Before I Go to Sleep by S.J. Watson

Source: Public Library
Audiobook, 11+ hours
On Amazon and on Kobo

Before I Go to Sleep by S.J. Watson, narrated by Orlagh Cassidy, chronicles the disjointed life of a woman who has lost her memory in an accident.  Each night, while she is sleeping, she loses all her memories of her present and past.  She remembers her life up until about her 20s, but only the journal she keeps helps her remain grounded in the life and the husband she no longer recognizes.  This is a fast-paced debut novel that examines the role that memory plays in how we identify ourselves and our own happiness.  Christine Lucas is a writer who is struggling each day to remember her life before an accident wiped out her memories, an accident she doesn’t even remember.  As she begins keeping a secret journal and meeting with Dr. Nash to try some treatments to regain her memory, dark secrets about her life, her past, and her current situation bubble to the surface.

Watson has carefully crafted a character adrift in her own life, and while some of the details are needlessly repeated as she wakes from sleep each morning and struggles to remember her life, readers are swept up in this mystery.  As the book is told from Christine’s point of view, the reader has only her knowledge to draw conclusions from, and this can be frustrating.  While the cues are there to unravel the mystery beforehand, readers will likely enjoy this crazy journey as well as become frustrated with the main character’s stupid decisions from time to time.  There are times when reading the journal should have taken much more time than it seems to, which would have left her little time to do much else in a day, especially for someone who wakes up with a blank slate every morning.

Before I Go to Sleep by S.J. Watson, which was out October book club selection, was an interesting debut, and it did mirror the feel of the movie Memento, but the ending was disappointing and some parts in the middle dragged a bit.  While this is fast-paced toward the end when everything starts to fall in place, there could have been further editing in the middle that would have tightened this up more and made it even more thrilling.

A note about the narrator, her voice really grated on my for some reason and she seemed to lose the tone when speaking as a male character, slipping back into Christine’s voice, which made it hard for me to follow along at certain points.

About the Author:

S J Watson was born in the UK, lives in London and worked in the NHS for a number of years.  In 2011 Watson’s debut novel, Before I Go to Sleep, was released to critical acclaim. It has now been published in over 40 languages, and has become an international bestseller, winning numerous awards.   The movie of Before I Go To Sleep, starring Nicole Kidman, Colin Firth and Mark Strong, is due for worldwide release in Autumn 2014. Watson’s second book is out in Spring 2015.

What Book Club Thought (Beware of spoilers):

Most of the book club felt that this was a quick and entertaining read, even though many of us didn’t think the mystery was much of one.  The writing was well done for the most part, and with it being made into a movie a few people expressed interest in seeing it, either on video or on Netflix, etc. I personally thought a better twist would have been to have Dr. Nash be her son. While one person couldn’t even get into the book at all.  There was quite a bit of repetition, which may have grated on people early on, but when a main character has no ability to make new memories, they tend to repeat things.

73rd book for 2014 New Author Reading Challenge.