Before I Go to Sleepby S. J. Watson
S. J. Watson makes his powerful debut with Before I Go to Sleep, a compelling, fast-paced psychological thriller, reminiscent of Shutter Island and Memento, in which an amnesiac who, following a mysterious accident, cannot remember her past or form new memories, desperately tries to uncover the truth about who she is—and who she can/em>/em>/em>
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S. J. Watson makes his powerful debut with Before I Go to Sleep, a compelling, fast-paced psychological thriller, reminiscent of Shutter Island and Memento, in which an amnesiac who, following a mysterious accident, cannot remember her past or form new memories, desperately tries to uncover the truth about who she is—and who she can trust.
“Imagine drifting off every night knowing that your memories will be wiped away by morning. That’s the fate of Christine Lucas, whose bewildering internal world is rendered with chilling intimacy in this debut literary thriller. . . . You’ll stay up late reading until you know.”
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Before I Go To SleepA Novel
By S.J. Watson
HarperCollinsCopyright © 2011 S.J. Watson
All right reserved.
Tod a y
The bedroom is strange. Unfamiliar. I don't know where
I am, how I came to be here. I don't know how I'm going to
I have spent the night here. I was woken by a woman's voice
at first I thought she was in bed with me, but then realized she was
reading the news and I was hearing a radio alarmand when I
opened my eyes found myself here. In this room I do not
My eyes adjust and I look around in the near-dark. A dressing
gown hangs off the back of the closet doorsuitable for a woman,
but for one much older than I amand some dark-colored
trousers are folded neatly over the back of a chair at the dressing table,
but I can make out little else. The alarm clock looks complicated,
but I find a button and manage to silence it.
It is then that I hear a juddering intake of breath behind me
and realize I am not alone. I turn around. I see an expanse of skin
and dark hair, flecked with white. A man. He has his left arm
outside the covers and there is a gold band on the third finger of the
hand. I suppress a groan. So this one is not only old and gray, I think,
but also married. Not only have I screwed a married man, but I have done so
in what I am guessing is his home, in the bed he must usually share with his
wife. I lie back to gather myself. I ought to be ashamed.
I wonder where the wife is. Do I need to worry about her arriving
back at any moment? I imagine her standing at the other side
of the room, screaming, calling me a slut. A Medusa. A mass of
snakes. I wonder how I will defend myself, if she does appear. The
guy in the bed does not seem concerned, though. He has turned
over and snores on.
I lie as still as possible. Usually I can remember how I get into
situations like this, but not today. There must have been a party,
or a trip to a bar or a club. I must have been pretty wasted. Wasted
enough that I don't remember anything at all. Wasted enough to
have gone home with a man with a wedding ring and hairs on his
I fold back the covers as gently as I can and sit on the edge of
the bed. First, I need to use the bathroom. I ignore the slippers at
my feetafter all, fucking the husband is one thing, but I could
never wear another woman's shoesand creep barefoot onto
the landing. I am aware of my nakedness, fearful of choosing the
wrong door, of stumbling in on a lodger, a teenage son. Relieved, I
see the bathroom door is ajar and go in, locking it behind me.
I sit, use the toilet, then flush it and turn to wash my hands. I
reach for the soap, but something is wrong. At first I can't work out
what it is, but then I see it. The hand gripping the soap does not
look like mine. Its skin is wrinkled, the nails are unpolished and
bitten to the quick and, like that of the man in the bed I have just
left, the third finger wears a plain gold wedding ring.
I stare for a moment, then wriggle my fingers. The fingers of
the hand holding the soap move also. I gasp, and the soap thuds
into the sink. I look up at the mirror.
The face I see looking back at me is not my own. The hair has
no volume and is cut much shorter than I wear it; the skin on the
cheeks and under the chin sags; the lips are thin; the mouth turned
down. I cry out, a wordless gasp that would turn into a shriek of
shock were I to let it, and then notice the eyes. The skin around
them is lined, yes, but despite everything else, I can see that they
are mine. The person in the mirror is me, but I am twenty years
too old. Twenty-five. More.
