I was born tomorrow
Today I live
Yesterday killed me
My first review of the year is Before I go to Sleep. I decided to read this book because of its frequent mention on book blogging community. I did not read the reviews in details but the blurb sounds fascinating…. and the cover, such beautiful cover!
Stories about main character memory loss, amnesia are a common theme in many movies and books. Off my head I can ramble off: Bourne Identity, 50 first dates played by Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore, and one I wanted to watch, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind meets Inception, played by Jim Carey and Kate Winslet.
What is about memory loss that fascinates us?
Because memories define us. It provides us with an anchor, so that everyday we wakes up and know who we are, what we are supposed to do. It is our identity and it helps us makes sense of the world.
Once you lose it, everything is up in the air, it all becomes fluid, the truth is made up in a fly and if there is an instinct you believe which contradicts with what you see everyday, what would you trust? Your instinct or your sight?
Note: If you want to read the book, I suggest you avoid reading my reviews. Although it doesn’t contain spoiler, but it will take the fun out of feeling as confused as Christine when you read the novel!
Before I Go to Sleep is a story about a woman named Christine. She wakes up not remembering anything about the night before, she pick the pieces of her life and when she falls asleep again she will forgets everything little fragment she remembers during the day. Her memory only last 24 hours or less in her waking hours in a day. She was told she lost her memory because of a car crash. Everyday her patient husband Ben repeats the basic and tells her who he is, how to take care of herself while he is at work, he tells her he is a teacher with a local college.
The novel starts with the chapter “Today” then Christine recalled she kept a journal, and the mid section of the books contain all of Christine’s journal entries. At the end of the book, it comes back to “Today”. The format was unusual. It messes up with my head a little. Then again the best thing Christine did was to keep a journal. Encouraged by Dr Nash in pursuit of medical research into Christine’s condition, without Ben’s knowledge, has encouraged Christine to keep a journal. The ironic thing is she remembers where she kept it, and reads it everyday to refresh her memory about her past and seek answers to some of the confounding questions she has.
Christine suspects her husband is not telling the truth, as days goes by she discovered that she once had a child, that she did certain things and that she used to have a close friend. But she also empathise with her husband who had put up with her for 20 years when she is in such condition. Any other men would have left, but her husband didn’t. He must have loved her. Ben must have provide her with a sanitised version of her past so that she doesn’t get hurt everyday, or is he manipulating her perception of her world? Can she or can she not trust her husband? This is where the strength of this debut psychological thriller: is to have the ability to sway you from one way to the next, without being able to make up your mind.
It is a confusing book but it confuses you enough to want to find the answer. I like what the Guardian says about being able to share with the reader – a delicate appreciation of the links between fabulation (that is, the writing of stories that violate readerly expectations) and confabulation (the creation of false memories and experiences by a damaged brain). It started slow and it gives me the feeling of the book given more hype than it deserves but as layer by layer the truth is revealed and it culminates into a gasping end, I knew this one simple confusing story is written by the hand of a master.
A first novel by an NHS (UK’s National Health Services) audiologist, SJ Watson wrote the book in between shifts at London’s St Thomas’s Hospital, the book is exceptionally accomplished. Initially I thought the mention of the writer (I didn’t even know the gender and I assume it was a woman author!) worked in the NHS in a number of years must be a nurse in a mental health institution but I was surprised that the author was a guy and not only that the book has sold its movie rights to Ridley Scott.
I kept a journal since I was young but have stopped for a hiatus of a decade. The book made me think about how important it is for me to record my days again.
Like Judith@Leeswammes Blog, being the cynic that I am, I didn’t believe Christine has the time or the opportunity to write such a long journal entries everyday (even I find it hard to write one book review these days!) and to top it off read all her entries in the past. Due to some parts that suspense my belief (such as her journal was burnt at the end, how on earth are we readers able to read it still?) I will give it a 4.5 star.
However, if you can sustain your belief about the practicality of what Christine can do, this is still an enjoyable book written in an unusual format, well paced tension and culminating into a nail-biting climax. I hardly say this for a thriller, but this is one that I will be re-reading it again. It is the sort that you get to the end and the light bulb lit up and everything starts to make sense. Superb story telling. Well deserved its international attention.
Hardback. Publisher: Doubleday April 2011; Length: 366 pages; Setting: North London, UK. Source: Library copy. Finished reading at: 6th January 2012.
Judith @ leeswammes Blog: The book is very well written and although the individual entries in the journal are a bit long (I wouldn’t think she’d have the time to write that much on a day), they told me all I wanted to know and nothing more. In other words, it never became boring. A fast and good read, very believable. Only the end was a little too convenient for my taste.
Savidge reads: ‘Before I Go To Sleep’ is a very clever book. It takes a relatively simple, and equally possible, scenario and flips it on its head. In fact it’s the very domestic and almost mundane ordinariness of the books setting which makes it so unnerving. The fact Watson does this, on the whole, in one house between three characters is truly impressive. It’s an original, fast paced, gripping and rather high concept novel. I am wondering just what on earth, Watson is going to follow this up with… and how? 9/10
Dolce bellezza: “Seriously,” I told my friends at dinner last night, “you have to read this book.” A nail biting truth with a harrowing edge. One that makes me grateful for my choices, and my memory, upon turning the final page.
Did I miss your reviews? If so, let me know.
About the writer:
Steve “S. J.” Watson (born 1971) is an English writer. He debuted in 2011 with the thriller novel Before I Go to Sleep. Rights to publish the book have been sold in 37 different countries around the world and it has gone on to be an international bestseller.
Watson was born in Stourbridge, in the West Midlands. He studied Physics at the University of Birmingham and then moved to London, where he worked in various hospitals and specialized in the diagnostic and treatment of hearing-impaired children. In the evening and weekends he wrote fiction.
In 2009 Watson was accepted for the first course Writing a Novel at the Faber Academy. The result was his debut, Before I Go to Sleep. He was introduced to literary agent Clare Conville on the last night of the course and she agreed to represent him. The book was published in April 2011. In the same year it was announced that the book would be adapted for the big screen by Ridley Scott, with Rowan Joffe slated to write and direct.