Review of ‘Before I Go To Sleep’ by S J Watson

I read this book 10 years ago. I believe that it was among the first of our current trend for domestic psychological thrillers and that it has been influential. I wanted to watch the film adaptation, so I decided to re-read the book. I’d remembered the concept and the massive twist – also, oddly, that coffee was mentioned a lot – but not the finer points of the story.

Narrated by Christine Lucas, the novel has a focus on memories and their role in shaping our lives. Christine wakes up every day having lost her memory of the past twenty years. She relies on her husband to reassure and explain to her what’s going on. Then she gets a phone call from a doctor she’s apparently been seeing about her amnesia and starts to question what really happened to her. Moreover, she can’t trust anyone, least of all herself. How can she solve her mysteries when she’s going to forget everything by the next day?

It’s a very clever, suspenseful novel where you only know as much as Christine. It really highlights how challenging amnesia is for sufferers and their families. While some details of the plot are not very believable, the author does a great job of keeping you reading, with simple evocative prose and slowly revealed information. The only elements which I wasn’t so keen on were the occasional repetitions in the writing style (someone ‘looked disappointed’ every chapter, it seemed) and the lack of an extra twist in the ending, as I just felt a bit dissatisfied with how nicely things were tied up.

First published in 2011.

I’ve since enjoyed the author’s second novel Second Life and abandoned their third one, Final Cut.

2 thoughts on “Review of ‘Before I Go To Sleep’ by S J Watson”

  1. I loved this too when it came out and have often wondered since if it was really as good as it seemed, or if it was simply its originality that made it stand out. I was never sure if it would stand up to re-reading now that so many other authors have jumped on the bandwagon and produced books in a similar style, so I’m glad you felt it’s still a good read. I didn’t much enjoy his second book, and haven’t tried the third.

    1. That’s just what I wondered too – it was, I think, the first domestic psychological thriller I read, so it seemed very original at the time! But there have been thousands since then, many of them with twist endings that this book lacks.

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