Christine has suffered a terrible brain injury. One that affects her memory in an entirely unique, and seemingly untreatable way. Every day for 20 years she wakes up with no memory, believing herself to be either a child, or a young woman, no older than University age. And every day she stumbles to the bathroom in a strange house and discovers the truth – she is 47 and most of her life is missing. Every night when she goes to sleep her mind erases the day before, along with her long-term memories. Every morning is truly a fresh start. Relying on her husband, Ben, to fill in her life story, Christine is in a very vulnerable position. This becomes even more apparent when she is visited by a doctor – Dr Nash, and discovers a diary with the words DO NOT TRUST BEN scrawled across the front page. But why? How can Christine even be sure that she can trust herself?
The Thriller/Mystery aspect aside, Before I go to Sleep is an exploration of a lost identity. What can we base our sense of self on if not our memories? Christine has no idea who she is. She has spent years relying on someone else to tell her who she is – what she likes to do, what she has done in the past, what her hopes for the future were. Not only that, but she has no hope for ever forming a new sense of identity as every night her memories are erased. It’s a scary concept that one can lose themselves so completely.
I didn’t expect to like this book. I thought that it would get very repetitive as Christine went through the same emotions every morning. However, SJ Watson managed to delicately balance this. You feel Christine’s sense of desperation and frustration with the constant recycling of information but without becoming bored with it as the reader.
One criticism would be that I definitely wouldn’t recommend it if you are, for example, a neuroscientist. I’m sure all the flimsy peusdo-science will annoy the heck out of you. However, if you are happy to suspend your scepticism, then I would recommend this novel.
Before I go to Sleep is a rollercoaster ride of a book. Christine experiences just about every emotion, fresh, as if for the first time, childlike. As the reader, you are with her every step of the way, even if it is one step forward, two steps backwards. Her story is deeply compelling and will have you hooked through to the end.
This post was written by guest reviewer Ali - find her blog here
Image c/o Ali