Before I Go to Sleep
by Amanda Clark, BCPL adult programming supervisor
Before I Go to Sleep is the first novel by British author S.J. Watson. I recently read it as part of the Novel-Tea Book Club (which meets at the Main Branch of Boyd County Public Library on the 4th Monday of each month at 1 p.m.) The book is billed as a psychological thriller. Since that’s not what I typically enjoy reading, I put it off until the last possible minute. In fact, on the day of the book club meeting, I had to admit to the group that I had not finished the book. I had struggled to even get to where I was: It seemed exceptionally repetitive to me. I spent a lot of time flipping pages because I kept feeling like I had read that part before.
The story goes like this: Christine Lucas has a type of amnesia that makes her unable to remember anything after she goes to sleep at night. Every morning she wakes up in strange bed, next to a man, who tells her they have been married for 22 years. Each new day, she wakes to the terror that her body is years older than it should be and she has no memory of how she came to be where she is. “Usually I can remember how I get into situations like this, but not today,” Christine says. “There must have been a party, or a trip to a bar or a club. I must have been pretty wasted. Wasted enough that I don’t remember anything at all. Wasted enough to have gone home with a man with a wedding ring and hairs on his back.” Every day, her husband has to tell her the story of how she came to lose her memory and every day, Christine doubts what he tells her.
One day when Christine wakes up, her phone rings, and a Dr. Nash tells her to look in the closet for her journal. She does, and the story unfolds. Christine’s story is told through the journal that she writes in every day and reads every morning after the doctor calls. This is the only way she is able to start piecing together her past. The only problem is that what is written in the journal is based on what her husband and the doctor have told her. This only leads to more questions about the past and fuels Christine’s passion to remember.
After the book club meeting, I was determined, and excited to sort through the repetition to get to the end of the book. The ladies in my club assured me that it was in the repetition that I should have found clues that kept me going. At the first opportunity, I picked up the book and did not/could not put it down until I had finished.
S.J. Watson crafted an intriguing story. Of course there had to be repetition. The main character cannot remember anything about her life when she wakes up every day. She has to be told, over and over again. The novel is crafted in such a way that this reader, and many in my book club, had no choice but to question Christine’s memories and the motives of those in Christine’s life. Can she trust her husband, Ben? Are Dr. Nash’s intentions for helping Christine legitimate? What really happened to Christine? The novel turned out to be wild ride and had me, once again, flipping pages. This time, it was not to skip the repetition but to find out what happened next!