Before I Go to Sleep, by S.J. Watson

Facts about this book: 1) I put it on hold right when it came into my library in the middle of June, got it quickly, and then proceeded to forget to read it before I had to take it back. But by then people were saying good things about it, so I immediately put it on hold again, on August 1, and it finally came in on November 2.

2) I thought I’d have a minute to start it while waiting for a haircut, but I only got maybe three sentences in. Those three sentences, and the many many following, had me finishing the book in less than five hours after I got home and cracked it open a second time.

Seriously, this book is pretty fantastic. Dennis Lehane apparently thinks that it’s “Memento on crystal meth” but, I mean, Memento was already on crystal meth (and AWESOME) so I’m not sure what he’s trying to say here.

It is sort of like Memento, though, because our protagonist, Christine suffers from some weird memory problem that only lets her form new memories as long as she’s awake, and then once she goes and has a REM cycle her memories are poof gone. So she wakes up every morning thinking she’s some single young thing in bed with some old man, except it’s her husband and he’s actually younger than she is. Oh dear.

But, unlike Memento, we’re seeing Christine’s world from a very limited perspective β€” that of a journal she started keeping at the behest of a doctor, with neither the journal nor the doctor known to her husband, Ben. And the journal says not to trust Ben. Suspicious!

So it starts off with Christine getting her journal back (as written in a second journal, or something), and then there’s the journal proper, which we go through in chronological order along with Christine, and the facts start piling up on each other and disagreeing with each other and Christine disagrees with herself often and it’s all very very very intriguing. And obviously, the journal says not to trust Ben from the beginning, so when Ben turns out to be less than trustworthy it’s not surprising, exactly, but I did not quite correctly call the ending and so I declare it a success.

I liked this a lot, just as I liked Memento a lot, because I am such a sucker for unreliable narrators (though Christine is more reliable than Leonard, really). I also thought it was fantastic to watch Christine change her opinions about things slowly but surely as she gets more and more of her backstory, and how also she was very consistent about things she didn’t remember. I thought the book was well-paced and didn’t go on for longer than it should have (or could have), and that the wrap-up was sufficiently informative and still interesting β€” it’s really easy to throw on the exposition when the character you’re expositing to is practically a blank slate, and I think Watson found a good balance there. The only problem I had with the ending was that it was fairly predictable (if not down to exact details), but, I mean, there are only so many ways this kind of story can end and I’d rather it end this way than another.

So, if you’re still in RIP mood like I seem to be, this is not a bad way to go! Also, I totally need to go watch Memento again.

Recommendation: If you don’t like unreliable narrators, just ignore this book and move on. Otherwise, I don’t know why you haven’t read this yet!

Rating: 9/10

6 thoughts on “Before I Go to Sleep, by S.J. Watson

  1. Alison says:

    Kailana β€” Yes, definitely! I recommend it for when you have some time to kill and absolutely nothing else to do so you can tear straight through it. πŸ™‚

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