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I'm not sure why, but when I picked this up about a year ago in the charity shop, I was under the impression that this was a young adult book, but I can assure you, it is not. Before I Go To Sleep is a chilling thriller about a woman who suffers from a severe form of amnesia that means that everytime she falls asleep she loses most of her memories and wakes up thinking that she is still in her mid-twenties. She has absolutely no recollection of the accident that caused her amnesia or the fact that the man she wakes up next to everyday is her husband, Ben. Every morning Ben explains the situation to her and Christine keeps herself busy in the house until Ben comes home from work. One day, she receives a call from a young doctor who wishes to try and help her regain her memories. She starts seeing him in secret, her husband would not allow her to see any more doctors for fear it would 'distress' her further, and he suggests that Christine should start writing a diary of everything that she has learnt each day so that she read it back to herself later. In this way, Christine starts to remember more and more of her past and as she re-reads past diary entries she starts to doubt the people that she trusts and wonders who is really telling the truth. This story is about Christine's journey to finding her memory.
This book starts off with an exchange between Dr Nash and Christine as he returns her notebook to her. She has already been writing in it for a few weeks and finally decided that she was ready for Dr Nash to read its contents, though of course, when she woke up that morning, she had no recollection of ever giving him the notebook, or that it even existed. This exchange is soon followed by all the diary entries that Christine ever wrote in her diary and it ends with Christine back in the present dealing with the events that follow the re-reading of her diary.
As the main character of this book is an amnesiac, we are constantly shrouded in mist as we trudge our way through this novel. There are so many mysteries and it's almost impossible to predict what's coming next, because, of course, Christine can't retain any of her memories. It's obvious that something is amiss in Christine's life but you're not really sure what because it's impossible to know who's telling the truth and who isn't. As we go through the novel we learn more and more bits about Christine's past but you're still not really sure whether her memories are real or whether they're just dreams.
I wouldn't say that any of the charcters are particularly likable but you certainly feel a sense of sympathy for Christine. It's all written from the first person perspective so you know exactly how Christine feels at each moment and she's the only character you can really connect. There aren't very many characters so this book is quite intense and I was totally absorbed whilst reading it.
The best way to describe this book would be to imagine that you, as a reader, are collecting more and more puzzle pieces as you work your way through this book, but you don't have any idea what the bigger picture is until you reach the very end. I absolutely zoomed through this book because I was so desperate to find out the truth. I could not have been more surprised at the ending and you're literally second guessing everything until the very end. I would highly recommend this book to anyone and everyone. I am not a fan of thrillers but this book is one of the most interesting and intense books I've ever read.
Over the last year I've managed to build up a pile of unread books due to having no time. I took to reading before I go to sleep the other day and I enjoyed it so much I was finished that night!
It is about a woman who has amnesia, who everyday wakes up thinking she is still living her younger years when actually she is approaching her 50's. It tells the story of how she starts to keep a journal and everything starts to unravel and deep secrets start to come to light.
There is a major twist to the story which is what I love most about a good book. S.J Watson does a good job of not giving any hints from the start to finish. When the twist was revealed I was left in complete shock!
It is definitely one of the best books I've read in a very long time and will certainly be recommending it to friends.
What's even better is that the other day I found out that it is being made into a film I cannot wait!
Please do read the book, it is excellent and deserves recognition.
Film fans were introduced to the idea of short term memory loss through 50 First Dates - a light-hearted romantic film about a woman who wakes up every morning with no memory of anything that has happened the day before, or in fact any of the preceding years. Before I Go to Sleep takes this a step further, turning memory loss into a disorientating and terrifying experience where nothing can be trusted, even your own family. This novel is a cleverly constructed and literary thriller which will keep the reader guessing all the way through.
Chris is the main protagonist; a strong woman who has been brought low by the confusion that amnesia brings; a woman who, after an accident can only retain memories for 24 hours. She knows that every time she goes to sleep she will wake up unable to recognise her husband, her friends or anything else that has happened in the past 25 years. Because of this she writes an intricate and detailed diary, relating everything that happens to her so that she can re-read it the next day and construct her memories from the pages. This journal is both a blessing and a curse. Chris finds it every day and through the journal remembers that she is married to the man sleeping beside her - and that his name is Ben. She recalls nothing else about her life, her accident or her family. Phone calls from the mysterious Dr Nash direct her to the journal that she has written, and Dr Nash tells her that they have made progress during the sessions that they have together to try to recover her memory. But can the journal be trusted? Can Dr Nash be trusted? Who is tearing out the pages from her journal and why has Chris herself written 'Don't trust Ben' in big letters on the front?
