ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Steve “S. J.” Watson (born in 1971) is an English writer. He debuted in 2011 with the thriller novel Before I Go to Sleep. Rights to publish the book have been sold in 42 different countries around the world and it has gone on to become an international bestseller.
Watson was born in Stourbridge, in the West Midlands. He studied Physics at the University of Birmingham and then moved to London, where he worked in various hospitals and specialized as an audiologist in the diagnosis and treatment of hearing-impaired children. He wrote fiction in the evenings and on weekends .
In this enthralling story, we follow Christine, who wakes up every morning in an unfamiliar room with an unknown man. She looks at an obscure middle-aged face in the mirror. Every morning, the stranger must explain to her that he is Ben, her husband, that she is forty-seven years old, and that an accident a couple of decades ago deprived her of the ability to create new memories.
Christine’s life, which restarts every twenty-four hours, gives us an insight into the importance of memory. The saying, “a person who has nothing still has himself” hits hard while reading this book. However, the biggest questions it raises are of whom one may trust and whether the light at the end of the dark tunnel is really a way out. The thoughts provoked while following the story are intriguing and somewhat uncomfortable.
Every day, Christine reconstructs her past through Ben and a journal she keeps without his knowledge. But as she tries to gather the pieces of her past, she realizes that those pieces do not fit together. Inconsistencies start surfacing and small differences are observed until those differences coalesce into a thriller. Guiding her through the thick fog is Dr. Nash, who gives her daily reminders to write her journal.
I want to sleep. To find a safe place somewhere, and close my eyes, and rest, like an animal.
That is what I am. An animal. Living from moment to moment, day to day, trying to make sense of the world in which I find myself.
The book has an amazing structure made of narratives and journal entries. It is a literary thriller in the truest sense of the word. Every new revelation made by Christine adds mystery to the plot. Her life is mundane, but filled with tantalizing possibilities: the early chapters fly by as the readers wonder exactly whom to trust. The fun comes from spotting the plot-holes that Watson later exploits ingeniously.
Before I Go to Sleep is a brilliant example of how an unexpectedly high-concept idea can be transformed through skillful execution and panache. It unquestionably is a suspenseful and gripping psychological thriller, one that is paced to perfection by Watson. At every point in the story, the readers expect the story to go in one direction, only to witness the plot make an utter mockery of those predictions. Each and every chapter of the book is enjoyable and enchanting in its own right. Although the ending might feel a bit hurried and perfunctory, the meticulously planned central plot more than makes up for it.
One of the most notable things about the plot is the way it is rooted in the domestic, the suburban, and the trivial. The story is not about a long-gone era where medical help wasn’t available or accessible, the location isn’t some unknown corner of the world and no big coincidences or unbelievable events dominate or steer the story. Everything happens in a modern-day society in an unbelievably believable fashion. It makes one wonder if something like this could happen around or with them, and that thought is terrifying to say the last. Watson somehow makes it very easy for the reader to connect to the story. The sheer hope that everything would somehow turn out to be fine is what drives the reader to keep turning the pages.
All in all, Before I Go to Sleep is a worthy read. Anybody who likes – or even dislikes – thrillers must experience this, for it’s a whole new kind of mystery, easily scoring a 3.9 out of 5. Although not exactly a light read, this book is equally refreshing and thrilling to read on a lonely evening.
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