S.J. Watson's debut novel, Before I Go to Sleep, may be one of the most talked about thrillers of the year. When Dennis Lehane is quoted as saying, "It left my nerves jangling for hours after I finished the last page," you know it's going to be a memorable story. It's a riveting, page-turner. And, the narrator is in as much suspense as the reader is.
Each morning, Christine Lucas wakes up with no memory. She can't remember her past, or even yesterday. She doesn't recognize herself in the mirror. She doesn't recognize the man in bed beside her. And, that man has to tell her every day he's her husband, Ben; they've been married for over twenty years; and she had an accident, ended up in a coma, and lost her memory. At forty-seven, Christine is an amnesiac. At one point, she has a painful recognition. "I do not know myself, I thought. I recognize neither my body nor my past."
Along with what her husband tells her, Christine's only clues as to her life are in the journal she just starting keeping, writing her daily activities and memories in it every night before she goes to sleep. Her husband doesn't know she's seeing Dr. Edward Nash, but he encourages her to keep a journal, hide it, and each day he calls her to remind her to read her journal. Each day, Christine relives her few memories all over again. But what about the note at the top of page one? It says, "Don't Trust Ben."
This is a powerful book, the story of a woman's search for her own identity and past. What do we know of our own life if we have no memories? It's hard to put down this book, not knowing what memories Christine will face the next day, or, if she'll even remember anything. It gives a whole new meaning to the concept of an unreliable narrator.
I admit, I found the ending a little abrupt, wrapping up the book in a neat little package. It's one of the pet peeves some of us discussed earlier this week. Even so, this is a powerful debut. I suspect S.J. Watson's Before I Go to Sleep may be on many award nomination lists for 2011 publications. Rights have already been sold in more than thirty countries. Movie rights went to Ridley Scott. And, this week, it's on the New York Times extended Bestseller List. And, despite the weak ending, it's going to be hard to top this book for suspense.
The website for the book is www.beforeigotosleep.com
Before I Go to Sleep by S.J. Watson. HarperCollins. ©2011. ISBN 9780062060556 (hardcover), 368p.
FTC Full Disclosure - I received my copy in order to participate in a book tour for TLC Book Tours