I found this book absolutely impossible to put down and galloped through it compulsively. From the very first scene it was gripping; Chris wakes up, guiltily finding a middle aged man sleeping next to her and believing that she has slept with a married older man while drunk. Creeping into the bathroom she is terrified to see her reflection in the mirror; the reflection of a much older woman who she barely recognises. This first introduction to Chris' condition is very realistic and detailed; the first flicker of horror as she looks down to her hands - old hands that she doesn't recognise. The shock as she sees her face for the first time and realises that although she still feels 22, her body is 47. These scenes are very cleverly constructed - which of us really feels the age we are? I have friends in their 90s who tell me that inside they still feel like 20 year olds - and it is very easy to relate to somebody who wakes up and still feels 20 even though their body is much older.
This is a thriller of the highest quality; Chris' memory loss makes the reader question everything as Chris questions it - who is to be trusted? How can we tell truth from lies? Her character is very well and thoughtfully constructed - we understand that she is an intelligent, creative, independent woman but she has been destroyed by uncertainty. Not remembering meeting your husband, not knowing if you have given birth to a child, not being sure who is a friend and who is an enemy. Not being able to trust your own judgement and having no memories to re-enforce your beliefs are a terrifying possibility. Unlike the film 50 First Dates, this novel allows you to think much more deeply about the terror that being in such a situation can bring.
The author cleverly basis the structure of the novel on the journal; the reader pieces together Chris' story as she does - through reading the novel, through flashes of memories and through clues that are sprinkled throughout the plot. Our unease grows with hers as she starts to believe that somebody in her life is feeding her an intricate web of lies - but as observers we can rationalise this. Is the unease real or is it the result of a badly damaged brain?
I was surprised to find S.J. Watson is a man. The character of Chris is so well constructed that I had assumed the author was female. He is an English writer born in 1971 and he had enormous success with this, his debut novel which has become an international best seller. There are rumours that this book will soon become a film - and it is one that I look forward to.
Although an easy read, this book was well written, gripping, mystifying and one that I wholeheartedly enjoyed.
Published by Doubleday in 2011, the paperback has 372 pages.
I really enjoyed this book, it was unusual and kept me guessing all the way through.
It is the story of a woman named Christine who, following a trauma some years ago, has severe memory problems; each day when she wakes up she has forgotten who she is, where she lives, who her family and friends are and all the important events in her life. Her husband, Ben, strives to help her through each difficult day by arranging photographs of people and memories in places for her to look at each morning and by patiently reminding her of all she needs to know. However, Christine finds it difficult to know what is the truth and what her true memories are, not only that but who should she trust?
With the help of Dr Nash, she begins to try and repair her broken memory and finds a journal in which she writes every day in which she has instructed herself 'don't tell Ben' about her sessions with Dr Nash. But why?
It is a really well told story, very clever in the way the author, S J Watson, has paid attention to detail, and as I say it really does keep you guessing.
~~Before I go to sleep~~
"'As I sleep, my mind will erase everything I did today. I will wake up tomorrow as I did this morning. Thinking I'm still a child. Thinking I have a whole lifetime of choice ahead of me ...' Welcome to Christine's life." (Book description from Amazon.co.uk)
I saw this book in my local library on the new addition shelf and it immediately caught my eye. The cover is very striking with a picture of an eye this takes up the majority of the cover, there is something unnerving about this particular eye and I instantly knew that this book was going to be a thriller before reading the description on the back. I have studied Psychology at A level so when I realised the book was about Amnesia and its effects on an individual, I thought this was going to be an instant winner for me as I find anything psychological highly interesting. I decided to do some research into the book and found that it had been very successful, it has been translated into over 30 languages and is a best seller in many countries such as France, Canada, US, Bulgaria and the Netherlands. The book has also won man literary awards they are as followed:
Winner of the 2011 Crime Writer's Association John Creasey (New Blood) Dagger
Winner of the Galaxy National UK Thriller & Crime Novel of the Year, 2011
Winner of the Dutch Crimezone Debut of the Year, 2012
Winner of the French SNCF Prix du Polar prize for best Crime Novel, 2012
Winner of the Crimefest Audible Sounds of Crime Award for Best Unabridged Audiobook, 2012
The author of this book S J Watson is a British male author who has also written a book named Avant d'aller dormir. This book was a product of a writing course "Faber academy write a novel course". Ridley Scott has bought the rights to create the film and it has been said that Nicole Kidman could be playing the lead (Christine).
