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Before I Go To Sleep by S J Watson
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Before I Go To Sleep (original 2011; edition 2012)

by S J Watson

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3,3993031,588 (3.75)1 / 167
Mumineurope's review
Chris wakes up every morning not knowing who she is. Psychological thriller. Went on a bit to long and saw ending coming. ( )
  Mumineurope | Apr 19, 2012 |
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This was fun. It's one of those books that's a thriller and page turner where you read as fast as you can to find out what happens. It may not be high art or completely have made sense, but I enjoyed the ride!

This is the story of Christine, who wakes up each morning not remembering anything from the past 20 or so years of her life and has only spotty memories before then. She can remember the events of each day during the day, but as soon as she goes into a deep sleep it is as if her memories reset. She is journaling her days at the request of a new doctor and each day he calls to remind her where it is hidden so she can read it and write in it. She hides it each day because she doesn't feel comfortable telling her husband, the man she wakes up in bed with each morning but doesn't remember and can't seem to trust, about her progress.

There are lots of twists and turns and of course the unreliable narrator element with a woman telling the story who can only remember one day at a time. I imagine the science of memory behind this book must be pretty shoddy, but it was still fun.

Recommended if you enjoy the occasional thriller and page-turner. ( )
  japaul22 | Jan 27, 2015 |
This book would have gotten 5 stars but the ending was just so UGH! Don't read the rest if you don't want to book spoiled!...

I love love LOVED this book for the most part. It was so intersting, very well written, and the characters were just great. However I was unimpressed with the ending. I so badly wanted to know if she had gotten her memory back for good or if she was the way she was throughout the book. I think it would have been better had Watson given us this little piece of information. Even if he wrote another chapter that was titled "1 year later" and only had a little page of information like they do at the end of some reality shows to tell you how the people were doing after the show filmed. All in all though it was a very good read, I couldn't stop reading! It only took me three days to read the book, and I wasn't planning on reading it first out of the bunch that I had gotten from the library that day. ( )
  PrescottKris | Jan 26, 2015 |
Excellent, suspenseful, twist at the end; couldn't put it down! ( )
  cindyb29 | Jan 12, 2015 |
Holy fucking plot twist.
I had a tiny little background notion what was going on with Ben and everything, but when I actually read it on paper it still hit me like a ton of bricks. I really enjoyed this book. I couldn't trust anyone not even Christine and when I started reading it definitely reminded me of 50 First Dates, obviously just a more ominous version.
Well written, fast-paced, and a new favorite. ( )
  Serenity_Tigerlily | Jan 5, 2015 |
Before I Go To Sleep is the story of Christine, a woman who has both anterograde amnesia, which is the ability to create new memories and retrograde amnesia, which is the ability to recall one’s past. Because of this, every morning she starts over, her mind a blank slate. She wakes up not knowing where she is and who she is. Her husband must explain it to her every day – that she had an accident that left her with amnesia, he is her husband, etc.

Christine starts working with a doctor who wants to help reverse her amnesia. The therapy mostly involves her keeping a journal of what happens to her every day and then reading it every morning to fill herself in on who she is and what she’s been doing. Her husband doesn’t approve of her being in therapy so she must do this in secret. Along the way, she discovers some secrets herself.

I’ll admit that enjoying this book requires some suspension of disbelief. It’s told in first person from Christine’s view point so the narrative of the book is her journal entries. Her journal entries are much more descriptive and detailed than you’d expect but the fact that she was a writer before the accident explains some of that. And it would be a pretty awful book to read if the journal entries weren’t written well. I thought this was the best device to use so that the story could be told in first person. It helped me identify with Christine’s confusion. I was really confused too. In fact, I was surprised at how many twists were in this book. Several times I thought I had everything figured out but I never actually did.

