Tuesday, 4 September 2012

Before I Go to Sleep- who needs rest when you've got a good read?

When I wake-up, my first thought tends to be about how snugly and warm my bed is.  Other times, I will have an instant flashback of a part of my dream and try to piece whatever happened together to make some sort of sense.  For Christine, she will wake-up and be met by many questions.  Who am I? Where am I? Who is that lying next to me? Before I Go to Sleep is the tale of Christine who suffers a type of amnesia that makes her forget her entire identity overnight.

Thinking she is in her late twenties with her whole life ahead of her, it comes as quite a shock to Christine when she wakes up one morning to see a middle aged woman looking back at her in the mirror.  After having her life briefly explained to her by the man claiming to be her husband, Christine receives a phone call.  A man, calling himself Dr Nash, says that she has been meeting with him in secret for the past few weeks so that she could try to piece her identity back together.  A doubtful Christine is told by Dr Nash that she has been recording a journal in which she writes down what she knows at the time, anything from small details about herself to paragraph upon paragraph of old memories.  Finding the journal in her wardrobe, Christine wonders whether she has found the key to unlock her past and begins reading...

Before I Go to Sleep is a brilliantly structured psychological thriller that will have you itching to carry on reading late into the night.  It is important to remember that this is S J Watson’s DEBUT novel, as there are authors that have written book after book that could not write a thriller anywhere near as gripping as Watson did.  The book is structured into three parts:  ‘Today, The Journal of Christine Lucas and Today’ which are key in demonstrating the different levels of dependence on the journal and her husband she experiences.  The plot twists and turns to make you question what you thought you thought was true, allowing the reader to have an insight into what Christine had to go through day by day.  What left me utterly gobsmacked but nonetheless in awe of Watson, was how he manipulated the pace of the novel so that it felt calm and slow to make you think the drama was over- when in fact it hadn’t even begun.

I must commend Watson on the level of expertise he encompasses in Before I Go to Sleep because he uses his knowledge from working in the NHS to make the character of Christine feel real to us and to make Dr Nash seem like a credible doctor who has worked with amnesiacs time and time again.  Christine’s husband, Ben Lucas, is a character that was brilliantly put together because there are times that as the reader, we see him as the perfect husband for her, and yet there is always that existing doubt in our minds of whether he is solely trustworthy.

Before I Go to Sleep is a novel that will have you hooked and desperate to carry on reading, whatever your taste may be.  There is not a single aspect of this book I can fault as Watson did everything right.  If you’re a bit of a softy and like some romance within a novel, then look no further as Before I Go to Sleep includes underlying romances that are fundamental in making the story what it is and allowing the characters to grow.  On the other hand, there is a more brutal and hard edge to the book because we see the pain that Christine- a representation of many amnesiacs that Watson worked with- has to go through day by day to figure out what is her present, what was her past and what will be her future.  Going back to when I read the novel, there were times when I was positive I knew what would happen next, absolutely sure that because Y followed on from X, surely Z should be the next most logical scenario.  However, my logic failed me and Watson would throw a spanner in the works, leaving me gawping at what happened, but appreciating his ability as a writer all the more.

Although I love reading one good book after the other, I think that Watson has set the standards extremely high with Before I Go to Sleep and I can only name about five books that compete with his level of suspenseful and considered writing.  The last few years have seen me take a liking to the thriller and crime genre and I can only hope that someday I will be able to write a thriller as captivating but nevertheless hard hitting as Before I Go to Sleep.

Rating: 10/10