The story features the life of a woman who has amnesia and when she goes to sleep she loses all recollections of that day, she therefore decides to write a journal when it is suggested by her doctor, the journal is then conveyed through the book and it details the story from a personal perspective. I like the way in which the book was wrote however, that is perhaps the only thing I enjoyed! I was highly disappointed with this book especially after reading all the reviews and seeing how it had won so many awards, perhaps it is just me? I found the book to be quite repetitive, yes I know the woman had amnesia, but I was starting to wish I had it when it felt like I had re-read the same chapter 5 times over. The storyline overall was quite good especially with the clever ending, I just feel that the story could have been wrote in a better manner. A lot of the dialogue was followed by "he said" "she said", I would have thought there could have been many other ways to convey who was speaking without doing it so basically. Another annoyance of mine was the completely unnecessary sexual references (I am not a prude, I have recently read the Fifty Shades of Grey Trilogy!), however the way they were interjected into the story was completely out of context and ruined good parts of the story. An example being that when Christine was getting ready for an evening out, it began detailing her touching herself and it made me feel quite uncomfortable to be honest, I couldn't understand why this would have been put into a thriller as it was so out of the blue and wasn't like it fitted into the story at all. Perhaps this was to make it more interesting for the male audience because personally I think these "sex snippets" ruined what potentially could have been a good story.
I wouldn't recommend this book, but perhaps this is more down to individual taste. However, if you would like to give this book ago it can be purchased from most good book shops and also online. Amazon.co.uk sells the hardback used from 83p and the paperback for £3.86 new. The book can also be purchased for the kindle and is available for £3.47.
I would perhaps watch the film when it is released as it might be portrayed better and the sexual references may be dropped (hopefully), the director Ridley Scott will hopefully turn this average book into a blockbuster movie.
Hardcover: 368 pages
Publisher: Doubleday (28 April 2011)
Review also on Ciao under the same username.
***Why I chose this book***
I decided to download this book (I have a kindle) following a look at Richard and Judy's review. I wanted something different to read which would encourage me to read a bigger variety of books as I tend to stick to the same view authors and genres.
This is a fictional novel about a woman in her 40's who awakes every morning to find out she has lost the memory of the past 20 years following a bad accident. She then takes it upon herself with the assistance of a Dr to piece together her past. I don't want to drop any spoilers but would definitely say that the novel is more interesting that the summary made me think it would be...
As this is a reasonably new novel it is still quite expensive however it cost me approx £4 on Amazon for the Kindle and I think it was definitely worth it.
I would say that this novel is a "holiday read" in that it is good if you are looking for something interesting to read but quite light on the mind. Whilst it could be quite a hard hitting topic it isn't an upsetting read. I would definitely recommend this to a friend (I already have) but it is a rather light read.
Rating: 3 Stars
Being a big book lover, I couldn't help but notice the hype surrounding this book. It seemed to be everywhere! Having been heavily disappointed by such books that have received huge amounts of support before, I read quite a few reviews before getting hold of a copy. Still uncertain, but very curious, I went ahead and read it.
The basic story is that there is a woman who wakes up every morning to find that she is in a foreign bed in an unknown room. Moreover and most disturbingly, she wakes up each time next to a man whom she has no recollection of. So each day she must piece together the same story. This man is her husband, and she has been suffering from this form of amnesia for more than a decade. She is a 47 year old woman who only has vague recollections of her past and thinks that she is in her twenties. But the more she finds out about herself and those around her, the more she doubts what is true. Gradually she begins to piece together more and more, forming a detailed history of how she got there.
This outline sounds very promising and just like other readers, I was hooked quite quickly from the beginning. By the time I reached the middle however, I just felt that the story had been dragged out quite a lot and the ideas exploited too much. At the beginning I liked that she questioned things a lot, but at many points I just felt that it was a little bit overdone. From the half way point to the end, potentially the juiciest part of the book, it became a little too obvious for me. I felt that the drum roll moment was far too predictable, without writing any spoilers.