This isn't possible. I begin to shake and grip the edge of the
sink. Another scream begins to rise in my chest and this one
erupts as a strangled gasp. I step back, away from the mirror, and
it is then that I see them. Photographs. Taped to the wall, to the
mirror itself. Pictures, interspersed with yellow pieces of gummed
paper, felt-tipped notes, damp and curling.
I choose one at random. Christine, it says, and an arrow points
to a photograph of methis new me, this old mein which I am
sitting on a bench on the side of a quay, next to a man. The name
seems familiar, but only distantly so, as if I am having to make
an effort to believe that it is mine. In the photograph we are both
smiling at the camera, holding hands. He is handsome, attractive,
and when I look closely, I can see that it is the same man I slept
with, the one I left in the bed. The word Ben is written beneath it,
and next to it, Your husband.
I gasp, and rip it off the wall. No, I think. No! It cannot be . . . I
scan the rest of the pictures. They are all of me, and him. In one
I am wearing an ugly dress and unwrapping a present, in another
both of us wear matching weatherproof jackets and stand in front
of a waterfall as a small dog sniffs at our feet. Next to it is a picture
of me sitting beside him, sipping a glass of orange juice, wearing
the dressing gown I have seen in the bedroom next door.
I step back farther, until I feel cold tiles against my back. It is
then I get the glimmer that I associate with memory. As my mind
tries to settle on it, it flutters away, like ashes caught in a breeze,
and I realize that in my life there is a then, a before, though before
what I cannot say, and there is a now, and there is nothing between
the two but a long, silent emptiness that has led me here, to
me and him, in this house.
I go back into the bedroom. I still have the picture in my
handthe one of me and the man I had woken up withand I
hold it in front of me.
"What's going on?" I say. I am screaming; tears run down my
face. The man is sitting up in bed, his eyes half-closed. "Who are
"I'm your husband," he says. His face is sleepy, without a trace
of annoyance. He does not look at my naked body. "We've been
married for years."
"What do you mean?" I say. I want to run, but there is
nowhere to go. " 'Married for years'? What do you mean?"
He stands up. "Here," he says, and passes me the dressing gown,
waiting while I put it on. He is wearing pajama trousers that are too
big for him, a white T-shirt. He reminds me of my father.
"We got married in 1985," he says. "Twenty-two years ago.
"What?" I feel the blood drain from my face, the room begin
to spin. A clock ticks somewhere in the house, and it sounds as loud
as a hammer. "But?" He takes a step toward me. "How?"
"Christine, you're forty-seven now," he says. I look at him, this
stranger who is smiling at me. I don't want to believe him, don't
want to even hear what he is saying, but he carries on. "You had
an accident," he says. "A bad accident. You suffered head injuries.
You have problems remembering things."
"What things?" I say, meaning, surely not the last twenty-five years?
He steps toward me again, approaching me as if I am a
frightened animal. "Everything," he says. "Sometimes starting from
your early twenties. Sometimes even earlier than that."
My mind spins, whirring with dates and ages. I don't want to
ask, but know that I must. "When . . . when was my accident?"
He looks at me, and his face is a mixture of compassion and
"When you were twenty-nine . . ."
I close my eyes. Even as my mind tries to reject this information
I know, somewhere, that it is true. I hear myself start to cry
again, and as I do so this man, this Ben, comes over to where I
stand in the doorway. I feel his presence next to me, do not move
as he puts his arms around my waist, do not resist as he pulls me
into him. He holds me. Together we rock gently, and I realize the
motion feels familiar somehow. It makes me feel better.
"I love you, Christine," he says, and though I know I am
supposed to say that I love him too, I don't. I say nothing. How can I
love him? He is a stranger. Nothing makes sense. I want to know
so many things. How I got here, how I manage to survive. But I
don't know how to ask.
"I'm scared," I say.
"I know," he replies. "I know. But don't worry, Chris. I'll look
after you. I'll always look after you. You'll be fine. Trust me."
. . .
