S. J. Watson

Before I Go To Sleep

"'‘Before I Go To Sleep’ is a tour de force, a haunting tapestry woven from a single woman’s ragged thoughts...'"


Every morning Christine Lucas wakes up she has to start her life all over again. Christine suffers from severe amnesia where her brain cannot retain any long term memories. Every time she sleeps deeply it is as if her mind is wiped clean and she has to learn her life all over again come the morning. Her fear starts when she wakes to find herself in bed with a stranger. Around the bathroom mirror she finds photographs of herself and the stranger she woke up with in different locations, different periods of her life. And why does she think she’s in her twenties when the face looking back at her is in advanced middle-age?

To make sense of her life, under the guidance of Dr. Nash, Christine begins a journal to make sense of her life. A journal she writes in daily and every day has to read as if reading a new book to make sense of her days. Is it just her amnesia that is making her paranoid about her husband, Ben or is there a reason for it? Is he telling her the truth every morning or are they lies? Why does he keep photographs hidden from her? As Christine depends on her journal more and more, memories (or are they false images?) begin to float to the surface and Christine finds that in her past is the reason why her life starts all over again with each brand new day.

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‘Before I Go To Sleep’ is an astounding piece of work from a debut writer who writes with confidence as if he has already mastered his craft. This is a marvellous novel, multi-layered with suffering, frustration and anxiety blended with suspense that forces you to read Christine’s plight. Watson brings to the fore a scenario which is all too real and yet incomprehensible to those not inflicted with this terribly debilitating condition – or can even begin to imagine the havoc it wreaks to the loved ones involved. But Watson brings a sense of humanity to Christine, a woman with faults who is at odds with her existence, who only craves to do one simple thing – to remember. With harsh, sharp, jagged strokes, Watson paints a picture and slowly reveals with precision what can happen when something we take so much for granted is taken away from us. Without making us pity her or making Christine look pathetic he introduces us to a tormented woman who will affect you long after you have turned the final page. There is only a small cast of characters populating this novel which seems to make Christine’s world even more insular and intense. I believe this novel is what is called in the theatre as a ‘two-hander’ – Christine and her journal drive the plot along, one depending on the other and neither sure that anything can be accepted as truth. Are the words Christine wrote and forgotten on previous days pure fiction? Is Christine’s journal just that or is it full of the ravings of a damaged mind? ‘Before I Go To Sleep’ is a tour de force, a haunting tapestry woven from a single woman’s ragged thoughts, desperate to make sense of the past she constantly forgets. This is writing of the highest calibre, a ‘Pinteresque’ novel where the silences are as intense as the dialogue is full of emotion. I dare anyone to finish this book and not only be amazed with the denouement but to be shaken by the mere thought of forgetting everything you stand for by simply closing your eyes at night.

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