Before I Go to Sleep, by S J Watson


One woman. A new life. Every day.


Highly impressive for a debut novel, Watson has created a heart-breaking scenario, in which her protagonist, Christine, can only retain memories for a single day. As this difficult, frightening life is gradually unfurled to the reader, it quickly appears something isn’t right. But the truth is hard to come by, especially when you wonder whether you can trust even yourself. What begins as a novel of confusion, where the reader is left feeling as empty and bewildered as the protagonist, slowly turns into a gripping struggle to understand a past that is buried again and again each night.


Masterfully written, Watson does what any good author should when creating a thriller; keeping the reader guessing. But when every memory could be an imagination, every past note an elaborated lie, nothing is ever truly real. It is not until all the subtle, tiny pieces fit that you realise how close the truth has always been, and how shocking it really is. Quickly moving between innocent curiosity, dreadful discoveries and moments of underlying horror that may be missed by the reader just as easily as the vulnerable protagonist, Before I Go to Sleep is definitely a novel which keeps you eager to unravel.


Despite the challenging nature of the idea, Watson has found an ingenious way to build upon an amnesiac protagonist, using a diary form in such a way that allows a true connection to be made between the reader and Christine.  This is not a tale, but rather an intriguing journey to the truth. Indeed, limited by the protagonist’s own knowledge, the reader must also take on the role of detective alongside this confused and manipulated character. Though it takes some time for the real nature of the novel to be revealed, this only heightens the intensity of each discovery. The day before may be forgotten, but does that leave the next an open story, or a pre-written terror?


Length: 372 (Black Swan)

Overall Rating: 4 stars


Author: Jack Jakins

A recent graduate of history, now an aspiring writer and general cynicist

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