I loved this book – it kept me on the edge of my seat. I couldn’t stop thinking about it when I wasn’t reading it, going over everything in my mind, trying to figure the mysteries out. A movie adaptation of Before I Go To Sleep was recently released, starring Nicole Kidman. I’m interested to see how this story translates to the screen. I think it would be very hard to do. I definitely recommend the novel. ( )
  mcelhra | Jan 4, 2015 |
Imagine if 50 first dates was a thriller and not a rom-com, and you get the idea for this book. I was meant to only read a chapter and go to bed, but I almost finished the book sitting on the bathroom floor reading...........just until the next chapter. I couldn't read the words fast enough when I was getting to the end. No, it's not exactly a believable situation, and yep the concept, amnesia, has been done before, but I didn't find it a fault. I liked that the story and her past was unfolding to me at the same time as she was making the same discoveries. Loved it, just what a good thriller should do, drag you through full of anticipation til the end. ( )
  Karyn_Ainsworth | Dec 29, 2014 |
Amnesia can be a tempting topic/hook, and not every writer can pull it off smoothly, but Before I Go to Sleep is pretty convincing. Christine wakes up with no memory of the past 20 years - but apparently, this is nothing new. Her husband Ben - who she doesn't recognize - fills her in on the basics, but it's not until she receives a phone call from Dr. Nash, reminding her about her journal in the closet, that she begins to be able to make an account of each day. She's a partially unreliable narrator in this way: readers can pretty much trust what's in the journal (which makes up the large middle section of the book), but other than the journal Christine can't rely on her memory. Sometimes she gets flashes, but are these memories or imaginings?

There are additional hints about paranoia and confabulation, but Christine seems quite sane. She catches Ben lying to her, but he explains that he is trying to protect her, which she accepts. It's not until Dr. Nash takes her to her old house and an institution where she once lived, and her old best friend Claire re-enters her life, that more memories return and her suspicion of Ben begins to grow. I guessed the twist a little before it was revealed, but not too far in advance; overall it was a good suspenseful read.

Quotes

"...the memories aren't lost completely. The problem is not one of storage but of access."
"You mean my memories are there, I just can't get to them?"
(Dr. Nash and Christine, 69)

...I carry these jagged shards of memory with me always, everywhere, like tiny bombs, and at any moment one might pierce the surface and force me to go through the pain as if for the first time... (124)

What are we, if not an accumulation of our memories? (155)

"...patients with amnesia such as yours often have a tendency to do something we call confabulation. Things around them do not seem to make sense, and so they feel compelled to invent details." (Dr. Wilson to Christine, 188)

"It's not life, it's just an existence, jumping from one moment to the next with no idea of the past, and no plan for the future." (Christine to Dr. Nash, 194)

"If we tell ourselves often enough that something happened, we start to believe it, and then we can actually remember it." (Dr. Nash to Christine, 206)

There is only so much that a mind can take... (212)

All the history I have reads like fiction. (219)

A refusal to provide an answer, disguised as an answer itself. I wonder if this is what he is always like. I wonder if years of telling me the same thing have worn him down, bored him to the point where he can no longer bring himself to tell me anything. (287) ( )
  JennyArch | Dec 27, 2014 |
What a disturbing sensational debut. A great book for discussion at your book club. As I was reading, I had thought of jotting clues down for discussion. I would recommend that you do not have anything planned that you need to do for when a writer makes you pay attention to detail for clues are in-itself grounds for a great page-turner read. If you could possibly stand the Thrill & Chill, this is an evilious read. Don't forget your loved ones. Or else. ( )
  Buttonholed | Dec 27, 2014 |
For fans of trying to figure out a story... backwards. This novel is the story of a woman who wakes each day not remembering who she is, how old she is, and where she lives -- and with whom she lives. It's a story of both long-term and short-term memory loss; the main character can retain things during the day, but as soon as she sleeps, her memory is essentially erased. A great puzzle, trying to figure out the truth; figure out who she can trust and who she can't. Definitely parts of the book you cannot put down until you get some closure! ( )
  Randall.Hansen | Dec 22, 2014 |
What a disturbing sensational debut. A great book for discussion at your book club. As I was reading, I had thought of jotting clues down for discussion. I would recommend that you do not have anything planned that you need to do, for when a writer makes you pay attention to detail for clues are in-itself grounds for a great page-turner read. If you could possibly stand the Thrill & Chill, this is an evilicious read. The story is a psychological thriller about a woman suffering from anterograde amnesia. She wakes up every day with no knowledge of who she is and she tries to reconstruct her memories from a journal she's been keeping. She learns her name is Christine Lucas and she is a married 40 year old mother of a son. She's been seeing a doctor who is helping her to recover her memory and as the story unfolds this journal starts to cast doubts (truth?) about this knowledge she reads everyday. She has a great inner strength to find out the truth behind this madness and she does. One thing for sure, don't forget your loved ones. Or else. ( )
  Buttonholed | Dec 21, 2014 |
Loved it- kept me guessing until the end! ( )
  sgraham66 | Nov 27, 2014 |
A chilling read about an obviously intelligent woman who becomes reliant on the 'memories' other people offer her. When she begins to keep a journal, however, some dark discrepancies come to the fore. A clever book with some good - if, at times, slightly predictable - twists. ( )
  donnambr | Nov 27, 2014 |
Having not read any reviews of this book I started it as a fresh blank canvas.
I found this book is so exciting I could not put it down, no really, I couldn’t stop reading. I started reading just before 8am and finished it around 9.30pm. An edge of the seat read, each ‘day’ bringing a new roller coaster of emotions.

