“What are we if not an accumulation of our memories?”

Before I Go to Sleep - S. J. Watson

Opening line: "The bedroom is strange. Unfamiliar. I don't know where I am."


Really, really enjoyed this one (thanks Tamster) even though suspense/thrillers aren’t my usual genre. The premise here reminds me of the movie 50 First Dates -girl wakes up each morning with no memories of the previous day(s) and essentially relives each new day as her first, being told about her accident and looking at photographs of her missing life. This isn’t a comedy though. The story here is dark and mysterious, with an impending sense of everyone/everything is not as it seems. As the reader you have the task of trying to figure it out who the bad guy is, who’s lying to Christine and why. I didn’t figure that out or see the big twist coming until I was right on top of it, so this was a super fun read for me.
                                     
At times the story does get repetitive because we’re continually in Christine’s head, being retold or reading and relearning everything from her journal over and over again. By the same token the first person narrative also got to be a bit much but really this couldn’t have been written any other way.

 

We begin with Christine waking up in a stranger’s bed. She can’t remember how she got there but her twenty-something self tells her that she must have hooked up with the man at a party. Christine is not hung over though and soon learns that she’s no longer in twenties either but from the same decade as the middle aged man washing up in the bathroom. And now he’s telling her that he’s her husband Ben, and that she suffered a devastating injury resulting in a rare form of amnesia, leaving her unable to retain memories from one day to the next.

 

Left alone Christine begins to putter about the house, what does she do all day anyways? Does it matter? She soon receives a phone call from a man claiming to be her Doctor; he explains that she has been keeping a journal and where it is hidden. It is through this journal that Christine begins to piece her life back together, forming a fragmented picture from those she is supposed to trust. But not everything adds up and as the days go by and the journal entries get longer Christine realizes that she is receiving two different versions of her life from her Doctor and her husband.

 

Relying completely on the journal Christine begins testing her husband and finally doubting herself as confusing memories return. Are they real? When the last day’s journal entry reads “Don’t trust Ben” who will she turn to? What is the truth?

 

I found this scary and sad in the sense that Christine has lost 20 years of her life. Imagine being in college and waking up at 45! Repeating the same day over and over, not knowing what is real, just relying on those you think you can trust. Realizing that you’ve probably been having the same conversations, asking the same questions and being told the same horrible truths (lies) every day.

 

This was a great read, it’s not perfect but made me stop and think. It has also been optioned for film by Ridley Scott’s production company. And I think it will make a fantastic movie.