Imagine waking up and not recognizing your surroundings, nor the man next to you in the bed. You might think, as Christine Lucas does in Before I Go to Sleep, that you tied one on the previous evening and this is the morning after a one-night stand.
Imagine then looking in the bathroom mirror and seeing a middle-aged woman staring back at you, when you are sure you are in your mid-twenties. Imagine seeing photographs taped to the bathroom walls and mirror, photographs of yourself and a man you don’t recognize. The captions tell you he is your husband.
A frightening reality for any woman. And made more frightening when you are told that each night’s sleep erases what memories you have formed during the day, that the next morning you will endure the same confusion about your life and where it has gone, and that this has been happening over and over for more than two decades.
Before I Go to Sleep is a suspenseful tale, one that kept me engaged and turning pages. I read the book in two days – I would have read it in one sitting had I started the book earlier in the day.
The main character, Christine, captured my interest from the first page and held on to it. She’s not a formerly perfect woman, now damaged. She’s a formerly imperfect woman, now damaged and determined to regain some modicum of control over her life. And that made me cheer her on, as she dealt with Ben, who she accepts as her husband, and Dr. Nash, a neuropsychologist who tells Christine he has been treating her for some weeks and who directs her to a journal she has been keeping.
Of course, as with any suspense novel, we know that something isn’t quite right. Is it Ben, or Dr. Nash, who is not to be trusted? According to Christine’s journal, it is Ben. She’s written on the first page “Do Not Trust Ben.” But she has only Dr. Nash’s word that the journal actually records her memories. Then again, can we trust Christine as a narrator? Is she delusional, paranoid, or trustworthy?
Before I Go to Sleep is a novel that asks “do you know who can you trust?” It’s a question that Christine, and the reader, must ask over and over. And one I hope I never have to ask myself in other than a fictional sense.
A fun, frightening, fast read, Before I Go to Sleep is S. J. Watson’s first novel. It is available from Harper Collins.
Reviewed by Charlotte Morganti