My Thoughts About Before I Go To Sleep by S.J. Watson (Book Review #61)

I’ve been eyeing this book for quite some time now and so when I saw this book on secondhand bookstore I grabbed it. By reading the synopsis at the back of it I know I’ll be on a psychological roller coaster ride and indeed, it’s gripping read with unexpected twists and turns.

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This is a story of a 47-year old woman, Christine Lucas, who has this kind of amnesia that she got during a traumatic “accident” 18 years ago that only allows her to store memory for only a day. Her memories are wiped out entirely overnight. Her brain auto-deletes everything once she goes to sleep. Everyday she must relearn everything about her life from scratch, including where she is, who’s the person beside him who’s claiming to be her husband, who are the pictures taped on their restroom and why she has two phones on her bag. She wakes up believing that she’s still this twenty-something woman with a lot of years ahead of her and not this old and wrinkled woman when she’s in front of the mirror.

Every morning she receives a phone call from Dr. Nash, a memory disorder specialist, who helps her manage if not cure her amnesia. The doctor has taken interest with Christine’ case as it’s unique. It’s Dr. Nash who advised her to keep a journal and write everything that happens to her everyday but not let her husband know about it and even let her husband know that she’s meeting him as Ben is very protective of Christine when it comes to dealing with doctors. Everyday Dr. Nash calls her to remind him of who he is, what they both have been working at, their meetings and about the journal. The journal became the lifeline to her past. Everyday she reads it and everyday she discovers a lot of things, things that keeps digging deeper to who she really is. Her being a wife, a friend and a mother.

We’re constantly changing facts, rewriting history to make things easier, to make them fit in with our preferred version of events. We do it automatically. We invent memories. Without thinking. If we tell ourselves something happened often enough we start to believe it, and then we can actually remember it.
― S.J. Watson, Before I Go to Sleep

Aside from her loss of memory, Christine also struggles from her loss of identity. It became hard for him to connect to anyone. He always doubts herself and her judgement. As the days gone by, as entries and entries are being entered on her journal she began doubting her husband which became her primary dilemma on the book. She feels that she’s in love with this man but why can’t she feel totally connected to him? Why is he hiding things from her that only her journal lets her know? Why are there entries on her journal that are not different from what this man is telling him including having a child, publishing a novel and the whereabouts of her friends? Is that to protect her, or is that to keep things from her? As the days past by Christine began experiencing snapshots of the past and suspicions began to grow and that’s where the plot thickened.

The book is written in three parts. The first part is written in first person present tense point of view. It’s the introduction of the book where Christine woke up beside a man he doesn’t know who introduced himself as her husband. The second part is of Christine’s journal which has the most number of pages. The point of view is told as Christine narrates what’s happening around her, what she’s doing in the morning, relearning everything and struggle to accept her situation. The last part takes place after Christine has read the journal and found out everything. It includes the ending so I’ll not talk about it here.
I later learned, after finishing the book, that the author was a man. All this time, while I was reading the book, I thought that the author was a woman and he was very effective for a female voice. For that, the author deserves another kudos for that.

I cannot imagine how I will cope when I discover that my life is behind me, has already happened, and I have nothing to show for it. No treasure house of collection, no wealth of experience, no accumulated wisdom to pass on. What are we, if not an accumulation of our memories?
― S.J. Watson, Before I Go to Sleep

The book has this creepy-thriller feel to it. Secondary characters Dr. Nash, husband Ben and Christine’s friend Claire added spice to the book as they gave me confusion if they really really with Christine’s side or not. The book will make you guess as to who among who claims to know her is telling the truth. The author was able to make the characters grow but not loosing the focus with Christine’s struggles to always, everyday, build a foundation to her life.

The author was also able to balance out the thrill throughout the book. The author was able to provide readers with a well researched theme by not at any means being too confusing. I believe that it worked because of the author’s choice of words and how the pacing went. Watson was able to gave the book depth but not too much to become overwhelming. The author was able to work seamlessly with the complex theme. The author was able to make me feel how it’s like to be a stranger in your own life everyday.

The author also provided exceptional writing by the way the he made people guess whether what the main character is thinking is all just in her head or are they really real making the book very engaging. I, myself, also doubted Christine when she started thinking about paranoia and also some of the character’s intentions and motives.

The only problem that I had with the book is that at some point it’s a bit dragging and sometimes repetitive (considering that Christine has to remind herself the things that we already previously read.) The book though doesn’t always go the details whenever Christine wakes up and has to go through the same re-orientation of herself again but that part bored me sometimes.

What are we, if not an accumulation of our memories?
― S.J. Watson, Before I Go to Sleep

The ending may not satisfy other who’s looking for a solid ending but it satisfied me nonetheless. I totally recommend this to anyone who enjoys reading psychological thriller type of books.

4 stars out of 5.

P.S. I later learned, only after finishing the book, that the author is a man. All this time, while I was reading the book, I thought that the author was a woman because he was very effective for a female voice. For that, the author deserves another kudos.

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