Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Before I Go To Sleep

Before I Go To Sleep is a 2011 psychological thriller by S.J. Watson, his debut novel. I found it in the mystery section at my local bookstore. I had never heard of it before I happened to pick it up there, but now I see it's an international bestseller translated into at least 40 languages. It won all kinds of awards, including the Crime Writers' Association John Creasey (New Blood) Dagger Award. It has been adapted for film.

The book develops gradually, but not slowly. It's a relentless press towards a climax. I can't explain how edge-of-the-seat this one is. I read it through 2 movies the family was watching on DVD, and I read on into the night unable to let go of it. I can understand how irresistible it was to film it. I bought it because once I started it in the store I couldn't put it back on the shelf. Compelling.

from the book jacket:
"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.
The L.A. Times says, "Having read the book once I was compelled to read it again, enjoying the special pleasure of noting clues missed or misinterpreted the first time. Certain books are so good that they remind you of the vast pleasures good writers can give you if you're willing to pay them attention." The Independent calls it "an enjoyable and impressive first novel." Kirkus Reviews calls it "a story that is both complicated and compellingly hypnotic" and concludes, "Watson’s pitch-perfect writing propels the story to a frenzied climax that will haunt readers long after they’ve closed the cover on this remarkable book."

The Guardian says,
The structure is so dazzling it almost distracts you from the quality of the writing. No question, this is a very literary thriller. It reifies books as memory boxes, dispatches from the dead. It also has – and expects its readers to share – a delicate appreciation of the links between fabulation (that is, the writing of stories that violate readerly expectations) and confabulation (the creation of false memories and experiences by a damaged brain). The most unnerving aspect of Before I Go to Sleep is the way it is rooted in the domestic, the suburban, the trivial.


  1. I've heard of page turners, but I was surprised at how much you appreciated and was drawn to this book. When I began reading the blurbs, I kept thinking it sounded like a lot of other movies or books, with Ground Hog's Day (comedy) or Shutter Island (thriller) coming to mind. However, if you give it such a great review, I'm going to look for it at my library and my bookstore.

    1. It's not like Ground Hog Day, but I'm not familiar with Shutter Island so can't say about it. I saw things from the protagonist's view in this one, and she remembers nothing when she wakes up each morning. To be so dependent on one person to define your identity and your relationships... scary, intense.

  2. Oh goodness, with your great review this one goes to the top of the list. Off to check my online library. Thanks.


    1. I hope you like it.

      The film stars Nicole Kidman, Mark Strong, and Colin Firth. It was released late last year and is available on dvd, but I haven't seen it.