Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Review: "Before I Go To Sleep" by S. J. Watson

This is an Amazon Vine review.

Christine Lucas wakes up each morning believing she is a young woman. So who is this middle-aged man sleeping next to her? And why, when she looks in the mirror, does she see the lines, sags and wrinkles of a 47 year old?

Whatever Christine learns during the day, when she sleeps it will all be erased. Every morning is the same: reset.

She asks questions and is told narratives: about herself, her past, her accident. She was run over; she has a special kind of amnesia; she was a writer. But what she hears from her doctor and her husband don’t cohere - one or both of them are lying. She starts to keep a journal, building multiple explanations for her predicament. Each diverse account makes sense but none of them are grounded. In all the narratives she appears to be safe, so why does she feel so terrified?

This is an extraordinary book by Steven Watson. Written from Christine’s point of view, the level of suspense cranks up in the first few pages and never subsequently abates. It’s that rare thing, a genuine page-turner and one with endless surprises.

The plotting has a family resemblance to the Christopher Nolan film Memento (2000) but the storyline diverges. It kept me completely engrossed and I strongly recommend it. My mother, aged 87, read it over Christmas and could not tear herself away: it clearly appeals to multiple demographics!

A final point: Christine Lucas’s point of view is so authentically sustained that I was sure “S. J. Watson” was a female author. Mr Watson thereby exhibits his profound insight in addition to the other virtues of this excellent first novel.