Monday, May 30, 2011

Before I Go to Sleep: A Review

Before I Go to Sleep
By S.J. Watson

The subject of memory, or the lack there of, is the premise of this debut psychological suspense. Christine wakes up every morning shocked by her surroundings. Sometimes she is a small child, at others a twenty-something university student, but never is she the middle-aged woman that appears in the mirror. Christine suffers from a form of amnesia slightly similar to that made famous in the film Memento; every time she falls asleep she loses her memories; an affliction that has haunted her (although she does not know it) for twenty years. Her life and memories rest within the hands of her husband Ben, a man she has no memory of.

We are all liars. We change the past in our minds to save ourselves the pain and humiliation of past deeds and events. We alter the good and make it better to heighten our sense of euphoria. We dampen the bad on occasion, but sometimes we blow it up, making it far worse than it was in reality. We are the masters of our own minds, memories, and thoughts—at least we think we are, but sometimes we are fooled by our own psyches, tricked into believing the fantasies we’ve created, and never able to draw the truth from beneath the layers of deceits and half truths we have fed ourselves. This concept is one, which makes the premise of Before I Go to Sleep so compelling. Christine cannot discern what her truths are, she has no memory, only brief snippets from her life, rarely the same each day, to guide her. When she begins, at the behest of her doctor, to record her thoughts and snippets of remembrance in a journal, the question for both her and the reader becomes, “how much can you trust yourself not to manipulate the truth”.

As Christine, with the aid of her journal, begins to “remember” more she must choose who she can trust—herself, her friend, husband, or doctor—because she has remembered something and someone is willing to kill her to ensure her memory never awakens again.

The thrill of this novel is that the reader only ever knows as much as the narrator. Christine’s life unfolds for us as the pages of her journal, Watson keeps us just as much in the dark confusing world of Christine’s memories as he does with Christine herself. I do have to say that I figured a few elements out rather early, but Watson did enough misleading, to lead me on a few different paths, none of which were remotely close to the final outcome. Watson weaves an interesting tale, he deftly handles the horror of Christine’s situation, sucking the reader into her fears, and the panic and utter terror that we would all feel in her situation. An impressive debut, one sure to hook readers quickly and successfully.

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