Review: Before I Go to Sleep

I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review: Before I Go to SleepBefore I Go to Sleep by S. J. Watson
Published by Harper on June 14, 2011
Genres: Contemporary, Mystery, Thriller
Pages: 359
Format: eARC
Source: NetGalley

'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 loveā€”all forgotten overnight. And the one person you trust may only be telling you half the story. Welcome to Christine's life.

Before I Go to Sleep is not the type of novel I ordinarily read, but the reviews looked good and I wanted to try it. I am definitely glad I did, although it’s one of those stories so painful that it’s hard to say that I really ‘liked’ it. However, it was very well done and the writing was skilled. The story is told over the course of just one day. It starts out with Christine awaking in the morning, getting filled in by Ben and his leaving for work. Then, she receives a call from Dr. Nash that tells her to find her journal, which she (and the reader) then reads, filling us in on the past couple weeks. Once done with that, the focus returns to the present. This narrative style worked very well, much better than if it had been told solely through journal entries.

At first, the story reminded me a lot of the movie 50 First Dates with Adam Sandler. In that movie, this same type of memory loss is portrayed as cute, almost a good thing, because they can fall in love anew every day. Before I Go to Sleep is much more realistic. As you see the world through Christine’s viewpoint, you can really imagine just how terrifying it would be to wake up and not know anything about where or who you are, how devastating it would be to look in the mirror and find yourself twenty years older, how difficult it would be to really trust anyone or anything, even your own words, when you have no memories to back them up, and how impossible it would be to do anything, by which I mean that there is no way you would really be able to hold a job. You would have to be utterly dependent on someone else, which super sucks since you don’t know if you can truly trust them.

The psychological aspects of this were incredibly arresting. Putting yourself inside that character is horrifying. Even though it is hard to really bond with Christine (she has trouble bonding with herself, because she doesn’t know who she is, and she has definitely, in her past, done some rather bad things), you cannot help feeling for her and hoping that things will get better. It is so sad how helpless someone is without their memory.

I will also forewarn you that this book has scary moments and is, most definitely, a thriller, although much of the book isn’t like this. Again, I do not much like thrillers, but I think this one was well done; the clues were laid successfully and, even though I could mostly see it coming, it was still shocking just because it’s hard to believe such awfulness happens. This is a must read for folks who love psychological thrillers or those who have an interest in the importance of memory.

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