Tuesday, June 28, 2011


First line: "The bedroom is strange."

Everyday Christine wakes up to remember nothing of her adult life. She wakes up with a strange man in her bed who is actually her husband. She wakes up in a room she does not recognize. She has to learn each day who she is.

Christine is also seeing a doctor, Dr. Ed Nash. He has convinced Christine to start keeping a journal each day. And then each day he calls to remind Christine of her journal, so she can reread the previous days and write in the present. Little by little, the journal helps Christine to know who she is and to uncover the secrets she has buried deep in her subconscious mind.

BEFORE I GO TO SLEEP is an extraordinary debut novel. Told from the perspective of Christine, mostly through the pages of her journal, the reader stays as much in the dark as the narrator. Just as Christine relies on her husband Ben and her doctor to know herself, we rely on the scribblings in her journal to know who she is. This creates a great sense of suspense and to some level, anxiety. While Christine is afraid to go to bed at night because she will once again forget who she is, we are afraid to close the pages of the book not knowing what is coming next.

That sense of not knowing what comes next also contributes to the reader being able to empathize with Christine. Most of us reading this book have never had to deal with no recollection of our adult selves. How can we empathize with a situation so foreign? By experiencing it, in a sense, through the story structure. Watson does an exemplary job of depicting Christine's experiences and emotions as she would feel them as opposed to how an outsider would observe her experiencing them.

And overall the story looks at the theme, "What are we, if not an accumulation of our memories?" What kind of an existence does a person have if everyday he/she wakes up with a blank slate?

My only disappointment of BEFORE I GO TO SLEEP came in the conclusion. It was not a bad conclusion, but compared to the extraordinary body of the novel, the ending was very ordinary. I will leave my comments at that to avoid any spoilers, but I'll open up this question to the comments (please don't give away the ending): if you've read the book, did you feel at all let down by the ending, did you predict the ending or did you think it was in line with the rest of the story and it was just amazing?

BEFORE I GO TO SLEEP is a debut you should check out. S.J. Watson is an extremely talented suspense writer and I foresee great things from him. BEFORE I GO TO SLEEP is just the beginning!

My review of BEFORE I GO TO SLEEP is part of the TLC blog tour. Check out the other blogs participating in the tour for a variety of views on this novel. You can also check out the BEFORE I GO TO SLEEP Facebook page.

BEFORE I GO TO SLEEP is available in hardcover from Harper (ISBN: 978-0-06-206055-6) and is also available as an audiobook from Harper Audio, narrated by Orlagh Cassidy (ASIN: B0055QAF54)


Jenn's Bookshelves June 28, 2011 at 7:57 AM  

I agree with your review; the ending was definitely the weakest point of the book. That said, it didn't change my opinion of the book as a whole.

Thomas Pluck June 28, 2011 at 9:52 AM  

I passed on this one because the plot seemed similar to Memento, the movie. Does it stand well enough on its own? I'm on the fence.

Janet Rudolph June 28, 2011 at 10:36 AM  

Yes, I loved this debut novel, but the ending was rushed and predictable; whereas, the body of the book was not. Nevertheless, placing it on my top 10 first novels for the year.

djskrimiblog June 28, 2011 at 12:55 PM  

It sounds like an amazing debut, and I always enjoy stories about people whose memories are worse than my own ;)

So despite the ending, I´ll think about this one.

Julie P. June 28, 2011 at 4:38 PM  

I just finished this one and I really enjoyed it. BUT I totally agree with you about the ending. Almost anticlimatic in a way because I found it to be predictable. Still loved the writing though.

Kay June 28, 2011 at 4:46 PM  

Well, I probably sort of found it predictable, but not completely as I still was sitting literally on the edge of my seat. I liked what you said about the structure of book. At first, I found the repeated days and getting the journal and whatnot a little irritating, but then I thought it was brilliant. We were experiencing as much as we could what she experienced. Regardless of the ending, I was edgy and grumpy and would have snapped if my husband had interrupted me! He didn't as he is a smart man who have been married to me for so long that he knows the signs. LOL

TNelson June 30, 2011 at 9:11 AM  

I also loved this book though I agree with you, the ending was a bit weak. Lots of twists and turns kept me reading and I found it hard to put down. I kept trying to imagine what it must be like to live her life. I wonder if this has ever happened to a real person?

heathertlc July 1, 2011 at 1:39 PM  

I can't imagine having my memory wiped every night - I'd literally NEVER want to go to sleep. How horrifying!

I'm sorry that the ending didn't turn out to be as good as you'd hoped but I'm glad you enjoyed the rest of the book. Thanks for being on the tour.

Penny July 1, 2011 at 4:42 PM  

I really got into this book this week when an abridged version was read as the radio 4 extra book at beachtime, but did feel let down by the ending. I felt it was a bit predictable, and I also wasn't a fan of how it was left a bit open-ended. I feel I invested emotionally in the novel (I didn't sleep well last night as it was left on a cliffhanger and not concluded until today), but was then cheated of a final conclusion. Others may prefer to be left to their own conclusions, but I'd prefer to know for sure.

Leslie July 3, 2011 at 2:16 AM  

I still want to read this one even though a few people are disappointed with the end.

And now that I see Orlagh Cassidy (one of my favorites) is the audiobook narrator I may listen instead of read.

Jen July 5, 2011 at 10:21 AM  

Thanks for weighing in everyone! I completely agree that the ending should not keep anyone from reading it. The experience is still very much worth it. It's a great debut.

daniel pattinson July 7, 2011 at 5:42 AM  

I have been looking for this kind of book.really find interesting and insightful.Everything else you describe, makes it seem like a book I'd love.I loved this book for the beauty of the writing
Such a truly powerful book and a beautiful testament to the impact that mere words can have!
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Danmark January 21, 2012 at 2:24 AM  

Before I Go To Sleep is a must read for suspense thriller fans. The story of a woman who wakes up every morning unable to remember her life and finding an ominous note in her journal not to trust her husband sets up a thriller with the tension building up to a head in the exciting climax. If you have seen Vertigo and felt the building tension, especially in the second half of the film, you will experience that same kind of suspense in this wonderful book. The book is paced brilliantly and fascinatingly puts you right in the mind of the troubled character. If Hitchcock were alive he would have loved this story.

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