Aside from the predictability factor, there were other things that I didn't like the book. There were things that I felt strange about the novel, for instance it didn't seem very logical to me for her husband to let her wander off freely outside whilst he went to work. Granted that she has a developed adults brain, but she has only just been told who she is, where she is and what's happened (and then only briefly!). After these revelations...suddenly her husband has to go off to work! I also didn't like the ending. Not only did it seem a little abrupt given the previous long-windedness, but it almost seemed to read like a little bit of a cop out on the authors behalf from giving the story a proper finish. There were explanations that were given out quickly about the how's and the why's and all rounded up with a big, "maybe"!
Overall, a non-taxing read that has some nice little twists. Having read it once, it's really not a book that I'd want to read again. I didn't feel attached to any of the characters by the end, which I found quite surprising given what has happened to the main character. The story is quite predictable and a little too drawn out, which is a huge shame since the premise of the story had so much potential!
When I first heard about this on the TV Book Club I was intrigued and immediately added it to my Amazon wish list. Fast-forward a few months and I was delighted to receive it as a birthday gift. This is S. J. Watson's first novel and can best by described as a psychological thriller (as is hinted at by the staring eye on the cover).
== The premise==
When Christine goes to sleep, she forgets everything that has happened to her that day. Even more frighteningly, she has no memory of events before that day and wakes up every morning believing she is a young woman or even a child. Discovering her body is nearly 50 is always a tremendous shock; discovering the man sharing her bed is her husband, Ben, is an equal shock. She may not know who she is, but at least she can trust Ben. Or can she?
== My thoughts ==
I found the central concept reminded me of 'Memento', a film I absolutely loved, and I was keen to see how Watson would develop this premise.
I thought the opening chapter was chilling and effectively established the central themes of the story. Christine's fear is believable, given her situation, and portrayed convincingly as she 'discovers' who she is, without actually remembering her history or her present. Watson eases the reader into her world by dint of following her through a 'normal' morning which ends with a shock and an opportunity to learn a little more about her recent past. I defy anyone to put the book down at this point!
By the end of the chapter, Watson has introduced Ben, Christine and Dr Nash, who are the main characters in the story. I liked that Christine is not purely reliant upon Ben but has established another relationship, although of course she doesn't remember doing this and the story of her connection with Dr Nash has to be explained to her by him. This set-up encourages Christine's self-doubt and paranoia as she realises afresh each day that she cannot and does not fully trust either of the men who seem to hold the key to her past, especially when they begin to disagree. This helps to create a genuinely compelling read as the reader has to join Christine in questioning everything she has been told. Her desperate search for 'real' validation of the things she has been told is believable and makes her an extremely sympathetic character. It also helps that this is written in the first person.
This first chapter, headed 'Part One: Today', works as a kind of prologue to the main parts of the book and I felt that the structure worked really well. Later in the story I reread parts of the prologue in a new light and it all fit together beautifully. The second part of the book is in the form of a journal which means that the realism is lost slightly for me. This is because Christine does not just write what happens, but records entire conversations in minute detail. Personally, whenever I actually think about that, I find it jolts me out of the fiction I'm trying to engross myself in. however, this is a typical conceit and I do not imagine that most readers will find it problematic.
Watson's, and therefore Christine's, writing is easy and enjoyable to read with slight lyrical touches adding to the pleasant style. I found this story very easy to read and would have to make myself find a stopping point so that I actually got some sleep at night! Perhaps to help justify Christine's ability, Watson makes her a writer, too. This decision also helps to make the journal more convincing as a plot device.
As the story continues and Christine seems to take some steps towards knowledge and recovery, the sense of threat that has pervaded the novel from the beginning grows stronger. Is she paranoid or truly in danger? The plot twists as the story moves towards the end are daring and, I think, quite unpredictable. (It is difficult for me to say for certain as I confess to having cheated and peaked ahead a couple of times in my impatience!) There was only one point that I felt was a little unconvincing but it did not detract from what was, overall, a chilling denouement.
The ending works well in that there is a clear resolution in terms of Christine's relationships, but not in terms of her memory. I liked that Watson took a middle course and did not make the ending completely positive or negative. Given the events of the plot, ending at the point where he did made perfect logical sense and means that readers can make their own decision regarding Christine's prognosis.