The plot not only explores the notion that memories define us but shows a hint of personality being more than memories. It stops and makes you think about yourself and your own memories, you try and imagine yourself in Christine’s place…not knowing…

It is a book that lingers in your mind after you have finished, you search back into your own memory to see if there was a point that you guessed the outcome. Nope, I didn’t guess right up until the end.

Psychological thrillers can often be a disappointment, but this one is so intriguing you cannot let the story go.

Watson shows how scary it must be to wake up in a strange house, next to a strange man, and seeing yourself 20 years older that you know yourself to be, every single day. A husband you don’t remember, and your own face aged.

I loved the characters in this book, as they performed different to how I wanted them to, and there was always a hint of not really knowing anyone.

I could imagine the way Christine starts each day as if its the first day of your life. The loneliness it must create. Being based on the life of amnesiacs, this also has a small resonance of living with dementia, when you can wake up in the morning having forgotten the past few days, progressing to not knowing your own family members, living each day in isolation.

I usually find that films do not match up to the excitement of the book, although if it stays true to Watson’s story it will be worth watching.

Psychological thriller at its best - no question about that. Nicely written this is a must read.
( )
  greatbookescapes | Nov 20, 2014 |
I picked this up because I wanted to read it before the movie came out. I had the brilliant idea of listening to it on tape with my 15 year old daughter. Not so great after all. The sexual content left me racing to snap it off on more than one occasion. It got to the point that I really got tired of hearing about her husbands penis. The narrator of the story did a fantastic job though. I loved hearing the story through her British accent.

The crux of the story is Christine has suffered some sort of accident that has left her without any memories of what happened and even worse she starts from scratch every time she wakes up. If I had to live with someone that I had to explain everything to every single day I think I would go crazy. Her ever present husband seems to have the patience of Job and soldiers on with the endless explanations. Eventually Christine keeps a journal which helps her to slowly put the bits and pieces of her life back together.

The first part of this book went so slowly. Fortunately the plot gained traction as the story went on. If I just listened to the first and the last CD's I think I could have gotten everything from the book. I didn't figure out the twist at the end but once I heard it I realized that the entire plot of this book seems lifted out of the 1987 movie Overboard staring Kurt Russell and Goldie Hawn. In the movie the amnesia story was told with a more humorous bent than the thriller angle achieved by this novel but it's basically the same plot. Both the movie and the book require a suspension of belief as some pretty implausible things happen. At points I just really wanted to shake Christine and yell her at to get some common sense. The big reveal at the end was pretty good though and almost made up for the dragging start in the first half of the book. I am looking forward to seeing what Nicole Kidman does with the role of Christine. ( )
  arielfl | Nov 18, 2014 |
Enjoyable thriller about a woman who loses her entire memory every time she goes to sleep. The book labours a little in the middle, but although the end is not a total shock, it is well written and the description of the central character's paranoia is well done imagined ( )
  PIER50 | Nov 9, 2014 |
The build-up (or—if you’re fond of literary terminology, the rising action) in S.J. Watson’s novel “Before I Go to Sleep” is exquisite and painstaking. So meticulously does Watson construct (or perhaps, more accurately, re-construct) the events that lay the groundwork for Christine Lucas’ journey out of amnesia that the reader comes to expect nothing less than a complex conspiracy that will explain Christine’s mysterious past and why she wakes up every morning with no memory—of anything.

Aided by a doctor with questionable motives and reliant upon a journal that she keeps hidden from her inscrutable husband Ben, Christine slowly pieces together her past, including her absent best friend Claire and her presumed dead son Adam. Has she gone mad? Is everyone lying to her? Can we trust Christine? Can she trust herself?

The conclusion, unfortunately, is a bit of a letdown. Watson is skilled at capturing Christine’s keen sense of paranoia and uncertainty, but his mastery of plot leaves something to be desired. ( )
  jimrgill | Oct 23, 2014 |
What if you went to sleep each night, and in the morning, forget everything that defines you? Forget your name, who the man is that is sleeping next to you, forget the events that happened the day before, or the week before, or even the year before. Everyday is a BRAND NEW DAY. You have to trust that everything the man you live with is telling you the truth......but is it really the truth? This is Christine Lucas' reality, and this book takes you on a heart-racing, explosive journey as she discovers what happened to cause her memory loss. The answers will astound you!

