I don’t think I’ve ever read a book that I so badly want to find out what will happen next, but whenever I pass the book in its temporary resting place can’t be bothered to find out. This was the situation I was placed in with Before I go to Sleep by SJ Watson. You would think that a book about a woman who wakes every day having forgotten her adult life would stir feelings of suspense and drama, an itch that has to be scratched… for me, it didn’t.
This was mainly because SJ Watson’s novel, despite being highly unique was repetitive, though this was due to the nature of the narrative, and if I’m perfectly honest, full of plot holes. Perhaps I looked too far into it, but I just couldn’t grasp that what was happening could actually happen to a person, in the real world. This could be due to Watson’s delivery of the prose, but whatever it was it created quite a wedge between me and the book.
The story of Christine’s life is a sad one. We find that she wakes every morning with no memory, caused by an accident, soap opera amnesia. She is scared rather witless each day waking next to a man she doesn’t know (her husband) and must reacquaint herself with her life each and every day. She is told by her doctor (who she sees secretly) that she must keep a journal to remind herself of things that happen in her life and help her regain her memory (she reads it everyday, something that would be awfully time consuming).
We read the novel as if we were Christine reading her Journal, which only heightens the difficulty that the character would have if she read it every day, and the story is told from here. But of course, there’s a hook. After just a handful of pages we find that Christine has written in the front of her journal not to trust her husband.
I love a bit of suspense, it has to be said and I genuinely wanted to know what would happen in the end of the book, but my biggest issue, other than plot holes, were the characters. None of them exuded that sense of excitement that would warrant such a story. Perhaps to some the thought of a middle aged woman in London experiencing this would be interesting, but to me it lacked theatre. I suppose it’s because the basic plotline is very Hollywood (the book is soon to be made into a film, actually) whereas the writing, isn’t.
Despite the book grabbing my brain, I never really wanted to sit down and read it. I almost felt I’d have been perfectly happy for someone to just tell me what happens. This was heightened towards the end when I guessed the predictable finale and felt a little more deflated. In fact as I closed the book I became frustrated at what could have been. I’m sure that SJ Watson’s follow up novel will be better, but this felt like a practise run for what could be. I wanted to like it, no, I wanted to love it, but I just couldn’t see past the issues.