Memories define us. So what if you lost yours every time you went to sleep
Christine Lucas, a 47-year-old amnesiac who loses her memory every time she goes to sleep. An enthralling novel by SJ Watson who achieves only what few authors can, to keep the reader spellbound with such a convincing storyline.
Chrissie, a woman, who wakes up believing she had a one night stand with an older man, is stunned to hear she is married to him, is 47 years old, and is an amnesiac due to a horrific car accident when she was 29.
Set in North London we walk alongside Christine in the hope of unravelling pieces of her existence and progressively uncovering veracity.
Married to Ben, her beloved husband, who, expects the same reaction every morning thus explicates the same tale every morning, Chrissie is consequently led to believe this is so, that she had to give up her work, that although she has a PhD, she cannot apply it any longer.
Is that really my life? I think. Is that all I am?
A knight, if you will, appears, in the form of a young Dr Nash, who calls Chrissie every morning, explaining who he is and what he wants. It is Dr Nash who encourages Chrissie to record a journal throughout the day. It is Dr Nash who explains this journal will help Chrissie reveal certainties in her existence and it is Dr Nash who ultimately helps Chrissie discover the truth.
Something has been added. Something unexpected, terrifying. More terrifying than anything else I have seen today. There, beneath my name, in blue ink and capital letters are three words. DON’T TRUST BEN.
Chrissie learns of her life every morning with the help of her journal and slowly starts to shape her story, or her history. Between her memories, her husband and her Doctor Chrissie discovers some traumatic events and yet an aura of perplexity is deep-seated within her.
A disturbing and yet hypnotizing read, SJ Watson manages to depict an amnesiac with such accuracy in a run-of-the-mill life. This is a must read book over and over and over again. Don’t forget it! 10/10
‘I love you,’ I whisper, and I close my eyes, and I sleep.
Some questions to the readers and to the author:
For the reader:
Reader: If you were Christine, and on waking that very first morning, what would you do?
Reader: Waking up believing you are in your twenties, yet realising you are actually late forties, would you react the same way Chrissie does?
Reader: If you were Claire, would you have done more to reach out to Christine? After all, it was some 18 years ago they were last in touch?
Reader: The story throws up some superb twists. What did you think of the ending and how else would you have liked it to end?
Reader: How did the theme of the book resonate with you?
Reader: If you found out your loved one, your partner and soul mate was having an affair what would you do?
For the author:
@SJ Watson: Have you always wanted to be a writer?
@SJ Watson : How does it feel to be at number 1?
@SJ Watson: Alot of research must have gone into writing Before I Go To Sleep? How did you go about your research?
@SJ Watson: At the start of the book Ben states they are going away for the weekend, are you referring to Brighton?
@SJ Watson: There was a bit of an anti-climax with Dr Nash. It turned out he was in fact just a young Doctor trying to help. Was the build-up to his character a deliberate ploy to keep the reader intrigued? Is there more to Dr Nash coming up?
@SJ Watson: The man known as Ben was such a deceitful, twisted man and yet he never once looked in Chrissie’s floral diary. Did he assume after all these years he has absolutely nothing to worry about?
@SJ Watson: The real Ben moved on yet still loves Christine even though she had an affair. What would you do if you were in a similar situation?
@SJ Watson: Covering an amnesiac in a novel offers a predictable narrative and yet you manage to take us into the realm of unpredictable. How easy was it to conjure up these characters?
@SJ Watson: Did Before I Go To Sleep throw up any surprises for you?
@SJ Watson: What are your top 3 favourite novels?
@SJ Watson: The rights to ‘Before I go to sleep’ have been acquired by Ridley Scott. How do you feel about transferring this onto the big screen? Will you have a say in the screen writers version?
@SJ Watson: Have you given up your day job now?
Thank you for reading my review.
Retrograde amnesia, the loss of pre-existing memories to conscious recollection, beyond an ordinary degree of forgetfulness. This type of amnesia first targets the patient’s most recent memories, the amount of memories lost depends on the severity of the case. The person may be able to memorize new things that occur after the onset of amnesia (unlike in anterograde amnesia), but is unable to recall some or all of their life or identity prior to the onset.
- Paperback Q&A: SJ Watson on Before I Go to Sleep (guardian.co.uk)