Oh. My. God. S.J. Watson’s Before I Go to Sleep is amazing. Read it, read it, read it. But first, and trust me on this one, make sure you have a few hours to spare. Sleep kept me awake till 2:30 am.
My tweets while reading:
May 18th, 4 pm: Engrossed in ARC of S.J. Watson’s Before I Go to Sleep. Out in June, watch for it. Incredible so far.
[I stopped reading for a few hours, then decided to read just a bit more when I went to bed around 11 pm…]
Midnight: OMG, the twists keep coming. S.J. Watson’s fault if I sleep super late tonight.
1 am: Literally gasped out loud while reading.
2 am: I knew it! I knew it!
2:05 am: Holy crap. I didn’t know anything after all. Chills.
That was when I realized I should just stop live tweeting my reading experience before I flooded my followers’ feeds with even more “Aha!” and “Oops.” moments.
How much do I love this book? And why do I love it so much? Check out my full review on Savvy Reader or read below.
S.J. Watson will be reading at Harbourfront Centre, Toronto, June 22nd.
Or check out this Vizme token to see an excerpt, a bit about the author and other cool stuff.
[I just noticed that my review has been archived on the Savvy Reader site, so I’m republishing it here.]
Before I Go to Sleep is pure psychological thriller. Christine wakes up in a strange bedroom beside a middle aged married man she doesn’t recognize. It is only when she goes to the bathroom and sees her hand that she realizes that her skin is wrinkled, and that she too is wearing a wedding ring. She sees photos of herself, twenty years older than she thought she was, taped to the bathroom mirror. She also sees photos of the man from the bed, labelled “Ben, your husband.”
Ben explains that an accident eighteen years ago has destroyed her memory. While she can usually remember things that happen during the day, she will have forgotten them by the time she wakes up the next morning. She sometimes gets flashes of memories about her childhood, but most of her life is a complete blank. When Ben leaves for work, he says, “I love you, Christine. Never forget that.”
I thought Sleep was going to be an emotional, heart breaking tragedy, and in many ways it is. What if you lose your memories every time you went to sleep? There are events and people I remember vividly — sometimes, the most random of things, like riding the spinning teacup when I was three. Then there are events I remember, but am not too clear on the details. Memories are notoriously unreliable, and I love the security of looking at photos and knowing that that moment, at least, was real. To lose even the most tenuous hold on memory, to look at photos and have them evoke no sense of recognition, to have lost the last two decades of your life — I don’t even want to imagine how that would be like. In one scene, Christine is angered by Ben’s seeming indifference to a past event. Then she realizes that, for Ben, the emotions have already scabbed over, years before. Yet for her, emotions will always be raw, because she will always, every day, be experiencing them for the first time. So Christine’s condition is tragic; the last sentence in the book almost made me cry.
But Sleep isn’t just a beautifully crafted drama. Christine receives a call from Dr. Nash, who tells her she’s been his patient for a while now. He returns to her a journal she’s written, from which Christine reads about her past, but as disconnected from it as if the journal were a work of fiction. How much can we trust this journal, when Christine herself can’t remember writing it? More importantly, why does she have snippets of memories that don’t agree with what Ben has told her about her past? Are these real memories, or has Christine created them herself? Is Ben lying to her, and if so, is it just because he wants to spare her pain? Who are these people she remembers, who seem so familiar and yet whom she can’t identify?
Watson takes us right into Christine’s mind, and I, at least, was just as confused as she was. I’d think I knew who to trust, and what the truth is, only to find out later that I was wrong. As readers, we have a bit of an advantage over Christine — unlike her, we don’t have to begin from scratch with every new day in her story. Yet, even with that advantage, I found myself frustrated, dying to know more, wishing I knew the truth. Watson depicts very vividly how much more frustrating it must be for Christine.
Before I Go to Sleep is a powerful, gripping, and yes, tragic, psychological thriller. I didn’t want to go to sleep when I was reading it; I just kept wanting to find out more. I also found myself getting caught up in Christine’s fear and paranoia; I certainly didn’t want to go to sleep with that kind of mindset.
More importantly, however, the title perfectly encapsulates Christine’s own, much more urgent, desire not to fall asleep yet. Each slumber is a kind of death. We expand our life by building on our memories; Christine must live as full a life as she can each day, because she starts completely from scratch again the next. And she must do this while dealing with potential half-truths and lies from people she has no choice but to trust.
Trust me: read this book.