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Before I go to sleep : a novel

by S J Watson

  Print book : Fiction  |  1st ed

1 of 1 people found this review helpful.
A Myrt's Review   (2014-02-24)


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by MyrtleMainey

A Brilliant Debut - Not To Be Missed!


A psychological drama that ultimately leads into a suspenseful thriller. The story is told from the first person perspective of Christine. Christine awakes each morning to find a strange man in her bed and to a face in the mirror she only barely recognizes as her own. Christine has been existing with a version of short term amnesia for over twenty years. The man in the bed is her devoted husband Ben and Christine is only able to remember herself as being in her 20's when she last fell asleep. Each day when Christine gets up she looks at the pictures her husband has taped up for her of the two of them and he then explains to her who she is. Each night she goes to sleep and the following morning the process begins again and again.

Recently, Christine has started seeing a new doctor and at his suggestion she has begun to keep a journal of her days and noting any fragments of memory that occasionally pops up along with whatever information she learns about herself from Ben. Her husband is unaware of her meetings with the doctor or her journal as he is determined that no further medical intervention is needed since it has only served to cause her continuous anguish in the past when ultimately there was no change in her condition.

Through her journal, Christine reminds herself each day, not only of who she is now, but through recording what bits of information about her past her husband fills in for her and what she learns working with the doctor she starts to form a written but fragmented memory of who she once was and what is happening in her life now. Through her journal entries Christine begins to notice discrepancies in what she is being told at different times and questions her mental state but also finds herself wondering if she can trust what her husband is telling her and what are the reasons he chooses to keep certain things from her. Is he trying to avoid upsetting her or himself? Through her work with her doctor Christine has snippets of memory but can't always trust these are real and not dreams.

The complexities of Christine's condition and the degree her world has been winnowed down to just her daily interaction with her husband because of it is heartbreaking as when each day begins anew so must Christine start over. But using her private journal as a daily reminder of who she is now and a record of what she has been told and what little she remembers about her past Christine struggles to find a way to learn to live within the extreme limitations of her current life.

It is only then, over three-quarters of the way through the book that the plot moves smoothly into the suspense thriller mode that has, oh so, quietly been an undercurrent throughout Christine's story as various facts abruptly come to a head and Christine is suddenly left to work out, within less than a day's time, what is happening around her and how to save herself.

As a debut novel, it is amazing how well crafted and developed this story is and what a realistical and well defined character Christine is as the reader becomes her invisible companion from the moment she opens her eyes and faces the emotional shock of each morning. Her journal pulls you in as Christine struggles to put together pieces of missing information she doesn't always know if she can trust. You're elated with her at every success and brought down with her at each loss.

The story is compelling as the uncertainty of what is real and what isn't slowly builds to an unexpected turn of events and suddenly everything seems turned around. Beware, it will keep you up until you reach the very end!

Nobody gave me this book in exchange for my review. I just tripped over it and was so caught up by this story I had to spread the word about it. I can't wait to see what the author releases next!


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