Before I Go to Sleep (Review)

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Before I Go to Sleep
S.J. Watson, 2011
363 pp.

Book Review by Molly Lundquist
February 2014
Christine Lucas wakes up every morning to a strange man in her bed—with no idea who he is or how he got there. More disturbing: a different woman peers out at her from the mirror, much older than the one who looked back at her the night before.

For Christine, each night's sleep wipes out all memory of the previous day. Every morning for the past 20 years—since the hit-and-run accident—she must relearn her world from scratch: the husband beside her, the house she finds herself in, the clothes she wears, and most of all herself.

The sense of utter helplessness, childishness—at times terror and frustration—is beautifully drawn here. "I am floating," Christine thinks, "completely without anchor, at the mercy of the wind." S. J. Watson reminds us that the self is not a self without memory; if we have no past, we have no present, no understanding of who we are. Identity depends on what we remember.

Before I Go to Sleep recounts Christine's journey to reclaim her past and herself. Fortunately, her husband Ben is a patient, loving guide, along with young Dr. Nash, a neuropsychiatrist interested in her case. At his behest, Christine begins to keep a diary of what she learns from one day to the next. Yet there is a caveat—"DO NOT TRUST BEN" appears on the first page.

That notation, as well as the gradual memories that begin to surface, create doubts in both Christine's mind and the minds of the readers. Is Ben duplicitious...or is he being protective of his wife's fragile state? Is Christine paranoid...a condition to which she's prone? And what role does Dr. Nash play in all of this?

Watson's taut, well-paced psychological suspense story will grip readers from page one. You may see the end coming...or you may not. Whether you do or don't...it's a terrific ride all the way.

Colin Firth and Nicole Kidman star in the upcoming movie to be released in October of 2014. But you'll read the book first, right?

See our Reading Guide for Before I Go to Sleep


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