Saturday, 18 February 2012

Before I Go To Sleep

Title: Before I Go To Sleep
Author: S. J. Watson
Pages: 384 (paperback)
Published: January 2nd 2012
Published by: Black Swan

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.

She wakes up not knowing who she is, or who the man sleeping next to her is. Assuming a drunken one-night stand, she creeps into the bathroom to escape and instead finds herself decades older than she was expecting and a mirror surrounded by photos of her with a man she doesn't recognise.

Christine is suffering from both retrograde and anterograde amnesia: she has forgotten most of her life from before the accident which caused it, and has been unable to retain new memories ever since. She is a stranger to herself, and lost in her own life. You can't help but feel sorry for Christine and Ben for what they have to go through every day.

We join Christine as she begins trying to piece her life together and we are just as lost as she is. We only know as much as she can remember and there always great swathes of time left unexplained. Unremembered. The tension built through this is wonderful and I read this book in a matter of hours because I wanted to know what had happened. Having said this, the beginning of the story was a little slow because of this as we establish what has happened. Necessarily, the same past events are covered on multiple occasions. Watson skims over them a little more after the first instance, but it's still slows the story a little as you're relearning things you already know even if this happening is necessary to the story.

Another problem I had with this book was that we are told Christine has often woken up still believing she was a child, and indeed see one day where this was the case. While it is only her episodic (autobiographical) memories which are affected, I had some trouble with the way this was done. I felt it should have had more of an impact on the way she handled the situation she found herself in and the language used by Christine but this may be me being a bit finicky. There are a couple of others things in a similar vein which didn't quite sit right with me but I won't go into to avoid spoilers.

The entire time I was reading this book theories of what had happened were floating through my head as half-memories begin to return to her. But just when you think you've got it worked out, something else will come up making you question it. Another memory. Something someone says.  A photograph. The end of the book sorts everything out beautifully and the climax is incredibly tense.

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