He says he will show me around the house. I feel calmer. I
have put on a pair of panties and an old T-shirt that he gave me,
then puts the robe over my shoulders. We go out onto the landing.
"You've seen the bathroom," he says, opening the door next to it.
"This is the office."
There is a glass desk with what I guess must be a computer,
though it looks ridiculously small, almost like a toy. Next to it is
a filing cabinet in gunmetal gray, above it a wall planner. All is
neat, orderly. "I work in there, now and then," he says, closing the
door. We cross the landing and he opens another door. A bed, a
dressing table, more closets. It looks almost identical to the room
in which I woke. "Sometimes you sleep in here," he says, "when
you feel like it. But usually you don't like waking up alone. You get
panicked when you can't work out where you are." I nod. I feel like
a prospective tenant being shown around a new flat. A possible
housemate. "Let's go downstairs."
I follow him down. He shows me a living rooma brown sofa
and matching chairs, a flat screen bolted to the wall, which he tells
me is a televisionand a dining room and kitchen. None of it is
familiar. I feel nothing at all, not even when, sitting on a sideboard,
I see a framed photograph of the two of us. "There's a garden out
the back," he says, and I look through the glass door that leads off
the kitchen. It is just beginning to get light, the night sky starting to
turn an inky blue, and I can make out the silhouette of a large tree,
and a shed sitting at the far end of the small garden, but little else. I
realize I don't even know what part of the world we are in.
"Where are we?" I say.
He stands behind me. I can see us both, reflected in the glass.
Me. My husband. Middle-aged.
"North London," he replies. "Crouch End."
I step back. Panic begins to rise. "Jesus," I say. "I don't even
know where I bloody live . . ."
He takes my hand. "Don't worry. You'll be fine." I turn around
to face him, to wait for him to tell me how, how I will be fine, but
he does not. "Shall I make you your coffee?"
For a moment I resent him, but then say, "Yes. Yes please." He
fills a kettle. "Black, please," I say. "No sugar."
"I know," he says, smiling at me. "Want some toast?"
I say yes. He must know so much about me, yet still this feels
like the morning after a one-night stand: breakfast with a stranger
in his house, plotting how soon it would be acceptable to make an
escape, to go back home.
But that's the difference. Apparently this is my home.
"I think I need to sit down," I say. He looks up at me.
"Go and sit yourself down in the living room," he says. "I'll
bring this in a minute."
I leave the kitchen.
A few moments later, Ben follows me in. He gives me a book.
"This is a scrapbook," he says. "It might help." I take it from him.
It is bound in plastic that is supposed to look like worn leather but
does not, and has a red ribbon tied around it in an untidy bow.
"I'll be back in a minute," he says, and leaves the room.
I sit on the sofa. The scrapbook weighs heavy in my lap. To
look at it feels like snooping. I remind myself that whatever is in
there is about me, was given to me by my husband.
I untie the bow and open it at random. A picture of me and
Ben, looking much younger.
I slam it closed. I run my hands around the binding, fan the
pages. I must have to do this every day.
I cannot imagine it. I am certain there has been a terrible
mistake, yet there cannot have been. The evidence is therein the
mirror upstairs, in the creases on the hands that caress the book in
front of me. I am not the person I thought I was when I woke this
But who was that? I think. When was I that person, who woke in
a stranger's bed and thought only of escape? I close my eyes. I feel
as though I am floating. Untethered. In danger of being lost.
Excerpted from Before I Go To Sleep by S.J. Watson Copyright © 2011 by S.J. Watson. Excerpted by permission of HarperCollins. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
What People are Saying About This
“A deft, perceptive exploration of a fascinating neurological condition, and a cracking good thriller.”
“Brilliant in its pacing, profound in its central question, suspenseful on every page and satisfying in its thriller ending.”
“An exceptional thriller. It left my nerves jangling for hours after I finished the last page.”
“Quite simply the best debut novel I have ever read.”
