Friday, April 27, 2012

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

Amazon UK are currently running a deal -  two paperbacks for £7 - so finding myself the proud owner of a wee Amazon voucher a few weeks back, I picked up two. I got Susan Hill's "The Woman in Black" and this one - "Before I Go To Sleep" by S.J. Watson.

SJ Watson is an English author, and this is his debut novel (I thought he was a woman until I googled him, apologies there Steve). HE was accepted into the first Faber Academy "Writing a Novel" course in 2009, and this book is the result. It won a couple of prestigious awards (The Crime Writers' Association Award for Best Debut Novel and the Galaxy National Book Award for Crime Thriller of the Year). Here's the back cover spiel:

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 have to say, now that I know SJ is a man, I'm even more impressed with how the main character of Christine is written. SJ has a powerful writing style, and has written a strong female character with lots of personality. She's extremely engaging and likeable, and I found myself rooting for her all the way through. It's also lovely to read a book where the main character is in her forties - I can't think of too many others like it.

Basically, Christine suffered a trauma a few years back, and now suffers from severe short-term memory loss. She can remember up to the trauma, and she can hold her daily memories for the duration of the day, but by morning, all is lost and she begins the day over again not knowing anything about her life. Her husband, Ben, has to remind her of who she is every single morning.

This arrangement seems to work for them..... until a doctor gets involved and encourages Christine to write a journal. He calls her every day to tell her where the journal is, and so Christine spends a good chunk of her days reading up on what's been happening and what she's been feeling. The book is split into three parts - The present day, the journal, and the present day again. The tension is slowly built up as you read the journal part, and you know something's coming, but you're not exactly sure what.

What does come is a brilliant sequence of twists and discoveries - some good, some bad - and I promise you, you won't be able to put it down. Is everyone in Christine's life being honest with her? Is she going mad? Can she trust anyone? Can she even trust her journal - herself? The whole lot builds up into an explosive revelation, one that I have to admit I didn't even see coming.

I began this book at 10.30pm one night last week while I listened to a concert on TV in the background, and I could not put it down. I tell a lie - I put it down twice - once, to have this conversation: 

Himself: What's that concert?
Me: Slash.
Himself: Guns n Roses?
Me: Well, yeah, he used to be with them.
Himself: But he's not now?
Me: No.
Himself: Who's the lad singing? 
Me: Myles Kennedy.
Himself: He's not from Guns n Roses?
Me: No.
Himself: Do you like that kind of music?
Me: Sure you know I do.
Himself: Oh right. So which one is the lad from Guns n Roses?
Me: Here, take the remote, I'll finish me book in the kitchen.
Himself: Ah no stay there, but which of them were in Guns n Roses? (patience - gone)

The second time I put it down was to sing along to Sweet Child O' Mine. I mean, you have to, don't you?

Anyway, it's a brilliant book, a seriously impressive debut, and the rights have also been acquired by Ridley Scott's production company so I would expect to see it in movie form some time in the future. It's too good not to moviefy (yes, that's a word. Maybe.)

Any reading recommendations for me?

S xx