couldn't put it down, but have to admit, a few bits just didn't add up at the end, so fab read but less than convincing end, for me at least, but maybe I am over analysing it all. Plot spoiler, Couldn't understand why "ex" appeared after 20 yrs to "claim her" and after 20 odd years in the home they hadn't evidence of her real husband. And lastly, that no doctor had ever recommended her keep a diary or journal to aid memory recovery before. So I say don't analyse just enjoy the story ...............


  • I found this book really gripping from the very beginning. I kept thinking I could predict the next bit, but then there would be a tiny turn and it would have me right back to not knowing who to trust again.

    I absolutely loved the book and once I started reading it, I couldn't put it down. It has been a while since I enjoyed reading a book as much.


  • I have almost finished this book so I am looking forward to the surprise ending that I have not worked out but had an inkling was on the way!

    I can echo Sarah's thoughts: about half way through I was ready to say, pshaw! this is getting boring but then we were taken down a new road and things opened up again.

    I disagree that the journal keeping doesn't work: I think none of us know what Christine could or couldn't do in her situation so whether the journal really is realistic is not the point. I have accepted it as a literary device and I like it. After all, Dan Dare's derring do is impossible isn't it? We accept it though don't we, if we like science fiction, that is.

    I could not imagine being Ben. However, I thought Groundhog Day for Christine but I cannot think of a word or phrase or situation for Ben. Maybe I mean the other way round!?

    A good read, really enjoyable and I am already recommending it to friends and blog readers alike!


    duncan williamson

  • Heard great things about this novel on radio 2. Didn't live up to the hype. It was repetitive and quite dull. The ending predictable, so just 2 stars for me

    Sim crye

  • Cleverly written book with the story building well and makes for compulsive reading; unusual for me that I needed to pick it up at times I wouldn't usually read just to find out what happened next! Would recommend it and to read it in the spirit intended- as an idea that could in theory happen but could only be told logically by the person it happened to using their journal as the tool.

    Christine Summerbell

  • Great read, woke up this morning and first thing I wanted to do was to carry on reading.


  • I thought this book was brilliant ! An original storyline and simmering pace kept me rivoted. Only took me a couple of hours to read as i couldnt put it down !

    tania atkins

  • Fantastic book - One of the best books I have ever read.

    Couldn't put it down till I finished it - and what an ending - never guessed!!

    Julie Smith

  • This book isn't my normal type of book however this was brilliant and I loved every single page. It was such a gripping story that I literally was on the edge of my seat. I didn't get board halfway through like I normally would, I wanted to read it twice. I thought the story was so beautifully told and you start to realise what's going on yourself without actually having to read it word for word. Beautiful story with a very good beginning and end.


  • At first I did think it might be predictable but I certainly didn't guess the ending! I thought the plot was quite clever with twists and turns to keep you gripped. I know it was slightly repetitive but I felt that submerged me in the life of an amnesiac, isn't that the idea? Not my usual genre and agree that the less you know when you start reading, the better, but I found I couldn't put it down - in fact I nearly missed my stop on the train because I was so engrossed!


  • I absolutely loved this book! 2 reads is all it took as I let the dust pile up around me! More please S J Watson!

    Yvonne Buchanan

  • This book is simply brilliant, I could not put it down. There are so many twists and turns in the narrative that when the final big twist is revealed, you are just completely shocked. The author succeeds in telling a very difficult concept in a very clear way - you never feel confused and she guides you through the idea with complete ease. I would highly recommend you purchase this book, you will not be disappointed.


  • The best thriller I read in years! I loved it from start to finish,perfect character development, consistent stories and a remarkable ending. I love that it had many of twists and turns, I will be reading more novels from this author!

    Michael Jenkins

  • Thoroughly enjoyed this novel and did not get tied up in the questioning the plot too much. I did get a little bored with the middle however, the pace picked up at just the right time for me. There was only 4 main characters so in all respects it didn't take too much investigation to work out who the baddie was. Overall a cracking read. Ronald


  • I bought this book on a business trip, using the recommendation of the book club as a good guide. I loved it - something a bit different. Although I had a good idea of the ending, it only led me to pageturn quicker to see if I was right - thanks

    Claire Hewlett

  • Wow what a fantastic book! had this recommended to me by a couple of people. i must say though it was starting to get a bit flat until the halfway mark. i sat last night determined to finish it and boy what great twists and turns they were in it! brilliant book for a first novel look forward to the next one!


  • brilliant book and the fact it can happen made it quite scary, could'nt put it down.

    Lynne Davis

  • This is a fantastic read with an original and interesting plot. A totally unpredictable and and compelling read. Although some peoples reviews have said the repetition was annoying, i didnt feel it was excessive but very much added to the realness of the story. An absolute MUST read!


  • Please do not waste you'r time or money reading this book..story line is rediculous on so many levels does the author think that his reader's are going to be gullable pre school children..the story..the people the timeline's are all rediculous..i read on average two books a week and i am forty years of age so i have read my fare share of books and this is one of the worst books i have ever read..infact im struggling to think of any other book that is as bad or indeed worse.


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