The central issue of memory loss is one that Watson has researched, but because the only discussions about it focus on what is relevant to Christine, it never feels that the story has been put to one side in order to simply inform the reader about the issue. After reading this I read up on a couple of the characters that Christine's memory loss was inspired by and it seems that, despite the severity of her condition, Watson has not exaggerated: horrifying, lives like Christine's are possible, which gives the novel a real emotional depth.
This edition has some extra notes at the back: a set of reading group questions, a Q and A with the author, an explanation of the inspiration behind the story and a list of Watson's favourite reads. The reading group questions are fairly standard and simply encourage you to think about the issues and relationships explored in the story. As I was already doing that, I did not find them particularly helpful. The Q and A with the author was interesting, as was the explanation of her inspiration, although I certainly wouldn't buy this edition just to read those two extra bits. The list of the author's preferred reads I thought was rather irrelevant, but some may like this 'personal' touch.
One question I found particularly interesting was about whether or not Watson found it difficult to write from a female perspective. I have to admit that, insofar as I had thought about it at all, I had assumed that the author was female. This means I have to conclude that the author did a great job of writing from a female viewpoint, especially as the book does include some sexual content (nothing graphic or uncomfortable) and reflections by Christine on her attitudes towards sex, all of which seemed perfectly natural and in keeping with the rest of the story.
== Conclusions ==
I really enjoyed reading this and found it genuinely compelling as a quiet sense of menace built up throughout the story. I thought the structure worked very real and that the plot was convincing while being able to surprise along the way. I found the ending provided a good sense of closure, with enough of an 'epilogue' to feel that events were concluded satisfactorily. I think this is worth the £7.99 RRP, but I am sure it could be found elsewhere for less, especially as it has had so much publicity since publication. I have been informed that my own copy was purchased second hand and was therefore a bargain! I would definitely read this again, once there has been a long enough gap for my memory to forget all the details, and will be interested in Watson's next offering.
I tend the stick to my chick lit books and rarely stray away from my comfort zone! This way I have a good idea of what I am getting and chances are I will enjoy it and find it a light and easy read. One Saturday a couple of months ago I turned on the TV and The TV Book Club was on. I rarely watch this but the presenters and guests were raving about some particular book so I decided to leave it on and see what all the excitement was about. The book was 'Before I go to Sleep' by S.J.Watson. After grasping what the plot was about I decided it was something I had to read so I downloaded it onto my Kindle however I have only recently finished it as my 'to read' pile tends to be much larger than my realistic reading capabilities!
To plot begins first thing in the morning when Chrissy (Christine) wakes up. She rubs her eyes, rolls over and panics. Who is that man? She doesn't recognise him. Waking up a bit she glances round the room, she doesn't recognise that either. 'Oh no!' she thinks, shes humiliated and just wants to get dressed and get out. She creeps onto the landing trying not to wake the man and finds the bathroom. She is shocked when she goes to look into the mirror and sees lots of photos stuck around it. Pictures of her...pictures of the man with an older woman...she doesn't understand. She looks into the mirror and gasps. She has the face of a much older woman, she is not in her twenties as she woke up believing but looks at least forty. Chrissy is very confused and worried. She heads out of the bathroom, not sure what to do next.
The man is waiting for her, Chrissy is scared but when he starts talking to her his voice is soft and calm meaning that her anxiety levels begin to decrease. She is extremely unprepared for what this man has to say - his name is Ben, he is her husband, she had a car accident many years ago and as a result of this has lost all memory following the accident. Every day she wakes up not knowing who Ben is or what she has done with her life. They head down to the kitchen where Ben boils the kettle and begins to slowly tell Chrissy her story...
I decided I would like to read this book because, in addition to all the raving reviews it was getting, I have a very keen interest in mental health since being affected with mental health issues over the past year. I have recently embarked upon a Psychology degree so I thought this would be a good read for me. I did have high expectations for this book however I was also a little apprehensive at the same time because it is not my usual genre of book.
The story is told in the first person and from Chrissy's point of view. I really liked this way of writing and think that if it had been written in third person then the content wouldn't have been anywhere near as effective. By telling the story in first person, it allows us as the reader to really get inside Chrissy's mind and understand exactly how she must be feeling which is absolutely paramount to the plot.
