About three months ago, Paul and I went overseas and since I had forgotten to pack him a book (although after seeing how he treats his books, ‘forgotten’ might not be the right word), we were stuck at the airport trying to pick one out for him. As he read out title after title, which I would usually respond with ‘I own it, so don’t buy it’ or ‘You don’t want to read that on holiday, it’s too depressing’, I came to the sad conclusion that a large portion of my personal library consists of airport quality books and a scary amount of penguin paperbacks. Oh well.

The point of this story is that there was this one book, Before I Go to Sleep, that I had neither read nor owned and as such wanted Paul to buy so that I could steal it from him immediately. Unfortunately, Paul didn’t go with my terribly unselfish suggestion*, so I was forced to buy it myself two months down the track.

Before I Go to Sleep by S. J. Watson is a thriller told from the perspective of Christine Lucas; a middle-aged woman who has no memory of the past twenty years. Every night as she sleeps Christine loses her memories all over again, and has to start from scratch each morning when she wakes.

After she begins seeing a doctor, Christine starts keeping a diary so that she read about her past when she wakes each morning. As the book (and diary) unfold, Christine begins doubting everything that her husband, Ben, has been telling her.

Before I Go to Sleep was an entertaining read but overall nothing particularly special. I don’t frequently read crime or thriller novels yet even I could tell from the get-go that there was going to be a twist and it was going to be about her husband Ben. I wanted so badly for the twist to be outrageously melodramatic, where Christine loses her memory every night because her husband Ben has been feeding her a specially concocted potion so that she forgets that SHE’S NOT IN LOVE WITH HIM. Just so that the book wouldn’t fall into the trap of taking itself too seriously. Unfortunately, I only got half of my wish, which means I was stuck with the melodramatic storyline without the overly dramatic overtures, a la The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari. In short, I got a typical thriller.

Granted, I have to admit that I went into Before I Go to Sleep already disliking the author because he referred to himself (herself?) as S J Watson. Sorry, but unless you’ve written Harry Potter you’re going to look a bit pompous for rendering yourself that way.

Nevertheless, it was still a fun read. Perfect as a holiday read when one is lying on an Indonesian beach, for example (*cough Paul cough*). The writing flowed and it was well-edited: there wasn’t a great deal of ‘dead work’ that bogged the story down. However, there were definitely aspects that could have been improved, largely the context of what is occurring in Christine’s life. Though the amnesia could quite possibly occur, the circumstances surrounding it and her subsequent rehabilitation are frankly unbelievable, and read as though Watson has written a first draft and couldn’t be bothered filling in the gaps. It was however, Watson’s first novel, and considering Before I Go to Sleep has ability to keep readers hooked until the end, it shows promising signs of a debut novelist and I will probably read whatever Watson produces next.

Have you read Before I Go to Sleep or seen the movie? Are you a fan of thrillers? What is more important – a believable storyline or an unexpected twist? Let me know!

* He ended up going with Sherlock Holmes, a book I own two copies of at home. Oh well, if you’re going to have multiple-anythings, it might as well be Sherlock.