‘Before I Go To Sleep’ by S. J. Watson has been one of this year’s most talked about thrillers. The plot centres around Christine who wakes up every day not knowing where she is, who her husband is or what has happened in the last twenty odd years of her life. With her memories of the day being erased every single night, who can she trust?
The concept of memory loss is an interesting one and if it is done convincingly, like in the film ‘Memento’, it can be highly intriguing and enthralling. The first part of the novel seemed very promising. However, as I was reading the book, I found myself wanting to pick holes in the situation that Watson presents to us. For a start, Christine’s journal entries are too detailed to be plausible and are still written in the style of a novel (who has time to write 20+ pages in a day with complete dialogue?). The fact that nobody checked up on Christine after she was discharged from hospital is also barely believable (but then S. J. Watson did work for the NHS so maybe the catalogue of failings in Christine’s care is based on truth…).
The writing was a little bland and there was little that was either interesting or likeable about any of the characters. I suppose this is all part of the confusion that Christine must feel when she has to relearn who they are every day but it means that the characters are never allowed to really develop. Also, when reading a thriller, I would expect the pace to be set fairly fast but in this book it just wasn’t because Christine has to go over everything again the next day. Whereas repetitiveness can be charming in ‘Groundhog Day’, it rarely works in a book. However, the suspense was maintained enough so that I did want to find out what happened to the characters at the end. After all, the novel is a psychological thriller and if you allow yourself to ignore the plot holes, you will be just as manipulated as Christine about who she can trust.