I immediately loved the character of Chrissy. I felt very protective over her because of her illness and found it instantly recognisable she must have been. Thinking about her condition is absolutely terrifying and I often got lost in the story imagining how she must have been feeling. When I was suffering I was very vulnerable however I still had my memory. I cant begin to think how Chrissy must have felt, not being able to remember what happened just the previous day or even her birthday the year previously. I had a lot of sympathy for Chrissy and was sad to see how much of a loner she was - every day for her was the same, her and Ben get up, Ben goes to work and Chrissy might see her doctor, otherwise she will stay at home, alone. I found her to be isolated and alone for the vast majority of the book which to me, highlighted how much she really was suffering.
Initially I liked the character of Ben and thought how difficult it must be for him, having the calm his wife down every morning and explain that they did know each other, they were married and she was ill. However, as the book progressed Ben began to annoy me more and more! Initially it was just his attitude with Chrissy - he would sigh when she didn't remember things and when he got home he would spend most of his evening in his office leaving her alone for even longer. I understand it must be very difficult to be in a situation like Bens and it must be very testing, however I just wished he was a bit kinder and more open with Chrissy.
The plot had me hooked from the start as I realised pretty quickly that not everything was as it seemed. I willed the plot to progress so I could discover exactly what was going on and also to see if Chrissy's condition ever improved. Some sections of the plot were a little slow and it seemed as though more could have been integrated into the story to make it a little more exciting to read but on the whole I thought it was a very interesting plot and I was eager to see what would happen. My favourite (and to me, most exciting) part of the plot was the last third or quarter of the book because the plot was really picking up pace here and I was desperate to see how the plot would conclude and if my predictions had been correct. There are a number of opportunities throughout the plot for you as the reader to make assumptions and predictions concerning what may happen. These are good as it really integrates you into the story and often you find that one minute you are predicting one thing and the next you are thinking that no, that cant possibly be correct.
The writing style is informal and informative. A lot of the plot focuses on what is going on in Chrissy's mind but it also contains a lot of conversations which are helpful to allow the reader to see Chrissy's relationship with others.
The ending of the book was brilliant and I was hooked and couldn't put it down. I did have a sort of idea about how the book would end however there was a big surprise that I wasn't expecting and also smaller shocks and surprises along the way which really helped to keep my focus, making me desperate to uncover what was going to happen. The ending also left us on a bit of a cliffhanger so it would be great to see a sequel.
The book is written by S. J. Watson.
It was published in 2012.
The publisher is Black Swan.
It has 384 pages.
The book is available both to download and to purchase. The kindle price is currently £3.46 whilst the paperback is £3.87 (Amazon).
The book is currently being made into a film.
This was a book that had me hooked and I found the plot extremely interesting and I am so pleased that I decided to sway away from my preferred genre. I'm hoping and praying there will be a sequel as I am desperate to see what happened next! I wholeheartedly recommend this book to everyone - even if this isn't your preferred genre as it is a real eye opener.
The main character in this book, wakes up each morning with a 'stranger' at her side. Slips out of bed unnoticed, and finds the bathroom in this strange house, and looks into the mirror, where she discovers she has aged by decades overnight. Interesting start to anyone's morning.
I read this book in a day, couldn't put it down.
Whilst being very well written, what makes the book is the level of suspense which is created within the first few pages and which is built on throughout. As the pages flew by it became obvious that there would be a twist in the tale, then the reader starts their guesswork. The twist however is not as one might have predicted.
The dust-jacket quotes Tess Gerritsen (author of The Silent Girl etc), as saying 'Quite simply the best debut novel I've ever read'. I am inclined to agree.
Great read. Five Star recommendation.
I bought this on my Kindle after seeing it on the Top 100 and I've recommended it to about nine people so far, it's excellent! I couldn't put it down and read it in about a day and half. It's captivating, intriguing and the twists are so unexpected.The book centres around a woman who loses her memory every day after she goes to sleep as keeps a journal recording the days events. The format of the book allows the reader to feel everything that the character feels and you get more sucked in with every page. The whole book, and your emotions towards certain characters, changes at one moment which really draws the reader in. I would recommend this book to anyone who likes thriller books, or who just wants a good read!
For me this was one of those books that made me go 'WOW' because the story was just so clever and captivating I couldn't put it down. It really makes you question certain morals and how peoples minds work when faced with such a situation. The concept of the diary is brilliant throughout the story, contributing the great structure.
