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Before I Go to Sleep: A Novel Paperback – February 7, 2012
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Amazon Best Books of the Month, June 2011: Every day Christine wakes up not knowing where she is. Her memories disappear every time she falls asleep. Her husband, Ben, is a stranger to her, and he's obligated to explain their life together on a daily basis--all the result of a mysterious accident that made Christine an amnesiac. With the encouragement of her doctor, Christine starts a journal to help jog her memory every day. One morning, she opens it and sees that she's written three unexpected and terrifying words: "Don't trust Ben." Suddenly everything her husband has told her falls under suspicion. What kind of accident caused her condition? Who can she trust? Why is Ben lying to her? And, for the reader: Can Christine’s story be trusted? At the heart of S. J. Watson's Before I Go To Sleep is the petrifying question: How can anyone function when they can't even trust themselves? Suspenseful from start to finish, the strength of Watson's writing allows Before I Go to Sleep to transcend the basic premise and present profound questions about memory and identity. One of the best debut literary thrillers in recent years, Before I Go to Sleep deserves to be one of the major blockbusters of the summer. --Miriam Landis --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
“An exceptional thriller. It left my nerves jangling for hours after I finished the last page.” (Dennis Lehane)
“Imagine drifting off every night knowing that your memories will be wiped away by morning. That’s the fate of Christine Lucas, whose bewildering internal world is rendered with chilling intimacy in this debut literary thriller. . . . You’ll stay up late reading until you know.” (People (4 stars))
“The summer’s single most suspenseful plot belongs to BEFORE I GO TO SLEEP. . . . pure page-turner.” (New York Times)
“Quite simply the best debut novel I have ever read.” (Tess Gerritsen)
“Memories—real, false, and a bit of both—are at the heart of Watson’s haunting, twisted debut…. Watson handles what could have turned into a cheap narrative gimmick brilliantly, building to a chillingly unexpected climax.” (Publishers Weekly (starred review))
“This mesmerizing, skillfully written debut novel works on multiple levels. It is both an affecting portrait of the profound impact of a debilitating illness and a pulse-pounding thriller whose outcome no one could predict.” (Booklist (starred review))
“An intriguingly fresh look at the amnesia-focused psychological thriller. . . . A captivating and highly suspenseful read, populated with believable characters who lead the reader through a taut, well-constructed plot.” (Library Journal)
“Watson’s debut novel unwinds as a story that is both complicated and compellingly hypnotic. . . . 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.” (Kirkus Reviews (starred review))
“A deft, perceptive exploration of a fascinating neurological condition, and a cracking good thriller.” (Lionel Shriver)
“Brilliant in its pacing, profound in its central question, suspenseful on every page and satisfying in its thriller ending.” (Anita Shreve)
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Top Customer Reviews
I really wanted to like this book. It was almost good, had so much potential but fell utterly flat. It wasn't exceptional, brilliant, amazing, or any of those words used by other writers on the book's jacket describing this debut novel. It was, in my opinion, a decent try.
About Christine, who wakes up every morning with zero memories, and how she goes through her days trying to piece her life together to figure out what happened to her. So promising!
Firstly, what bothers me is that in the beginning, her journal has DON'T TRUST BEN written on it. That is never described in detail or delved into- why did she write that to herself? When did she write that? Why would she not go into detail as to why Ben shouldn't be trusted? So, she finds that message, and then doesn't bring it up or question it again until the end of the story. If I was in this scenario Christine was in, that DON'T TRUST BEN would be a huge red flag I couldn't ignore!
And don't get me started on the description of Christine. I'm reading how this woman is describing herself as "the hand gripping the soap is wrinkled. The skin on my cheeks sags, thin lips with a mouth turned down. Skin around the eyes is lined, sagging." I'm thinking, okay this lady must be at least 60. No, no she is 47. And apparently a very rough looking 47.
It's all borderline repetitive, too. "I love my husband, I trust him" "he's lying, what is he keeping from me? I don't remember him", she bounced back and fourth every few pages, which wasn't terrible because nothing else was really going on. I didn't start WANTING to read the book until the last 60 pages. Everything up until that point was me hoping something would happen to keep me on. Very boring, very uneventful.