Meet the Author
Educated in the U.K., S.J. WATSON was born in the Midlands and lives in London, England. In 2009, Watson was accepted into the first Faber Academy Writing a Novel course, a rigorous and selective program that covers all aspects of the novelwriting process. Before I Go to Sleep is the result. Now sold around the world in over thirty-five languages, Before I Go to Sleep has also been acquired for film by Ridley Scott’s production company, Scott Free, with Roland Joffe to direct. Visit the author online at http://wwwwww.sjwatson-books.com.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
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Every morning when she wakes up, Christine has no memory of who she is, where she is, or who the strange man lying next to her is. She has amnesia, and is unable to form new memories, or retain her old ones. Some mornings she wakes up thinking she is in her twenties, others she believes she is a child. Most mornings she tip-toes to the restroom, and is surprised to find a middle-aged woman staring back at her from the mirror. It is there she finds pictures of herself and others taped to the wall. The pictures have names and identities below them. All left to remind her of who she is. Christine lives with her husband Ben who, every day, has to tell her that she lost her memory after her accident 20-some-odd years ago. One day Christine receives a phone call from a neuropsychologist who tells her he has been working with her to help her retrive her memory. He gives her a journal that she has been keeping and on the very first page the words "DON'T TRUST BEN!" are written in her own handwriting. This book is a psychological thriller that will have you turning the pages well after bedtime. It is obvious in the first few pages that something isn't quite right. Should she, or shouldn't she trust her husband? A majority of the book is Christine's Journal and to say anymore would give away the details, and I don't like to give spoilers. Though it does feel the author tends to spend a little too much time drawing things out, the ending packs such a punch that it's easily forgiven. (Review based on an ARC courtesy of Netgalley)
I loved reading this wonderful book! It has a story that keeps you entertained for hours. Truly excellent!!
"Before I Go to Sleep" is a brilliant and profound piece of fiction, a psychological thriller that will captivate the reader about a traumatic brain injury that when the main protagonist wakes up she can't remember anything about herself. I can't imagine too many things as frightening as that! The premise was different from anything I've read before. This is a remarkable job of taking us through Christine's mind as she learns about events and people in her past and the frustrations involved in not being able to remember. She keeps a journal, at the suggestion of Dr. Nash; the idea being that she progressively remembers her life before the accident that caused her amnesia. The first part of the book tells about her meeting her husband and her psychiatrist calling her, telling her that she needs to read the journal she has been keeping. He gives it to her and tells her to contact him if she wants to continue her treatment. What a pulse-pounding thriller! It's suspenseful throughout and the pacing is brilliant. The thriller ending is not predictable so don't bother. Profound and completely captivating, yes, but the intrigue will keep your eyes glued. Madison Pridgen, A member of Between the Lines book club
Before I Go To Sleep is a must read for suspense thriller fans. The story of a woman who wakes up every morning unable to remember her life and finding an ominous note in her journal not to trust her husband sets up a thriller with the tension building up to a head in the exciting climax. If you have seen Vertigo and felt the building tension, especially in the second half of the film, you will experience that same kind of suspense in this wonderful book. The book is paced brilliantly and fascinatingly puts you right in the mind of the troubled character. If Hitchcock were alive he would have loved this story. Don't miss out on one of the best suspense novels I have ever read.
