Before I Go to Sleep (Watson)

Before I Go to Sleep
S.J. Watson, 2011
HarperCollins
368 pp.
ISBN-13: 9780062060556


Summary
S. J. Watson makes his powerful debut with this compelling, fast-paced psychological thriller, reminiscent of Shutter Island and Memento, in which an amnesiac who, following a mysterious accident, cannot remember her past or form new memories, desperately tries to uncover the truth about who she is—and who she can trust. (From the publisher.)



Author Bio
Birth—1971
Where—Stourbridge, England, UK
Education—Uiversity of Birmingham
Currently—lives in London, England


Steve "S. J." Watson is an English writer who debuted in 2011 with the thriller novel Before I Go to Sleep. Rights to publish the book have been sold in 37 different countries around the world and it has gone on to be an international bestseller.

Watson was born in Stourbridge, in the West Midlands. He studied Physics at the University of Birmingham and then moved to London, where he worked in various hospitals and specialized in the diagnostic and treatment of hearing-impaired children. In the evening and weekends he wrote fiction.

In 2009 Watson was accepted for the first course Writing a Novel at the Faber Academy. The result was his debut, Before I Go to Sleep. He was introduced to literary agent Clare Conville on the last night of the course and she agreed to represent him. The book was published in 2011. In the same year it was announced that the book would be adapted for the big screen by Ridley Scott.

Media interest in Before I Go to Sleep was considerable and Watson himself was the subject of a profile in London's Sunday Times before its UK publication and The Wall Street Journal before its US publication. Watson has been profiled and interviewed by numerous other media outlets, print and broadcast. (From Wikipedia.)



Book Reviews
The summer’s single most suspenseful plot belongs to Before I Go to Sleep, by another debut author, S. J. Watson. Its heroine, the middle-aged Christine, is the spookiest amnesiac in a season that’s full of them.... Mr. Watson has written this as pure page-turner — though stories as high-concept as this tend to begin more excitingly than they end.
Janet Maslin - New York Times


Imagine drifting off every night knowing that your memories will be wiped away by morning. That’s the fate of Christine Lucas, whose bewildering internal world is rendered with chilling intimacy in this debut literary thriller.... You’ll stay up late reading until you know. (Four stars.)
People


(Starred review.) Memories—real, false, and a bit of both—are at the heart of British author Watson's haunting, twisted debut. Christine Lucas awakens each morning in London with no idea who she is or why she's in bed with a strange man, until he tells her that his name is Ben and they've been married for 22 years. Slowly, Christine learns that she has amnesia and is unable to remember her past or retain new memories: every night when she falls asleep, the slate is wiped clean. Dr. Nash, her therapist, has encouraged her to write in a journal that she keeps secret from Ben. Christine realizes how truly tangled—and dangerous—her life is after she sees the words "don't trust Ben" written in her journal, whose contents reveal that the only person she can trust is herself. Watson handles what could have turned into a cheap narrative gimmick brilliantly, building to a chillingly unexpected climax.
Publishers Weekly


Christine Lucas suffers from a rare form of amnesia as the result of a vaguely defined accident. Each night as she sleeps, her near-term memory is wiped clean, and she awakens knowing little about who she is, where she is, or with whom she lives. Every day her husband, Ben, shares with her the same carefully rehearsed story of their long marriage and gently encourages her struggle to remember. She keeps a journal at the recommendation of her doctor and reads it each morning. As the journal grows, Christine begins to suspect that Ben is not telling her the complete truth about her accident, their son Adam, her successful career as a novelist, or the fire that destroyed the collection of family photos that might help her remember. It is only when she reconnects with an old friend that she learns the truth and escapes her increasingly frightening and violent captivity. Verdict: This debut novel takes an intriguingly fresh look at the amnesia-focused psychological thriller. Though the climax seems a bit hurried, this is nonetheless a captivating and highly suspenseful read, populated with believable characters who lead the reader through a taut, well-constructed plot. —Susan Clifford Braun, Bainbridge Island, WA
Library Journal


(Starred review.) This mesmerizing, skillfully written debut novel works on multiple levels. It is both an affecting portrait of the profound impact of a debilitating illness and a pulse-pounding thriller whose outcome no one could predict.
Booklist


(Starred review.) Watson’s debut novel unwinds as a story that is both complicated and compellingly hypnotic. . . . Watson’s pitch–perfect writing propels the story to a frenzied climax that will haunt readers long after they’ve closed the cover on this remarkable book.
Kirkus Reviews



Discussion Questions
1. Christine doesn’t feel a strong sense of love for her husband, but wonders if that is normal after so many years of marriage. Do you think it’s inevitable that a marriage changes in this way?

2. Christine says that feels like an animal. Living from moment to moment, day to day, trying to make sense of the world. Do you think this is what it must be like to be in her situation? Do you think animals really have no sense of their past? Is the abililty to remember years gone by all that separates human beings from animals?

3. Christine doesn’t feel she achieved all of her childhood ambitions. She feels disappointment in the life that she has made for herself. Is this common for a woman as she approaches fifty years of age? Do you think she is right to be disappointed, or were her childhood ambitions unrealistic?

4. How important is memory to our sense of identity? What are the events in your life that have been important to in shaping who you are? Can you imagine what it might be like if you couldn’t remember them? How would you be different as a person?

5. Christine can’t remember Adam, or Claire. She can’t remember her wedding day or writing For the Morning Birds. Have these people and things changed her personality anyway, though, even though she can’t remember them? Is not remembering something effectively the same as it not having happened?

6. What are Dr Nash’s feelings towards Christine? Do you think he is behaving in a professional manner? He says he is writing up her case – are his motives for helping her entirely selfless? Is he being completely honest with her?

7. Do you think that Christine’s affair is out of character for her? Why do you think it happened? Why do you think she risks her marriage? Does she treat her husband well? And Mike? Was she being fair to him?

8. Christine believes Ben doesn’t tell her about Adam so that she doesn’t get upset. Would he be right to do this? Or does she have a right to know about him no matter how painful that knowledge might be? Are there other examples of people keeping things from Christine ‘for her own benefit’? Do you think this is ever the right thing to do?

9. Towards the end of the book Nash calls round at Christine’s house, but she can’t remember asking him to, even though he says she did so earlier that morning. Do you think she did so, but then forgot? Or is Nash lying to cover up the fact he had come uninvited?

10. Do you think Christine feels like a sexual person? Do you think she would be nervous about sex, and about her own body? Do you think every sexual experience would feel like the first for her? Does her husband have a right to expect her to have sex with him, even if she feels she has never met him before?

11. Did you like the ending? Did it represent closure for you? What about Christine? Do you think she will remember what happened to her when she wakes up?
(Questions used with permission by the author and found on his website, sjwatson-books.com)

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