In S.J. Watson's debut novel Before I Go To Sleep we are told Christine's story, she has severe anterograde amnesia and wakes up every day not remembering any of her life for the past fifteen to twenty years. She wakes to find that she is 47, and married, she spends her days pottering around the house and following her husband's instructions. The day that we meet her she discovers that she has been secretly seeing a doctor and keeping a journal of her daily life, and as she begins to read back through her journal she slowly begins to piece her life back together by the power of written memory. As she puts the puzzle of her memory back together again she notices that not everything adds up, and that her husband has been keeping things from her in order to protect her fragile state of mind, but Christine begins to doubt his good intentions.
This book was an old book of the month at work, and I had passed it by and simply read the blurb and put it back on the shelf many a time before finally deciding that I would bring it home to read. I knew I would enjoy it, because I love a good brain rattler, a psychological thriller that really gets you thinking. You know that feeling you get after watching The Truman Show? I like books that can do that to you.
The book is so interesting, the idea of memory and how it can be so fragile is something that to this day I wish I had continued to study while I was in education. Throughout the whole story we just cannot trust anything that any of the characters have said or done because Christine cannot actually remember it happening. It makes you wonder what you would do yourself without your memory, and it really gave me chills to read as I imagined myself in Christine's position. The plot is very gripping, I didn't want to put this book down at all. I was constantly trying to figure out what was going to happen, I knew something wasn't right and you could guess what that is, but ultimately you really cannot be sure purely because the character herself hasn't a clue either.
I think Watson has achieved something with this book, he has managed to write someone who is in effect re-learning who they are, and I think the journal method was both a wonderful medium and a clever plot device in order to tell this story, it allowed Watson to make the reader feel incredibly close to Christine's character because we were reading the diary along with her, but it also allowed him to get away with leaving parts of the story out that you wouldn't be able to with a third person narrative, and which ultimately made the story such a page turner. This book has earned so many accolades for good reason.
By the end I really did guess what was going to happen, but it isn't guessing that is important with this thriller, it is not truly knowing wether you are right or not that keeps you reading. Absolutely wonderful and I cannot wait to see what Watson produces next!