Thursday, March 12, 2015

Bookish Thoughts: Before I Go to Sleep by S.J. Watson

"As I sleep, my mind will erase everything I did today." ~ Opening of Before I Go to Sleep


Before I Go to Sleep by S.J. Watson
Harper, 2011
Crime Fiction (Thriller); 359 pgs

From the Publisher:
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 only be telling you half the story.  
Welcome to Christine's life.
If you have ever seen the romantic comedy 50 First Dates, you might be familiar with a similar type of amnesia Christine Lucas suffers from. Every day she wakes up, not really knowing where she is, surprised to find she's middle aged and has lost the memories of  the majority of her adult life.  With the help of a doctor, Dr. Nash, she begins keeping a journal, trying to piece together the life she cannot remember and perhaps try to build memories she can retain.  Is her husband, Ben, who she has no memory of at all, keeping secrets from her, telling her half truths or outright lying? What about Dr. Nash, who has asked her not to tell Ben about him, and wants to write a research paper about her, really in it to help her or just to use her?

This is one of those books that is difficult to talk about without risk of spoiling something. Unlike the movie, 50 First Dates, this is not a romantic comedy by any stretch, but rather a thriller.  There's a sense of foreboding that develops over the course of the book as the reader and Christine learn more about the memories Christine has lost.

As Christine begins keeping a journal, she has doubts of its truth in the beginning which I think was a nice touch by the author to create authenticity. And I liked the questions raised about whether Christine is actually beginning to remember or if she is creating memories because of what she's written in her journal. There is also the question of how much of the flashes of memory Christine does have are truly memories or confabulation, stories she invents or distorts to make up for her lost memory. It makes her an unreliable narrator in a sense.  But one you desperately want to believe.

It took me a little while to get into the rhythm of the novel as I began reading, but once I did, I was engrossed in the story, finding it difficult to put down.  S.J. Watson is good at building suspense as the pieces of the puzzle are collected and begin to fall into place.  While not completely surprising, the climax was nail-bitingly intense--and satisfying. I can see why so many sing the praises of this book. I enjoyed it quite a bit.

Rating: * (Good +)

To learn more about S.J. Watson and his books, please visit the author's website.

Source: I bought an e-copy version of this book for my own reading pleasure.


© 2015, Wendy Runyon of Musings of a Bookish Kitty. All Rights Reserved. If you're reading this on a site other than Musings of a Bookish Kitty or Wendy's feed, be aware that this post has been stolen and is used without permission.

38 comments:

  1. Even the cover looks creepy on this one Wendy. Glad that you enjoyed it.

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    1. Diane - It was definitely one in which the creepiness factor creeps up on you.

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  2. I'm intrigued by this book as I've heard a lot if good things about this book. I may want to read this at some point. Thanks for your lovely review, Wendy!

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    1. Melody - I've wanted to read it for awhile now and am glad Athira inspired me to do so.

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  3. Yep, this one was a good one. I laughed when I saw you started with the 50 First Dates comparison. I was thinking "What?" and then realized where you were going. No, this book is not a comedy of any sort, but the condition is the same. I think as I remember the tension builds and builds and then toward the end, you read compulsively. Or I did anyway. Are you going to see the movie? I'm thinking about it.

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    1. Kay - Yes, it's nothing like 50 First Dates. :-) Definitely by the end, I didn't want to put the book down.

      I do want to see the movie, although I'm not sure when.

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  4. I'm thinking of putting this one my TBR; it's sounding more unique than I first thought. Glad to hear the ending is satisfying as it's something you definitely want in a book like this.

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    1. Charlie - I can't say I was terribly surprised by this one in terms of uniqueness, but I did enjoy it.

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  5. I've wondered about this one, but was creeped out by the idea of waking up each morning to a new world. Now, I'm much more curious about this book!

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    1. Jenclair - It's really a scary thought, isn't it? You're so dependent on those around you, not being able to remember much of your recent past.

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  6. I guess I should have given this a fair shake. I had borrowed it from the library last year, read the first few chapters and didn't connect with it, so I returned it unfinished. Glad it got much better and you really enjoyed it.

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    1. Rita - I don't know if you would have liked it more as you continued, but it does start off slowly and is kind of repetitive in the beginning.

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  7. Oh this looks good! I liked the possibilities of the amnesia when I saw it on 50 First Dates but didn't love the movie. I'll have to add this to my TBR.

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    1. Katherine - I thought it was a good thriller--kind of creeps on you as you read. I hope you like it if you give it a try.

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  8. I only skimmed your review, because I'm thinking about reading this soon, and I want to go into it knowing as little as possible. :-) I'll save this link for after I've read the book.

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    1. Irene - I hope you enjoy it. I am hoping to watch the movie at some point. It will be interesting to compare the two.

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  9. I enjoyed this one when I read it and have the second book by this author ready to go on my kindle. They made a movie from this book and did a pretty good job with it but the book is definitely better. As always :) But I watched it after watching Gone Girl so it was extra disturbing lol.

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    1. Samantha - I will have to look for the author's second book. I think I saw that the movie was coming the Netflix streaming this month. Then I might actually be able to see it sooner than later.

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  10. I've been wondering about this one for a while. You've definitely convinced me that it's worth a read!

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  11. I've seen positive reviews on this one. Thanks for the post

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  12. Glad you enjoyed it! I listened to it years ago and can you believe I can't remember what exactly happens at the end? I remember a hotel and that's about it. LOL! Ok...as I type things things are starting to come back to me. I tried to get Scott to listen to it (with me) on a recent roadtrip but he wasn't quite as intrigued.

    Will you see the movie?

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    1. Trish - I hope to see the movie at some point. Not sure when though. This would be an interesting one to listen in audio format. Especially with the right narrator.

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  13. This sounds captivating--it's such an interesting premise--but it's probably too intense for me! I don't do well with thrillers.

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    1. A.M.B. - I thought it was interesting. I can't imagine what it must be like to live with amnesia like that--or with someone suffering from it.

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  14. This sounds fantastic! I've read several books lately with unreliable narrators, due to memory problems, and I'm really enjoying it as a story device.

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    1. Bea - I like a good unreliable narrator but haven't read too many with memory problems. I'm definitely interested in exploring more though.

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  15. I am glad that you enjoyed this book! I didn't like it too much - I thought it was a little too predictable, but it was a thrill to read!

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    1. Athira - The twist wasn't a complete surprise, but so often I guess what will come next that it doesn't bother me all that much when I do. It's just extra wonderful when I can't figure it out.

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  16. I read this one on holiday a couple of years ago and it was a great holiday read, glad you liked it too.

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    1. Lindsay - It would be a good one for a vacation. :-)

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  17. I've been meaning to read this one. I really should get around to it.

    P.S. - At the end of the post you've mixed up the author of the book with S.J. Bolton.

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    1. Nikki-Ann - I hope you like it when you do read it.

      And thanks for the heads up. I don't know why, but I'm always mixing up those two authors' names.

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  18. Sounds intense and intriguing! I love crime fiction, especially when you don't know exactly if you can trust the story itself.

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    1. Jillian - Those are often my favorite types of thrillers. :-)

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  19. I've wanted to read this one when it came out but I never have the time :(

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    1. Stacy - I know what you mean. I've had this one on my Kindle for awhile.

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