Monday, July 11, 2011

Before I Go to Sleep by S.J. Watson

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

13 comments:

Elizabeth Spann Craig/Riley Adams said...

I'll definitely find this one. I loved the movie "Memento," which has a similar story and I'm curious to see what S.J. Watson will do with the plot. Thanks for the tip!

Lesa said...

You're welcome, Elizabeth. You'll have to let me know if it lives up to your expectations. I've never seen "Memento." I'm not really into suspense movies, though. Don't like the tension.

Joe Barone said...

OK. This one's on my stack.

Kay said...

I was just enthralled with this one. I agree about the abruptness of the ending, but I still chewing my nails. To me, the sense of menace grew and grew and grew. Starting with that "Don't trust Ben" note. Glad this one was good for you. I look forward to seeing what this author will do next, don't you?

Lesa said...

That's good, Joe. A lot of us like this one.

Lesa said...

You're right, Kay. That "Don't Trust Ben" note was frightening. I wouldn't have included it, but the publisher's library rep includes it when she does booktalks.

Yes, it will be interesting to see what Watson does next.

caite said...

I have to agree I had a bit of a problem with the ending...and it got a bit repetitious in places, but it was still a good book.

Lesa said...

How could it not be repetitious, Caite? The poor woman was living through her own Groundhog Day? She woke up every morning and didn't know who she was or who that man next to her was. The ending seemed a little too fast and pat. But, it was a good suspense novel.

heathertlc said...

I think you're right - people will definitely be talking about this one!

Thanks for being on the tour. I'm featuring your review on TLC's Facebook page today.

Gabrielle Renoir-Large said...

I was one who felt let down by the book, for so many reasons - the implausibility, convenience, and predictability of it all were the big ones, though. From the very beginning I suspected the "right" person, though I didn't know that person's real identity. Thrillers usually seem to let me down.

Nice review, though.

Lesa said...

Thank you, Gabrielle, for saying it was a nice review. And, even better, thank you for not revealing anything to the readers, despite your disappointment.

Shana A. said...

I am,confused with the book. I know she lived 7 years in the home so him many did she spend with Ben? could somebody enlighten me please

Business Cash Advance said...

This one has been a huge hit in the UK and seems to be everywhere at the moment. I have it on my kindle and I was saving it for a holiday read and I love pages turners for that kind of thing.