( )
  avidbookcollector | Oct 8, 2014 |
Clever twist on a story of memory loss due to an accident? Quick read - beach read. ( )
  mechristie54 | Sep 28, 2014 |
Ok so I started this book thinking “oh, look at that poor amnesiac gal” and ended up screaming “die bitch die” inside my head. But first things first.

Well actually this book has so many problems I don’t know where to start. Maybe I’ll start with the fact that the author thinks readers are stupid and need everything spelt out for them? Seriously at some point I would start reading a paragraph and I’d know exactly where it was going, so I would think “surely she won’t explain what’s going to happen out loud, right? I mean it’s so obvious nobody would waste words on it, right?” How naïve of me. Long story short, everything was so predictable I almost gave up on reading a few times, not because I figured everything out (even if I did figure everything out, well it wasn’t that hard), but because the narrating bitch voice was telling the story in an unforgivable frustrating way, like she wanted you to know that something was coming but let out too much, so the whole thing seemed very amateurish. Also, the writing was very, very poor (and this coming from the least picky reader when it comes to writing style), the narrating bitch voice was too weak, giving out if-you-have-the-need-to-tell-me-that-a-kite-is-flying-or-some-other-crap-totally-unrelated-to-the-story-one-more-time-please-just-let-me-die-in-peace kind of information or by just being downright stupid.

And the sad part is that her thoughts/reasoning sometimes didn’t make sense at all, but they were more believable than all the other characters put together, since the oddest, most unforgivable actions were easily discharged as “normal” (well, yeah, it is a novel where the female protagonist wakes up every morning without remembering anything that has ever happened to her, but you still would expect some kind of consistent behavior). In fact, this may be the one story where I found nobody likeable. And I do mean nobody. At some point I couldn’t even feel sympathetic toward Christine anymore because I came to realize that she wasn’t a character, just a sad stereotype that went with the flow and didn’t question anything - or rather - questioned the wrong things and just happened to remember pivotal stuff out of the blue at the right time and the right place. (The very ending, too, was a very convenient way out. Too easy doesn’t do the trick for me, sorry).

That said, I didn’t hate the book (in fact when I started it I thought this would be a 5-star review). It had many flaws and the plot twist was never a plot twist, but it had a cool premise, and throughout the first part I was excited and intrigued by the story (even though soon I would just be begging for it to get to the damn point, but let’s look at the bright side for a moment shall we). Also, I’m still curious to watch the movie.

About that..

“He was attractive, too. Not film-star handsome, but better-looking than most.”

(The male lead is freaking Colin Firth. *Crazy inappropriate snorting*).
( )
1 vote kairih | Aug 30, 2014 |
This book is a genuine mind trip that had me hooked right to the end. The repetition, which was necessary since the narrator was the one with daily memory loss, was a little tiresome at times. The writer had a very clear sense of how he wanted to develop the characters and it was quite clever. I really enjoyed the overall thrilling ride this book sent me on and I would recommend it to anyone who loves a good, easily read page turner. ( )
  yougotamber | Aug 22, 2014 |
Ilmselt siis, kui raamat ilmus ja pealkiri meediast läbi jooksis- jäi see mind kummitama. Ilma, et ma oleks teadnud, millest lugu räägib, sai sest mulle nagu mingi mantra: Ei Tohi Magama Jääda.
Kuna mind on karistatud küllusliku unevajadusega, oli seda enda korrale kutsumiseks hea kasutada.

Loe edasi
http://indigoaalane.blogspot.com/2014/03/sj-watson-ei-tohi-magama-jaada.html ( )
  Indigoaalane | Jul 18, 2014 |
Good thriller. ( )
  INorris | Jun 22, 2014 |
Before I Go To Sleep is both a suspenseful, intriguing page turner. But also a reasonably pedestrian, reasonably predictable unfolding of a premise. I enjoyed it, would recommend it, but it was nowhere near the level of spine tingling amazement one can get with a good book by Ruth Rendell, Harlan Coben, or many others.

The book begins when a woman wakes up wondering who the man next to her in bed is. Then she learns that he is her husband, she has a peculiar form of amnesia that resets her memory every night when she goes to sleep, leaving her unable to remember anything before about college. So every day she has to start from scratch, learning her husband, her way around the house, forming new memories that get erased in the morning.

