Before I go to Sleep
S J Watson
The Text Publishing Company
Christine wakes up every morning in an unfamiliar bed with an unfamiliar man. She looks in the mirror and sees an unfamiliar, middle- aged face. And every morning, the man she has woken up with must explain that he is Ben, he is her husband, she is forty-seven years old, and a terrible accident two decades earlier decimated her ability to form new memories.
But it’s the phone call from a Dr. Nash, a neurologist who claims to be working with Christine without her husband’s knowledge, that directs her to her journal, hidden in the back of her closet. For the past few weeks, Christine has been recording her daily activities—tearful mornings with Ben, sessions with Dr. Nash, flashes of scenes from her former life—and rereading past entries, relearning the facts of her life as retold by the husband she is completely dependent upon. As the entries build up, Christine asks many questions. What was life like before the accident? Why did she and Ben never have a child? What has happened to Christine’s best friend? And what exactly was the horrific accident that caused such a profound loss of memory?
Every day, Christine must begin again the reconstruction of her past. And the closer she gets to the truth, the more un- believable it seems.
This is by no doubt the best psychological thriller I have read this year and deserves to be on my best of 2013 list.
This novel is both a tense, at times unsettling, disturbing foray into the private life and thoughts of an amnesiac and a gentle examination of identity, infidelity, jealousy and history. Who are we really, whose story is true, and whose memories are correct?
The use of a journal as a device to hear Christine’s thoughts, insecurities and truths worked well, particularly so in the last chapters to escalate tension and fear and to link events of the past and the now.
The furious pace, the sense of urgency, my need for all to be revealed and understood made this novel a compelling reading. I found myself mentally urging Christine not to trust Ben, to get out; Ben – the all powerful, the keeper of all knowledge, the controlling Ben was not to be trusted. I was not prepared for the twist that had me lulled into a false sense of calm (But I won’t reveal the plot here). We were given permission by the author to take some deep breaths at this point but only a few, then the fear escalated; I wanted Christine to get out QUICK. The sinister truth is revealed in a brutal manner. I did not see this coming. Then the denouement, a little too hurried and tied up neatly in a parcel wrapped with pretty string. Pity.
This is a book that will reverberate in the minds and lives of many women either those working with or those survivors of, domestic violence; absolute power and control over others – domestic violence. This book was written with such sensitivity to the female protagonist in a powerless relationship that I did not realise until after I finished reading and looked up the author on the web that she was he.
I read with such appetite I doubt there will be any ink left for my husband to read this next. I think it is a book he too may enjoy.