S.J. Watson’s Before I Go to Sleep is one of those novels that caught me by surprise.
I almost didn’t review it because I had just reviewed three British novels and I strive for balance.
But Watson’s novel was immediately mesmerizing as he tackled the power of memories while writing about a woman with no memory. Christine Lucas not only has lost any recollections about her past, but her lack of memory has robbed her of any feelings.
Each day, Christine wakes up not knowing who she is or who the man is next to her. She believes she is 27 years old, but beyond that she has no immediate clue to her past. Each day she is stunned to see in the mirror the face of a 47-year-old and to learn that she has been married for 22 years to Ben. Each morning, before he leaves for work as a teacher, Ben explains to Christine that she lost her memory 20 years before in an accident.
Or did she?
To try to remember, Christine writes down everything that has happened to her, and these journals are her only connection with the past. Because each day, her memory is wiped clean. But those journals also include a chilling note: “Don’t trust Ben.”
In my review of Before I Go to Sleep that ran in the Sun Sentinel and other newspapers, I said: “Watson bends his intense psychological thriller in myriad ways, making the reader simultaneously empathize and doubt each character. Ben appears to be a devoted husband; [her doctor] appears to be a compassionate physician; Christine appears not to know of her past.
“Each snippet of Christine’s memory appears to be a victory as well as a setback. Recovering her memory may be more frightening than she imagines. At each turn, clues to Christine’s past and present spin in different directions, leading to a shocking finale,” I wrote in the review in the Sun Sentinel.
And here is the review that ran in Mystery Scene magazine.
Before the book hit the stands, Before I Go to Sleep already had been sold to become a film produced by Ridley Scott. It will star Nicole Kidman as Christine and Mark Strong (Sherlock Holmes) as her psychiatrist. Rowan Joffe will direct. The film version of Before I Go to Sleep is scheduled for release during 2013.