I really do not understand why someone would get bored by this book as it is truly brilliant! I really felt each emotion of the characters throughout the twists and turns in the story.
Watson creates an absolutely captivating situation where the character struggles to trust anyone, questioning everything throughout her progress in her situation.
I very rarely get so drawn into a book, but with this I did. It is a very satisfying book that evokes strong emotions and makes you captivated and sustained throughout.
This is a must read for anyone interested in books!
I was drawn in by the premise of this book as something a bit different.
Christine wakes up every morning having forgotten her recent past. She doesnt recognise her husband Ben, her life.. even herself! She discovers a journal she has been writing to fill in the gaps and starts reading it, then discovers a message to herself.. "Don't Trust Ben!" What is it that shes forgotten??
As someone with a bit of an overactive imagination this book really got me thinking.. what would this be like? And the ultimate test for me with any book is does it keep me reading? This really did as the shadows under my eyes after staying up to finish it one night proved.
Its not going to set the world alight as some great work of fiction, but it is readable and will keep you on the edge of your seat for most of it, though I did find to the end it became a little more predictable.
I read quite a few books each month. On average about one a week and always tend to go for the same type of books - detective / murder / crime, etc. I decided I needed a change even though I really haven't ever found a genre that really captivates me. Rather than going for the usual authors, I thought I'd try someone new on a recent visit to Smiths. Before I went I decided to see what was out there and what was recommended. I decided to look on Richard and Judy's book club as I'm always hearing friends recommend books from their website. I instantly liked the sound of this one and what Richard and Judy had to say about it, with Judy saying: 'Before I Go To Sleep is a jolting, sometimes terrifying exploration of what it is like to lose one's memory, utterly and completely'.
The story follows Christine Lucas who suffers from amnesia. We are told that she had an accident and subsequently each night has her memory erased so when she wakes up each morning she believes she is either a child or still in her twenties (before the accident) and has no idea who the man lying in bed next to her is. Nor can she comprehend the reflection she sees in the mirror each morning, of a 40 something woman with wrinkles, thinning hair and generally not the younger looking version she expected. The book sometimes reads as a novel but other times takes on the form of Christine's journal, which she uses (from the recommendation of her doctor) to help log her memories in an attempt to recover them each day. She painstakingly logs her memories and rereads them the next day. Tension does seem to build after she discovers an entry which simply reads 'Don't trust Ben' (her husband). I found the journey to this point quite slow, as it really does read like Groundhog Day with much repetition each day to get her to a point of reading the journal and trying to build on her memories.
The book was written in a slightly strange style. I mentioned earlier that it takes on the form of a journal; however it isn't (in my opinion) written in this way and seems to just be a continuation of the book with a date at the start of the chapter. There are parts when tension is building and in my opinion would have been written in short, sharp sentences rather than long and descriptive narration. In the author's defense, Christine was once a published writer however; it just didn't seem believable that she would be writing in this way (especially if she had to read it every day!). For this reason, I feel the book was mainly padded out rather than having much substance.
I thought I had figured the book out by the mid-point way, and I had to some extent, but there was still a twist that I wasn't expecting, all be it I found many flaws with the plausibility of the ending but I can't go into them as I'll give the whole thing away! I can't with all honesty say I will be looking out for this author again, nor will I be telling people to rush out and immediately hunt this book down. What I will say is that it has an interesting concept, but the way in which it is executed could have been improved. I am perhaps the only person to think this of the book as it has currently been at the top of the UK Sunday Times bestseller list for 5 weeks.
Currently for sale on Amazon for £3.86 for the paper version or £2.39 for the Kindle edition.
When Richard and Judy appeared on The One Show recently to promote the launch of their book club for this year, they mentioned Before I Go To Sleep written by S J Watson, which is one of their choices. Out of curiosity, I looked it up on Amazon and apart from a few dissenting voices, the reviews seemed to be very favourable. At £2.70 for the Kindle edition I felt the premise of the story was interesting enough to be worth buying it.
