Book Review: Before I Go To Sleep by S. J. Watson

Before I Go To Sleep by S. J. Watson

Genres: Adult fiction, thriller, mystery.

Memories define us. So what if you lost yours every time you went to sleep?

This really is my sort of thriller: psychology combined with mystery, no gore, and a puzzle that needs to be solved. If you’re interested in cognitive psychology then this is definitely a book for you.

Christine wakes up every morning thinking she is still in her early 20s until she looks in the mirror and realises she’s 47 years old. The bathroom is plastered with photographs but she has no recollection of her friends, family, her life and even her husband. She is able to transfer things from short term to long term memory but is unable to retain them for longer than 24 hours, meaning that when she wakes up every morning, the majority of her episodic memories – personal, autobiographical memories – have disappeared, and only her procedural and semantic memories (such as how to do things, the names of objects) remain.

We know as much – and as little – as the amnesiac in this novel. What I love about thrillers is the excitement of attempting to piece together the truth and this is something that is particularly important in this story. Christine is not being told the whole truth but a world where it is extremely difficult to distinguish fantasy from reality, what really is the truth?  Christine is advised by her psychologist, Dr. Nash, to keep a journal in order to remind herself every day of who she is. It is the only thing she can trust and is the instrument through which Christine tells us her story.

I managed to guess the dénouement a few pages before Christine realises and I did not find it to be unrealistic or overly dramatic. The prospect of constant amnesia is frightening enough, but imagine knowing that it was a consequence of someone’s actions? I enjoyed this début thriller immensely and loved the way it was told. The narration could have easily become repetitive and irritating but Watson makes every day incredibly moving, emotionally frustrating and thrilling. Overall, I enjoyed the combination of psychology and mystery, and the unravelling.

As for the book covers, I much prefer the UK version (on the left) to the US one (on the right). I find the US one to be very dull and it took me a while to realise what it was depicting – Christina staring in the mirror, horrified at the older woman looking back at her. That said, I guess the UK version is no less vague, but it’s much more striking and I’d be more likely to pick up the novel if I saw this cover.

This book was obtained as an eGalley from HarperCollins.

My Rating: ★★★★