When reviewing a book that others have been raving about, as with Before I Go to Sleep by SJ Watson, it’s hard not to let the hype spoil the read. The theme dealing with amnesia isn’t that original, but having the protagonist also having to cope with short term memory loss gives it a new twist.
Christine wakes each morning knowing who she is, but not realising she is at least 25 years older than she believed (apparently, sometimes she thinks she is a child on waking, but that isn’t shown in the book, we are only told about it). Each day her husband has to explain what happened to cause her loss of memory and bring her up to date.
So far so intriguing – but then Christine receives a phone call from a doctor who tells her she has been keeping a journal and that she should read it. From this point onwards we follow Christine’s life through what she writes each night before going to sleep, gradually realising that all is far from well within her marriage.
The journal entries are long and incredibly detailed when one considers she writes them while her husband is in the house. I found this slightly irritating because she seems to be able to spend hours writing and yet her husband never asks what she is doing or why she goes upstairs for hours at a stretch.
Later, when she has found out that she shouldn’t believe everything she is told about her former life and has met up with a friend she has known since they met at university, the journal entries reflect her concerns and mounting confusion.
For me, the beginning is the best part of the book. The ending, although shocking, was a touch predictable. The middle got a bit tedious and it was confusing at times trying to work out when the various events had taken place – was she reading about them, or had they happened that day?
Having said all the above, it is a powerful debut and I would certainly read another by the author.