The woman, Christine, meets with a doctor who hands her a journal she has been keeping of her memories over the previous several weeks. And then the suspense begins.

The book feels workmanlike because the journal reads like a novel, the clues are obvious and surrounded with the literary equivalents of neon lights, and everything unfolds somewhat slowly and predictably. It feels like the author could have done more with his premise, the device of a journal, and the unreliability of memory.

That said, it is still a page turner and leaves one fascinated about what life would be like if every day began from scratch. ( )
  nosajeel | Jun 21, 2014 |
Before I Go to Sleep was very successful for me - unsettling and engrossing. Written primarily as a series of journal entries recorded by a woman who has lost both her memory of her past and her ability to form new memories, this book was so unsettling and really made me think about how vulnerable and isolated people with more realistic disabilities and chronic medical conditions can be. Christine wakes up every morning with no memory of who she is, how old she is, where she is, who the man in bed beside her is. Each morning she must relearn these things by looking at photos her husband has taped to the bathroom mirror and listening to his retelling of her past. She has been in this condition for nearly 20 years, since being the victim of a hit and run, according to her husband.

Well, of course, things are not as they seem, or we wouldn't be reading this book. Christine discovers that she's been seeing a psychologist behind Ben (her husband)'s back and - at the psychologist's suggestion - keeping a secret journal. He calls her every day to tell her where to find it and remind her to write in it. When the book opens, Christine has re-discovered her journal, started reading and found scrawled inside the cover a message to herself "Don't Trust Ben." So she begins to read, to attempt to figure out what is going on in her life. What she finds reveals a pattern of lies and inconsistencies that at first are explained away by Ben, Christine, and the psychologist as Ben's attempt to shield Christine from everything that she has lost because of the accident and prevent her from reliving these losses every day. Christine reads that (according to Ben), she has a history of paranoia and dissociative behavior; this, combined with the fact that she cannot remember writing down the words in her own journal, leads her to question the journal's veracity as well. Is she being manipulated? By whom? Is she simply nuts?

I thought this way of conveying information was very clever. At first, the reader - like Christine - only knows what Christine is told or what she reads. But because the reader - unlike Christine - can remember things and more easily see connections and inconsistencies, the truth will dawn on the reader long before it comes to Christine. Some readers found this annoying, I thought it worked to underscore how vulnerable Christine was and heighten the tension.

The one major weak point was the ending, which seemed at first to be rather unbelievable and neat - everything is resolved, the heroine has come through a traumatic experience relatively unscathed and everyone is happy. But the more I reflected on this, the more I wondered if the ending could also be read as actually fairly dark. It seemed possible to me that the author meant the reader to once again split his/her perspective from Christine's and see that while everything has been neatly wrapped up from Christine's point of view, the reader should remember Christine's earlier acceptance of simplistic explanations and be wary of seeing this as a happy, tidy ending.

Major plot spoilers providing more specific detail related to this line of thinking follow. Perhaps I am just fooling myself, attributing more cleverness to the author than is warranted, but otherwise the ending is just too shiny in a way that strains credulity. Christine's real husband (yes, the Ben that she spends most of her time with in the book is, of course, not really her husband) has an affair with her best friend, divorces her, leaves her for nearly 20 years, and then suddenly appears revealing he's never stopped loving her and Christine is like "oh, ok, great." No questions asked, now they're back together again? How can the reader not think of everything Christine is ignoring that is wrong in this situation? Or the fact that Christine was waltzed out of a home for disabled people nearly four months ago by a man claiming to be her husband and her supposed best friend and her grown son didn't notice and didn't try to contact her or her husband during this time? Her friend dismisses the lack of contact with the son as "he's been busy and it's far away" and Christine accepts that weak-a$$ explanation just like she accepted fake Ben's other weak-a$$ explanations. That's too f*cked up for me to believe it's a plot hole the author just didn't notice. Christine may not be in the same kind of dangerous charade of a life as before, but I cannot believe that the reader is meant to accept that everything is now ok. Even if we're meant to believe that she is regaining her memory - which could also be a lie, since she's remembered and forgotten things before and can only rely on her unreliable journal and the claims of others on the matter of her memory - she is still incredibly isolated and vulnerable and utterly dependent on others.

With my reading of the ending of this book, I'd give it five stars. ( )
2 vote fannyprice | Jun 15, 2014 |
4.5 stars! This book grabbed me from beginning... What a ride! ( )
  patsaintsfan | May 23, 2014 |
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