Before I Go To Sleep by S.J. Watson definitely goes down as one of my favorite books this year. The story is incredibly suspenseful. It was so gripping that I read the majority of the book in one day. There is an intensity and uniqueness to the novel that will keep me praising this one for a while. The book begins with Christine waking up one morning thinking that she is 20-something and not remembering how she ended up in bed with an older married man. She tumbles into the bathroom, only to find her hands appear older than she feels. When she looks in the mirror, she does not recognize herself. She is not 20-something but instead 47. Soon she finds photos of herself and the married man from the bedroom. There are notes on the photos identifying the man as her husband, Ben. Christine is soon advised by Ben that this scene happens every day. Christine has a rare form of amnesia that prevents her from remembering the last 20 years. She only retains memories for a 24-hour period. After a full night's sleep, she wakes confused and thinks she is still a young woman. Christine receives a phone call from a man identifying himself as her doctor, a psychoneurologist named Dr. Nash. Christine does not remember Dr. Nash, but he alerts her to a journal that she has been keeping. The story then switches to journal format, where Christine spends each day learning about her life anew, primarily by reading her journal. As time goes on, the journal allows her to form a more complete picture of the last 20 years. She is able to build on the things she learned and wrote down on previous days. Before I Go To Sleep is the story of a woman who spends each day confused and scared, not knowing who she is or who she can trust. The reader becomes engrossed in the story, wondering themselves who is trustworthy - Ben? Dr. Nash? Who is telling her the truth about her past? S.J. Watson finds ways to keep the daily memory loss interesting and fresh, rather than repetitive and boring. The ending of the novel felt a bit rushed and trite, but it did not change my opinion of the novel as a whole. This is S.J. Watson's debut novel, which is hard to believe. I will certainly be in line for whatever comes next. I know I am gushing here, but if you are a fan of suspense novels, you absolutely must read Before I Go To Sleep. Many thanks to the publisher, HarperCollins, for providing me with a free e-Galley for review, via NetGalley.
At twenty-nine year of age Christine Lucas survived the car crash, but her ability to store short term memories was shattered. She can only recall 24 hours and no more. Dr. Nash recommends Chrissie keep a journal so she can scan what has recently happened, which she diligently maintains. Every morning she awakens as if her brain was an etch-o-sketch. She has no idea who the man living with her is or if she has children. When she looks in a mirror she sees a middle aged face not the youthful one her mind says. Her journal and pictures on the mirror enable her to know the man is Ben her husband and that she is published novelist. However, she wonders why Ben conceals truths from her and what Nash wants from her. Although there is an obvious connection to 50 First Dates, Before I Go To Sleep takes a much darker with no humor look at the loss of short term memory; making the story line more aligned with Memento but in a domestic setting. Chrissie holds the plot together from her opening awakening in bed with a married man she fails to recognize and never slows down as she begins to question those who allegedly care about her. Filled with twists, readers along with the beleaguered heroine will wonder why her loving husband hides truths from her. Harriet Klausner
What a premise! Imagine that every morning when you wake up you remember nothing that happened yesterday or the day before that. Imagine that the man you wake up beside every morning is a complete stranger. That should make you want to buy this book, alone. This is a true condition that exists, mostly from a severe head injury. That aside, there are many, many, many surprises that will completely catch you off guard. This is just brilliant, brilliant, brilliant!
While I had read other reviews that thought this was going to be another 50 First Dates, it definitely isn't! There is so much suspense in this book. I found myself trying to figure out what the ultimate twist was going to be, and I never did figure it out. I like that it went a different direction than I could even anticipate--it made the book more intriguing. Better than if I had been able to predict the ending, as that could have been a bit, well, predictable. I tried to put myself in Christine's shoes while I was reading this. I cannot imagine forgetting essentially my whole life every night while I was sleeping. To realize that this is a debut novel is amazing. I hope that the author writes more books. I understand that this has already been picked up for a movie and I cannot wait to see it!
I honestly found this book VULGAR, tasteless, and PREDICTABLE! I've read enough amnesia stories to see the final result halfway through the book! The worst part was the language!! I just don't think it's necessary to have the F word in every other sentence.
This book was a bit repetitive. I did have the urge to skip chapters while reading it. it was a alright book but I would be thrilled to read it again. I suggest that you get a sample of the book first before buying it because they way the first chapter starts is pretty much how every chapter starts in this book.
This book grabbed my interest from the first page and I had trouble putting it down. It was a fascinating psychological thriller. However, the ending was implausible and very disappointing.
Loved this novel, the writing is taut and the story flows well. There is no filler, this book is a great read from start to finish. It will keep you in suspense, with various twists and turns and a character driven narrative that lets you experience the protagonists world. So glad to read a story that is well written. After just finishing a poorly written suspense thriller, "Explosion in Paris", this book made me believe in pure great reading and the great authors who write these kinds of books. Thank you S.J. Watson...! We need more authors like you...!
