Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Before I Go To Sleep

This book has been out for a little while already. It's regular fiction, not a young adult novel, but the premise intrigued me as usually only young adult fiction does. In Before I Go To Sleep, by S. J. Watson, Christine forgets the last 20 years or more of her life every time she falls asleep. She remembers being young and wakes up to find herself in a differently proportioned body lying next to a stranger. As her day progresses, she discovers pieces of her world: the husband she married, the doctor she's seeing secretly (who has to call her and convince her he's who he says he is), the accident that caused her amnesia.

Her husband, Ben, says he loves her, but Christine doesn't know how to love him in return. She has no memories of him. When Dr. Nash asks her to keep a journal (and calls her daily to tell her of its existence and where to find it), she slowly begins to rebuild her world. And as she writes more and more, she begins to remember a little here and there. But details are off. Informed that she used to be paranoid in the early stages of her condition, she isn't sure what's real and what's fabricated. When her memories don't match up with what she's being told, she discovers that, indeed, her husband has been keeping the whole truth from her. It makes sense that he wouldn't daily reveal details that are greatly upsetting, but Christine wishes he would just be honest with her. As she grows to understand and love her husband more through her own written words, Christine knows that she will eventually have to trust him with her journal. But sometimes things don't feel right, and Christine can't figure out how much of that is cause for concern and how much is just the imaginings of a damaged mind. Everyone seems to be lying to her. And can she trust her own journal?

One day, she wakes up in bed with a stranger as always, gets a call from a Dr. Nash she's supposed to know but doesn't, and receives a journal already full of her words, including an addition at the front, which says, "Don't trust Ben." And she begins to read about the person she's become.

For the reader (and for Christine, really), the story starts there. As you can imagine, it gets a little repetitive. Every morning, Christine discovers that she's married, that she sees a doctor secretly, and that she has a secret journal. But considering the difficulty of presenting her story realistically without boring the reader, I think the author does a pretty decent job. The idea reminded me of the movie 50 First Dates, except that this story is not comedy or romance. It's more of a psychological thriller. As we read Christine's journal and crawl into her mind, we find ourselves at as much of a loss as she is. We wonder, along with her, if she's crazy. We wonder why things don't feel right but have no proof that anything's wrong. As more details come together, things start to make sense from a certain point of view. You want her to tell Ben about the journal. And when she doesn't, you wonder if Christine will sabotage herself with her doubts or if there is real reason for her to be careful. You'll be guessing until the end.

Because this is adult fiction, there is adult content, nothing terribly graphic, more factual than anything. The author could have left it more to the imagination, but I can see why she wanted to explore it. It is an interesting moral dilemma: if you're married, sex is totally okay, more than okay, but what if only one of two partners remembers the past 20 years? What if the other knows only today? For one, sex is almost mundane, part of being married to a person so long. For the other, sex is the furthest thing from the mind, coming right after catching up on 20 years of life. The idea wasn't a bad one to address, I suppose, and it makes sense in the context of the story. But it's a little crude at times. Just a warning. Enough said.

I don't want to influence what you think happens in this book in case you want to read it yourself, but I think I was influenced just by reading the book cover. It influences you even just to hear that it's a thriller. Honestly, most of the book doesn't feel like a thriller. There's some mystery, but just that of a woman trying to piece together her life, nothing remarkable: does she have kids, friends, accomplishments? The fact that it was said to be a thriller clued me in that there was more beneath the surface of this story. But whether it's paranoia or something else, I'll leave for you to discover.

I was mostly satisfied but not as surprised as I wanted to be by the end. I think the book was too built up by its own cover. It spoiled itself. Weird to say, but true, for me.

Three stars. Hard to put down sometimes, but might leave you asking, "Was it worth the time?"

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.