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Author: SJ Watson

Title: Before I Go To Sleep

Publisher: Doubleday

Hardback: 366 pages

ISBN: 978-0-857-52017-3

Price: £12.99

Publication Date: 28/04/2011


It probably says a lot about me – and not in a good way – that whenever something is effusively praised [whether it is a book, film, or anything else in the cultural sphere], I tend to get very wary and look for reasons to dislike that thing. See, told you it wouldn’t show me in a good light! So, when everyone – and I really do mean everyone – began to wax lyrical about SJ Watson’s debut novel, Before I Go To Sleep, my first reaction was rather cynical. It can’t be as good as everyone is saying, I thought to myself.

I was wrong.

There, I’ve said it [and it’s not something that I admit to very often – as my family and friends will testify!]. For Watson has produced a great psychological thriller; one that entirely justifies all of the praise that has so far been heaped upon it. And the fact that this is his debut publication makes it all the more amazing.

The book revolves around Christine Lucas, a woman suffering from severe impairment to her episodic memory. But, unlike most people with severe memory loss, Christine is able to remember things for a number of hours – it is only when she goes to sleep that she loses all of the memories that she has built up over the course of the day. If it sounds rather like a Sophie Hannah novel or Memento, then that is because they have undoubtedly influenced Watson. But Before I Go To Sleep is very much its own novel, and never falls into the trap of aping its influences.

From the opening chapter, when Christine wakes up in a strange bed next to a man she does not know [but who turns out to be her husband of almost three decades, Ben], the book is suffused with an almost clammy sense that things are not as they seem. And after Christine has found the memory diary that she keeps, with ‘DON’T TRUST BEN’ scrawled on the front, I found that I constantly questioned everything that happened or Christine was told, and that I was deeply suspicious of every new character as they entered the pages.

Because Before I Go To Sleep really is that type of novel, the kind that engrosses you from the off and manages to get reel the reader in so that you emotionally invest, not only in the plot, but also in the plight and vulnerability of Christine.

Apart from a slightly far-fetched conclusion [here I am rather grasping for any sort of ‘criticism’, because it is still a real edge-of-your-seat denouement – even if one that  is somewhat unlikely], this was a brilliantly written and creepily atmospheric read. Quite how Watson will follow up this amazing debut will be really interesting to see, but if he sleeps on it then I’m sure everything will come good … or maybe not!
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