Christine Lucas is a middle aged woman but every morning she wakes up in a strange room, in a strange bed, next to a man she doesn't know and she thinks she's a young woman. When she catches sight of herself in the mirror, she's horrified to see a much older face than she expects and one she doesn't recognise, only the eyes seem familiar. When the strange man wakes, he tells her he's Ben, her husband and that she had an accident when she was 29 which damaged her brain in such a way that each night as she sleeps her memories are wiped away and every morning she has to be told who she is and about her life before she lost her memory. When Christine sees a new consultant about her condition, he advises her to keep a diary and then one morning, after a call from her doctor, she opens the diary to read the words 'Don't tell Ben' and Christine is plunged even further into a confusing world where she's unsure just who to trust and whether they are friend or foe.
Although the premise of this book isn't a particularly new one, it's certainly different enough to make a welcome change from the usual psychological thriller and I've found in the past that Richard and Judy's recommendations tend to be enjoyable reads. This one was no exception.
The story is told from Christine's perspective so the reader only ever gets to see events as she experiences them. As an older woman myself, I've experienced mornings when I've woken up feeling young and lovely and got the shock of my life when I catch a glimpse of myself in the mirror so I immediately felt a great deal of empathy with Christine. However, unlike her, my memories come flooding back very quickly, hers don't.
S J Watson, somewhat surprisingly, is a man. I say surprisingly because men who can write from a female perspective, or indeed even choose to do so, are pretty rare. I felt the author did a fairly competent job at replicating a female psyche and the Rip van Winkle elements were interesting and thought provoking. For instance, when Christine looks in the food cupboards, she sees food she's never heard of such as Arborio rice and cous cous. Her food memories are of what was eaten over twenty years ago. I did find it strange that Ben did all the cooking and housework, however, as Christine wasn't physically incapable and surely her memory loss wouldn't result in not knowing how to cook, even if at a basic level. Another thing which pinpointed the fact that this was a man writing about a woman was that when Christine examines herself in the mirror, she initially fails to notice she has stretch marks. I don't think there's a woman alive who wouldn't immediately spot her own stretch marks. Something of an elementary mistake, my dear Watson!
When Christine meets up with the doctor who claims to have been treating her for several weeks, she discovers more about herself and it appears that she's only recently returned home to live with Ben. She also learns that her condition is rare and the doctor tells her she has severe impairment of her episodic memory but confesses that a condition where memory is lost overnight doesn't tally with what the medical profession know about how human memory works. When the doctor hands her a journal which he claims she's been keeping in secret, Christine discovers that not only has she been seeing the doctor without Ben's knowledge but when she reads the book she realises that the man who has told her he's her husband is someone she doesn't trust.
Having set the scene, the author then allows the reader to read Christine's journal along with her. We discover how she lost her memory, that she'd been working as a secretary, despite having a PhD, and that she has some brief flashes of memory from her previous life, all of which are carefully noted in her journal and hidden from Ben. What we don't know is whether these snippets of information are fact or fiction. As the journal progresses, the web of intrigue grows and in many ways the reader is as confused as Christine. Is Ben who he says he is? There is photographic evidence but Christine doesn't think the relationship feels right. 'To me he was a stranger; though intellectually I knew we got into bed together every night, had done so since we were married, still my body had known him for less than a day.'
The author very cleverly builds Christine's personality as the book progresses. In the beginning she's a blank page, exactly like her mind, but as we read through her journal a picture of who she was begins to emerge and more and more questions about her marriage to Ben arise. Very conveniently, no photographs exist of their wedding day because most of their personal possessions were lost in a fire at their home shortly after they married, or so she's told. Is it the truth? She doesn't know and neither do we and we feel just as fearful as she does, especially as she discovers more information about her life which Ben has been withholding.
As Christine is the narrator, everything is experienced through her eyes which on the one hand limits the story but on the other helps to build the psychological tension in a way that wouldn't be possible if the novel had been written in the third person. Just when I thought I had a handle on Ben or Christine's early life, something would happen to completely pull the rug from under the argument. This novel is full of plot twists and turns which left me every bit as confused as Christine.
If I have any beef with this book, it's the ending which I just didn't find very convincing, however, on the whole I enjoyed this novel. There are some glaring anomalies, especially with regard to the fact that someone so obviously damaged is allowed to leave hospital, but it's a compelling read nevertheless and I found it almost impossible to put down. As a psychological thriller, it's not exactly frightening but certainly gave me a distinct feeling of unease and I couldn't help but wonder how I would feel and react in a similar situation.
This book is currently available in paperback from about £3 and the Kindle version available for slightly less.