And what's this about an EXPLOSIVE ending? EXPLOSIVELY PREDICTABLE is more like it. I could see it coming before I was halfway through the book. Horrifically drawn out, I think most people kept on reading because they were hopeful the ending really was explosive...
I also don't understand how she can go years, I mean yearrrrrrrs, without being able to remember or hold onto past events- her memory is so bad she literally has no idea how old she is, who her husband is, or where she lives- but suddenly she goes to the place she lost her memory and it all comes whooshing back- and then at the end we are left with her falling asleep, but don't find out if she really gets to remember it all? Yes, it's a cliffhanger, but not a very good one after that's what I've wanted to know the last 300-something pages. Not to mention the ending was thoroughly rushed. The reader ends up hardly satisfied- like with no explanation as to how Mike dies. Claire is just like "oh yeah he's dead but hey you're fine and here, meet your son". The son! The whole damn book is Christine crying about her son and then she finally meets him, and it's lasts like two sentences.
It also doesn't make sense to me how Christine is writing in her journal to remind herself of her life, for when she wakes up the next day. If I was to write myself a journal of extremely important things to remember, I wouldn't moan on in between about the weather, how someone's hair was, the meal we ate- I'd get to the point! "You were in a car accident. You had a son, he is dead. For pictures, go here. There aren't more pictures because of a fire several years back." Like come on, it's so unrealistic that you'd write to yourself "the sky was beginning to cloud over, the streets looked gray, somehow flattened out"- well yes, that's because the street IS flat AND gray.
If this book was half the length, I wouldn't be as irritated. But it's over 300 pages and I mean it when I say nothing "gripping" happens until the last 60 pages. Before I Go To Sleep is nothing more than a waste of time.
I loved the plot of this book! I hadn't read anything with a similar plot before, and thinking about living life that way made me feel sort of claustrophobic. I can't imagine losing all of my memories for a 20 year period, and having to trust everyone around me to fill me in.
Shortly after the book begins, we start to learn that Christine's husband Ben isn't telling her the truth about everything. Why is he lying? Is he doing it for her own good? What is he hiding? Christine asks herself all of these questions, and by the end of the book, she has her answers.
Without spoiling anything, I thought I had this book all figured out and then BAM! a twist I didn't see coming! Maybe I was the only one, but it definitely wasn't what I expected to happen, and I loved it!
I really enjoyed this book. The only thing keeping it from being a five star review for me is the fact that I sometimes had a hard time keeping track of which parts of the book were Christine's journal entries and which parts were actually happening. The writing was the same in both formats, which made it a little tricky when they weren't clearly outlined. That said, I still loved the book and can't believe it was a debut novel from this author.
“What our we if not an accumulation of our memories?”
How terrifying would it be to wake every day in a room you do not recognize? To see a man you do not know. To look in the mirror and see the face of someone 20 years older than you think you are.
For Christine Lucas, in Before I go to sleep by S. J. Watson, this is the life she lives every day. “My mind was empty. Scooped out.” According to her husband, Ben, she had an accident: She was hit by a car. She lost her memory. She has lived this way for 20 years.
Twenty years of waking up with no memories of any of her life. Starting over every day.
Terror. That is how I would describe it.
She has, unknown to Ben, started seeing Dr. Nash who has encouraged her to keep a journal. He calls her each day and reminds her of where it is. She reads it and blanks are filled in to the holes in her memory. For that day. The journal seems to be helping.
But one day when she opens it there is a message written in her own hand:
“Don’t trust Ben.”
She is torn between the glimpses of memory that she has written down and the things that Ben tells her each day. Should she trust him? There is no one to ask. No one to verify the facts of her life, except Ben.
With a conclusion that I absolutely did not see coming, this book made me really think about the things that we take for granted every day: Our lives, our families, and our memories.
When I began reading Before I go to sleep by S. J. Watson, I had an experience not unlike Christine Lucas, the main character. There was something that I thought I remembered about the story line. But I could not put my finger on it.
There were small clicks where I felt I had read this story before. So I finally followed Christine’s advice and did a little research. There was a 2014 movie starring Nicole Kidman and Colin Firth. Aha! I remembered seeing it. But I didn’t remember how it ended. And besides, everyone knows the book is always better!
So I continued to read. And I am so happy that I did!
I highly recommend this book if you are looking for sheer suspense. For an ending that is more than twisted.