Title: Before I Go to Sleep
Author: S. J. Watson
Synopsis (Courtesy of Powell’s Books):
“‘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. . . .’
Memories define us.
So what if you lost yours every time you went to sleep?
Your name, your identity, your past, even the people you love—all forgotten overnight.
And the one person you trust may be telling you only half the story.
Welcome to Christine’s life.”
Thoughts: At a certain point in time in Before I Go to Sleep, a reader will find his or her heart racing, breath quickening, and eyes frantically darting across the page in an effort to read faster. This reaction has two causes, only one of which is the taut drama created by S. J. Watson as a woman searches to unlock the mysteries behind her past. The other cause is much more subtle and much more masterful. The end result is a psychological thriller that delves into the idea of identity and how memory is or is not tied to one’s sense of self.
To lose one’s short-term memory is bad, but to lose both one’s short-term and long-term memory is cruel and unusual torture. In Christine, Watson has created a heroine that is living a life of horror. To wake up each and every day not knowing who the man in bed with you is, in unfamiliar surroundings, actually older than you think you are, is simply terrifying. This is what faces Christine each morning upon waking. Her fears, her questions, her struggles to figure out just what has happened and to comprehend her loss each and every day become the reader’s fears and struggles and confusion through Watson’s deft writing. A reader becomes anxious to learn and uncover the truth in harmony with Christine’s own urge to find herself. It is easy to lose oneself in this novel.
What makes Before I Go to Sleep so captivating is the realization of just how vulnerable one is without any memories. Who does one trust? Better yet, how can one even begin to trust knowing how easy it would be for someone to take advantage of the situation? Still, can one go through life without trusting anyone, include oneself? This is that slowly dawns on both the reader and Christine as she reads through her journal in an effort to remember. Part of her struggles are the constant battle between Christine’s need to believe in her husband and her fears that he is withholding a key truth. This is a fascinating give-and-take that drives the story’s momentum and builds the tension immensely.
Watson has made it very easy for a reader to empathize with Christine. This empathy, more than anything else in the novel, is what propels the story and creates a majority of the suspense. This is a result of Watson’s tremendous writing, making this debut author one that is not to be missed. Even though Before I Go to Sleep was just released, I cannot wait to see what else Watson has in store for readers.
Thank you to NetGalley for my e-galley!