Before I Go To Sleep is an impressive debut by S. J. Watson. It’s begins with a young woman waking up in bed and not knowing who or where she is, or who the older man next to her might be. Racing to the bathroom, she looks in the mirror and finds a person looking back at her that she doesn’t recognize, an older version of herself. She sees pictures on the mirror of this older self with the man in the bed.
That terrifying beginning is the set up for a book that deals with memory and identity. Who are we if we don’t have our memories?
Ben, the man in the bed, patiently explains, as he does each day, who he is, who she is, what their lives are like. Ben goes off to work, leaving her to fend for herself until she receives a phone call from Dr. Nash.
“You have amnesia,” Dr. Nash explains. “You’ve had amnesia for a long time. You can’t retain new memories, so you’ve forgotten much of what’s happened to you for your entire adult life. Every day you wake up as if you are a young woman. Some days you wake as if you are a child.”
A blank slate every day. A mind wiped clean. How did this happen?
She meets with Dr. Nash and he has her start a journal, which helps her put her life into context and gives her some continuity from one day to the next. She begins to remember things; her name (Christine), her husband, Ben. But nothing is as it seems, and she has the sense that they are hiding things from her. Nash suggests the journal be kept hidden from Ben, who doesn’t want her seeing a doctor. Ben is patient with Christine, but also deliberately vague and evasive. Who can she trust?
Before I Go To Sleep is a well crafted page turner. I thought I had it figured out a couple of times but it wasn’t until near the end that all the twists and turns came together for me, and because that was great fun, I don’t want to give too much away. Even though the amnesia concept is a frequent plot device in fiction, I found this book compelling. We, as readers, experience everything and discover things at the same dreadful and ominous pace as Christine.
It is a dark and delicious read.
**purchased on the Nook for a book club discussion**