Review: Before I Go to Sleep, S. J. Watson

Thanks, blogosphere, for having the exact opinion of Before I Go to Sleep that I had my own self. As usual y’all were right about everything.

Before I Go to Sleep is about a woman called Christine who developed amnesia following some sort of accident (she can’t remember). Every morning when she wakes up, her memories of the previous day are gone. She doesn’t remember her husband Ben, or her doctor, or any of her friends or experiences from her old life. On a good day she can remember as recently as her college years. Every day, Ben patiently explains her old life to her once again; and every night when she goes to sleep, her memories wipe clean. But one day her doctor tells her about a journal that he’s been having her keep, and when she opens it the first words in it say DON’T TRUST BEN.

(Ruh-roh! Plot thickens!)

So then the rest of the book is about trying to figure out her life before and what happened in it, and whether Ben is on the up-and-up, or whether possibly her doctor is the one not on the up-and-up, and what kind of an accident was it exactly and where are all her friends and what is happening during her days? Memento-style! (Sort of.)

Since I’ve mentioned Memento, I’ll admit that Memento, as a work of fiction that deals with short-term memory loss, was my point of reference for this book, and Memento is pretty m.f. great. Memento makes your spine tingle each time it chooses to deal out a revelation about what’s really (or apparently) going on. And Before I Go to Sleep just doesn’t have the same impact. Christine discovers some shocking things over the course of the book, but none of them was set up in a way that the revelation actually shocked me. Even the huge reveal at the end, that the man claiming to be Ben isn’t really Ben, didn’t make me gasp.

Then the ending (this is what the whole blogosphere was so, so right about) was way too pat and happy. The son’s alive! Real Ben wants to see her! Her college friend is back in her life! Blah. None of the emotional stuff felt real, and I didn’t care if Christine got her memory back or lived happily ever after.

In sum, a psychological thriller that failed to thrill me.

  • I actually liked this one. I can definitely see the problems with it, and I agree that it didn’t really “thrill” but I have to admit that I was kept entertained throughout. Maybe because I raced through it super fast, but the big thing that happens at the end was somewhat of a surprise to me. I knew something like that would happen but the way it exactly came together was a shock. However, I totally agree with everyone about the ending. WTF.

  • So, bottom line: if I find it for $4 or less, read it? I almost bought this when it first came out, but there was this “meh” vibe coming off it, and I left the store, jealously clutching my B & N gift cards tightly to my chest like a wicked old miser.

    Also, I know what you mean about affirmation from the interwebz. I wrote a (sort of mean) review about Anne Lamott’s new book, and somebody commented that she had had the exact same reaction (and MORE!) and I felt better all day.

  • Yay, I love that you said what others have said and I don’t have to worry about needing to read this! By the way, I’m currently reading THE LAST BOOK Ibbotson wrote before she died, at age 85. It’s a middle grade book and yet it’s very identifiably an Ibbotson book. I love her so much!

  • Oh, yes, you felt the same way about this one as I did. I felt there wasn’t really all that much immediacy or suspense, even though there should have been. The audio was really weird too, because the narrator’s voice lacked urgency. If you want to read a really great book on memory loss, read Turn of Mind. That one blew me away!

  • Jenny

    I think I would have been expecting to see The Silence lurking around, and tally marks on her arms and stuff. I expect to see it in Memento, now, too.

  • trapunto

    Jenny, Jenny! Are you making yourself read up all that pile of library books you were afraid wouldn’t be awesome?

  • trapunto

    And I agree. Memento was m.f. awesome, there should be a amnesia book as good as that. Maybe someone will comment about it here on your post. I will check back in hope.

  • trapunto

    I just reread zibilee’s comment; somehow I had missed before that Turn of Mind was about memory loss, so my hopes are supported. Yay!

  • Amy

    I think everyone liked Memento but me. Hmm.

    Thanks for including the spoilers which kind of aren’t spoilers. A thriller should not end like that.

  • Did you read the book Memento or just see the movie or both? I will go see if there is a book; I had assumed it was only a script.

  • Care, the movie is adapted by Christopher Nolan from his younger brother’s story Memento Mori.

  • I’ve been hearing the same thing from other bloggers about both that you mentioned. Which is too bad, because this book sounds like it would be so good.

  • aartichapati

    WELL, I shall avoid this one. Memento is the only short-term memory loss story for me. Oh, and Finding Nemo.