In S.J. Watson debut novel, Before I Go to Sleep, Christine wakes up with no memory of the previous day, but she keeps a journal that pick up the pieces of her life, who she was before she was injured, and the mysteriously suspicious behaviors of her husband Ben.
S.J. Watson's debut novel, Before I Go to Sleep, is a brilliant, nasty noir. It drags you down into deep, dark and disturbing waters. It entertains while touching on complex questions of the meaning of identity and memory ... Watson presents a character existing in a condition of perpetual now-ness, a present without context, a life without history. It is a kind of hell — an intellectual and emotional state devoid of meaning or emotion ... The amnesiac narrator and reader experience the story in the same uncertain present, searching for the truth of the past and the dangers of the future ... One can't help but be impressed by Watson's skill. This British writer's attention to detail and empathy are impressive.
Most of this chilling debut novel, then, consists of that journal, scribbled in confusion, terror and longing — the longing to be whole again that is at the core of any erasure of self. But Christine, unlike some amnesiacs, derives no comfort from any of the handful of people in her life ... Author S.J. Watson, a 40-year-old British audiologist-turned-writer, describes a woman's psyche with intimate accuracy. Christine's journal is packed with prosaic details of her mundane days, dialogue in which she works to collect her memories, and many passages of wonder ... This chilling story is nothing like the Drew Barrymore romp in 50 First Dates. Christine finds no romance in her affliction ... We walk step by step in Christine's shoes on an exhilarating and terrifying path toward the truth of the accident that altered her ...an otherwise excellent, haunting tale.
Before I Go to Sleep drinks purer water from a deeper well ...it's exceptionally accomplished – like David Nicholls's One Day...some ways it's an inversion of Borges's story 'Funes, the Memorious'... Chrissie developed a form of amnesia which has left her able to store memories for only 24 hours ...The novel takes the form of a journal [Chrissie] is encouraged to keep by a Dr Nash, who has, without Ben's knowledge, taken an interest in her case ... structure is so dazzling it almost distracts you from the quality of the writing. No question, this is a very literary thriller ...also has – and expects its readers to share – a delicate appreciation of the links between fabulation (that is, the writing of stories that violate readerly expectations) and confabulation (the creation of false memories and experiences by a damaged brain) ... it proceeds from ordinary life in tiny, terrifying steps, and is all the better for it.