Raya's Reviews > Before I Go to Sleep

Before I Go to Sleep by S.J. Watson
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bookshelves: crime-thriller, quick-fun, mister-ee, stale-bread

What to say about this book? Given the nature of Christine’s fragile character—her amnesia, her state of mind—it’s difficult for me to say too much of what I think without spilling some spoilers. I’ll give it a go:

Watson’s beginning set-up of Before I Go To Sleep is constructed in such a way that I was intrigued, hooked—where is Christine’s story going to take me? While the general idea of an amnesiac in a desperate, struggling, and often frustrating search to re-discover her past is not fresh or original, the initial presentation of this book’s concept engaged me right on page one. Each day Christine awakens with no knowledge of the previous day, of the man who lies beside her in bed, the house she is in, and she is frequently startled to discover her aged and wrinkled body is twenty-some years older than she woke up believing. Confusion, anxiety, and waves of distress riddle her emotions (and naturally so).

Well, thank god for the endearing husband Ben, right? Despite that Christine wakes up without knowing who is each morning, that she does not and cannot reciprocate his love, he continues to support and care for his wife. Every day he briefly goes over her “accident,” reminds her that they have been married for over two decades and assures Christine that they are (or were) very happily in love. Even though Christine cannot recall any of this, he stays by her side. Oh, he’s so devoted, so caring. Right? Right? I’m sure you see the direction in which I’m headed.

Enter Christine’s private journal: a secret from Ben, hidden in a shoebox, and the one thing that gives Christine a history constructed by her own words. Through these entries, our own trust in Ben wavers and fluctuates with Christine’s. Is Ben who he says he is? Can he be trusted? Can Christine even trust her own flashbacks, her writing? Or are her memories false? I was close to one-fourth or halfway finished when I was almost certain I had the ending pin-pointed, which is when I started to feel let down.

Watson has a strong opening. It’s a start that made my mind wander in all directions, yearning to know what had really happened and what would happen to Christine. How well Christine could trust Ben and other characters kept fluttering, but then, see, I developed theories. Solid theories. (And here I take caution—I don't want to spoil anything for prospective readers!) This is not my first plunder into the psychological/mystery suspense genre, but it is most likely the first time I’ve managed to finish one. That said, while I don’t make it a habit of reading these kinds of books, rest assured that I have seen enough of these movies.

Although tentative, I was sure that
(view spoiler)

Okay, so there are many flaws with my second proposition. Needless to say, one of my ideas is nearly, if not entirely, spot-on. Thus we enter: Raya’s disappointment. By the time I reached mid-plot, I had lost my uncertainty as to which road Christine’s story would take, because I knew how this would end and I wish I hadn’t. Where was your twist, Watson? Like I said, stories of amnesiacs struggling to recall their past is not new, yet the book manages to reel people in because of its (initially) irresolute path (at least for me).

Even so, and despite my disappointment from the predictability, the manner in which Watson handles the ending feels far too weak. This could have (and should have, I think) been more emotionally-wrought; instead, it feels like a quick tidying of “It’s okay; you’re okay. It’s over now.” (And even if Christine manages to recover her memory in full: hello, PTSD! Why, I’ve been expecting you.) In all, more care could have been dealt in regard to the emotional aspect of all characters rather than a quick wrap-up.

But would I recommend this book? Yes. I calculated the ending far sooner that one would like, and I did find the ending unsatisfactory, but Watson held my attention. For that, I give props. The books is interesting, and it is something that, I imagine, will arouse most people's curiosity.
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Reading Progress

January 24, 2012 – Started Reading
January 24, 2012 – Shelved
January 29, 2012 – Finished Reading
September 7, 2012 – Shelved as: crime-thriller
February 22, 2013 – Shelved as: quick-fun
February 22, 2013 – Shelved as: mister-ee
February 4, 2014 – Shelved as: stale-bread

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