Overall...the story was a good idea, but the telling of it became tedious....it just goes over the same territory again and again. Even fans of Ground Hog "Day will be skimming instead of reading half way through.
You keep reading the same thing over and over with a little bit more with each chapter.....it's like a slow painful death. We picked this for our September Book Club pick and more than half us hate it. I had such high hopes for this book as it came highly recommended. We kept waiting for it to pick up and it never did. After reading the reviews of others we were wondering what book they had read and what we are missing.
Overall, I can only give this book 3 stars. The writing is good and the suspense builds with each page. But about 1/4 of the way through, I was pretty sure of what was going on. I kept reading, hoping I was wrong, because the author could have done something totally unexpected with the story. But I wasn't wrong. Then the plot goes from eerie to sordid. It's very easy to relate to Christine when she is suffering from memory loss...you understand the paranoia and confusion. But as she regains memory little by little, it is difficult to relate to the past Christine. The choices you realize she made are never fully explained and it was hard for me to understand why she did the things she did. The whole thing concludes too quickly...all that mounting suspense deserved more action and elucidation. And I was really hoping to see Christine gain some independence and save herself. But she doesn't and the ending is weak.
I had no problem putting it down, in fact, stopped reading it to read another new book. Predictable and rushed ending. Comparing it to Shutter Island is just as far off as the comparison of The Help to To Kill a Mocking Bird.
This book was incredible. I am a huge Stephen King fan and have tended to be closed minded about reading other authors. However, I have recently decided to be more open minded, and I am so glad I did. I finished this book in less than a week, which is very fast for me because I have a limited amount of time to read. I absolutely could not put this book down. I found myself fighting my sleep just to read a few more pages. There were constant surprises, not a dull moment. If you are considering this book, READ IT! You won't be disappointed!
I had to skip through the majority of the last half of this book in order to finish it. It is so repetative and the plot such a dull snooze fest, that it did not matter. Don't waste your time ,unless you are stranded on a desert island with nothing else to do.
I very rarely have anything bad to say about a book, but this was one I felt I wasted my time reading. Felt there was a lot of hype building up in the story line to a big let down at the end. Not a lot of resolution with the ending, a lot of questions left unanswered. Very disappointed.
I found the book to be quite repetitious but decided to hang in and kept reading. It was worth it for the end.
At least not till you've finished this--it's a true page-turner. It's also well written, enough so that I was willing to suspend disbelief as much as the plot required (which was a lot). Even though I figured out what was going on well before the end, I had to know exactly how things would play out. The ending was a little bit of a disappointment--a fizzle rather than a bang--but overall this was a terrific read, and I look forward to S.J. Watson's next book.
S. J. Watson's debut novel is a stunning suspense thriller. I could not put this book down. Each morning when she wakes up she has forgotten who she is, who she loves, her past. The only people she can trust are her husband Ben and her DR. Ed Nash....or can she? This novel will grab you in the first few pages and hold you tight, as you and Christine try to reassemble the missing pieces of her past. i will be looking for more work by this fantastic new author.
This book was a fast read. I reached a point about two-thirds of the way through and had to finish it in one sitting. I enjoyed the character development and found the climax unexpected. I wouldn't say this a terribly challenging read, but definitely perfect for the summer.
Great read. Didnt want to put it down
This was one of those books you find yourself staying up late to read just a little bit more. Christine, an amnesiac, wakes every day to find she doesn't recognize her surroundings. She is unable to create new memories and each day she has forgotten the events of the day before. This psychological thriller sucks you in and keeps you guessing. Watson has an incredible way of marrying you to the characters from the very first page. This book addresses something most people take for granted - the ability to distinguish reality from fantasy. How fragile and thin this book makes the line between the two feel. When the story ended, I found myself dreading reaching that final page. Such a detail-rich story, I could re-read it out of sheer curiosity for pieces I may have overlooked. Great idea for a story and incredibly well-written.