Sunday, January 15, 2012

Before I Go To Sleep a rewarding, complex thriller

Book 6: Before I Go To Sleep by S.J. Watson

Each morning, Christine awakes to a mystery. 

She is much older than she knows herself to be. She does not know the man sleeping next to her. She is unfamiliar with the room she wakes to.

Christine has not only forgotten what she ate for dinner the previous evening. She has forgotten everything that happened to her the previous day. And the day before that. And before that. She has forgotten years. Decades.

The man in bed next to her – her husband Ben – patiently explains that years earlier she suffered a devastating brain trauma when she was struck by a car while walking to work. Now, each night, as she sleeps, her memories are erased.

Christine remembers her childhood. She remembers fragments of her life as a young woman, but almost everything else has been swept clean.

But there is another mystery that inhabits Christine’s life.   Soon after S.J. Watson opens her provocative first novel, we learn that Christine is keeping a journal.  A few weeks earlier a doctor had shown up on her doorstep. “I think I can help you,” he tells her. The journal is part of her therapy, and the key to unlocking the mystery that envelopes her.

The journal seems to help Christine reclaim lost memories. It also leads to the discovery that Ben is lying to her. She wasn’t hit by a car, but severely beaten.  She didn’t work as a secretary, but had reached her long-desired goal of writing a novel. Ben claims the couple was childless, but Christine remembers a son. 

Why is Ben lying? And why has she written, in bold letters, “Don’t Tell Ben” on the first page of her journal?

What does Christine really remember and what is only her imagination? What’s more trustworthy, the written words she has committed to her journal? Or Ben’s quiet assurances?

Through the slow, yet steady accretion of information in her journal, a reconnection with her long-lost best friend and her doctor’s patient counsel, Christine slowly begins to realize that something is horrifically wrong with her life; something more than the nightly erasure of memory. 

It is a credit to S.J. Watson’s skills as a writer than the reader’s revelations keeps pace with Christine’s.  Her dawning awareness, her growing horror – are also our own.  Like Christine, we must patiently let the mystery come to us, allow the accumulation of facts to unveil what the mind has hidden.

The reader quickly dismisses any doubts about the implausibility of the of premise of Before I Go To Sleep – the nightly erasure of Christine’s memory – as they are enveloped in superbly plotted thriller of stunning complexity. 

A thriller that will have you rooting for a woman determined to reclaim her life and to guarantee that the evil that has stolen her past and present will have no claim on her future.

1 comment:

  1. I really enjoyed this one too! I don't consider myself much of a thriller reader, but after enjoying this novel so thoroughly, I'm reassessing. I'm glad you liked it so much too!