Warning: If you have not read “Before I Go To Sleep” by S.J. Watson, do not read this review if you do not like spoilers. If you already read the book or don’t mind spoilers, feel free to read this!
Another book review is here and this time it’s “Before I Go To Sleep” by S.J. Watson. I know there was a movie adaptation of this book, but I never actually saw it and I only picked up the book just now. Here’s a summary so we know what the book is about:
“As I sleep, my mind will erase everything I did today. I will wake up tomorrow as I did this morning. Thinking I’m still a child, thinking I have a whole lifetime of choice ahead of me…
Memories define us. So what if you lost yours every time you went to sleep? Your name, your identity, your past, even the people you love–all forgotten overnight. And the one person you trust may only be telling you half the story.
Welcome to Christine’s life.”
I found it to be interesting but also horrible as Christine, the main character, essentially forgets everything she knows in the past. The book starts with her waking up with no recollection of herself, and thankfully Ben (later revealed to be a soon-to-be-ex-husband initially as they’re technically supposed to be separated) is there to help her out. Christine comes across a journal in the first chapter, where there are three words noticeably written inside along with the past journal entries meant to help refresh her memory: DON’T TRUST BEN. The book then goes back to the past, where Christine’s life is written down in several journal entries and slowly reveal more and more of the factors surrounding her current situation.
I definitely found the plot of this book to be interesting, though I felt horrible for Christine to be initially deprived of the knowledge surrounding her own child, Adam, as well as the exact relations between Christine and Ben as well as Ben’s affair with Claire, and she was justifiably enraged when she did finally find out about all of that. I felt angry at first that Christine’s own ex-husband wouldn’t disclose the full truth to her right away and would just lie to her, but then we find out that Ben isn’t even Ben and that he was completely lying to Christine the whole time about her life. That not-Ben is a man named Mike, and things get horribly screwed up.
I’m angry about the revelation that Ben wasn’t really Ben and that he was Mike in the book. The reason for this is because this essentially means that Christine was essentially kidnapped by Mike and manipulated against her will, and judging by the amount of violence between her and Mike at the end of the book as well as the fact that he was lying to her the whole time about essentially everything, the relationship was, at heart, an abusive one with Christine as the victim. If there is anything I’m happy about regarding the plot as a whole, however, it’s that the book does not glorify this abusive relationship between the two characters.
As for the characters themselves, Christine is shown to be a complex person. She has good reason to be angry about being deprived of knowledge about her life, given her own condition of being unable to remember things after falling asleep and waking up. She’s smart, though, to continue keeping that journal (and especially smart to keep it a secret from Mike because otherwise he would’ve destroyed it) and the secrets she keeps herself are what help her to get away from Mike in the end and also help herself to remember the past things that happened. If she didn’t keep a journal in the first place, its likely things wouldn’t end so well for her by the end of the book, especially with that reveal about Mike in the end. However, a lot of the other characters just felt flat, and I wish there was more development (especially with Dr. Nash and Claire).
In terms of writing style, the description wasn’t too overwhelming but it was enough to describe the characters’ actions, appearance and so on, so it’s fine regarding that. I didn’t see any grammatical errors in the book, either, so that is also fine.
Overall, I’d given the book a rating of 4 out of 5 stars, mainly because of the lack of character development for the more supporting/minor characters. However, this was intriguing to read, and if you’re looking for a book that does a spin on the amnesiac-type of plot, you might be interested in reading this. Be warned, though—this whole situation between Christine and her kidnapper is a definitely abusive one (though more on an emotional level than physical), so if you’re not keen on reading that sort of material you might want to avoid this one.