Author: S.J. Watson
Sometimes one simply finds a book that fails to size up to its reputation. Unfortunately, ‘Before I go to Sleep’ by S.J. Watson- the story of a 47 year old amnesiac names Christine who forgets the last 20 years of her life every time she falls asleep- falls firmly into this category. The problem with the novel is certainly not its enthralling plot; it is Watson’s ability to make very passage in the book sound like an extract from some second-rate ‘chic-lit’. Personally, I found the poor writing simply detracted from the story and prevented me from becoming truly engrossed in the novel.
Despite my complaints about the way this novel is written, it would be wrong not to mention that having Christine recount her movements in a journal is a unique idea. Furthermore, the book does manage to make his readers question how the mind really works, and try to comprehend how one would function without memories. For those who have seen the film of this book, which I watched before reading the novel, I can assure you that the diary works better than the camcorder that replaces it in the film. As is common with thrillers, the book attempts to make an ordinary situation extraordinary as readers are left guessing who Christine can and cannot trust. Another aspect of the book I loved was the way flickers of her memories would sometimes resurface, providing hints of what was to come. We are often left wondering what our own loved ones would do if we found ourselves in Christine’s situation, and who we could and could not trust.
Despite some good points, ‘Before I go to Sleep’ still remains a frustrating novel. Even if I hadn’t watched the film before reading the novel, I feel I would have guessed its ending since I was able to guess twists that don’t feature in the film. Similarly, Watson does a mediocre job at trying to keep us guessing at which character can’t be trusted, since it’s obvious after just one chapter that one character isn’t all they seem. The only time the book almost succeeds at being unnerving is always followed by a ‘forced’ attempt to appear scary delivered via the means of melodramatic description. This is particularly true of the end of the book, which fails to be scary or shocking in any way. In general, this is a perfectly average and forgettable book constantly attempting to be a great thriller.
Rating: *** (3/5)