2011 Thriller

Before I Go To Sleep by SJ Watson

Before I Go To Sleep

Five words from the blurb: identity, past, forgotten, overnight, trust

Before I Go To Sleep centres on Christine, a woman who wakes up every morning unable to recognise her own husband. An accident left her without the ability to memorise new events and so she forgets the previous day every time she goes to sleep. In an effort to understand more about herself she begins a diary, but this leads her to discover that her husband is lying to her. The question is whether he is doing this to protect her or for another, more sinister reason…

The book is so compelling I read it in a single sitting. Desperate to know what happens I sped through the pages so quickly I was practically skim reading. I has been a long time since I’ve read something so compelling and I thoroughly enjoyed the few hours in which it entertained me.

Unfortunately everything began to fall apart afterwards. The more I thought about the book, the more holes I found in it. The reader has to suspend disbelief throughout and there are a lot of things that don’t add up if you start to think about them for any length of time. The numerous flaws make this a great book club choice – it is possible to talk about it for a long time!

On a positive note, this book does bring up some interesting points about identity:

Will I still wake up, in my seventies or eighties, thinking myself to be at the beginning of my life? Will I wake with no idea that my bones are old, my joints stiff and heavy? I can’t imagine how I will cope, when I discover that my life is behind me, has already happened, and I have nothing to show for it. No treasure house of recollection, no wealth of experience, no accumulation of wisdom to pass on. What are we, if not an accumulation of our memories?

Unfortunately they don’t have much depth and are more a springboard for your own thoughts and ideas, rather than providing any real insight.

The addictive nature of this book means that I’ll recommend it to a lot of people, especially those who aren’t keen readers, but stay away if you’re looking for anything more than a couple of hours of entertainment.


This book received a mixed reception from other bloggers:

It’s an original, fast paced, gripping and rather high concept novel. Savidge Reads

It began to get repetitive in the middle of the book… You’ve Gotta Read This!

Why it has been so much more popular than what I consider to be much better suspense books published last year, I don’t know. Petrona

Superb story telling. JoV’s Book Pyramid

My Evening with SJ Watson

I recently went to hear SJ Watson speak at a local library and thought I’d share some interesting snippets from the evening:

  • Inspiration for the book came from a man called Henry Gustav Molaison who had severe epilepsy. An operation to correct his condition left him with the ability to only remember the last 10 – 15 minutes.
  • He once went through a stage where he worried there weren’t enough characters in the book and so inserted a scene where Christine and Ben had a dinner party with friends from his school. It didn’t work and so the scene was quickly deleted.
  • It took him six months to write the first draft and he did so whilst working part time for the NHS.
  • The first draft of the book contained lots of scenes in which Christine did the ironing and made coffee.
  • He toyed with the idea of writing from a male perspective for about a minute and then decided it wouldn’t work.
  • Lots of people assume SJ Watson is female, but when asked about their surprise on finding the author is male he says it is harder for him to get inside the head of a serial killer than to write from the perspective of a woman.
  • His advice for new writers: Don’t write what you know, but if you want to write about something make sure you know about it.
  • In the past SJ Watson tried writing a book based on himself, but it was too boring!

If you ever get the chance to hear SJ Watson speak I recommend it as he is an entertaining public speaker.

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