Friday, February 10, 2012

Before I Go To Sleep by S.J. Watson

I started this book at 8:00 in the morning and finished at 11:15...the same morning. I stopped twice to visit the ladies' room and twice to refresh my tea cup. I could not put the book down or stop. In fact, I started to panic that I wouldn't finish prior to start of work. I actually considered calling out sick. 

Every morning Christine wakes up not knowing where she is or how she got there. Every morning, her husband Ben patiently walks her through the last 20 years of her life prior to his leaving for work. Then, every morning, a doctor calls and tells her to find her hidden journal and read the secrets she's recorded there. In the front of her journal, she finds in her writing the statement: Don't Trust Ben.

Divided into three parts, the first part centers on her meeting with her doctor who walks her through the secret treatment they've been working on to help her regain the memory she lost in an accident 20 years earlier. He returns to her the journal she's kept for the previous month and tells her to read her own entries to better understand all that's happening to her.

The middle part allows the reader to read along and discover, along with Christine, what she needs to remember. This part of the book draws the reader in and almost serves as an interactive exercise as we read along and learn just as Christine does.

The third part takes place in a single day as the story culminates and comes together in an ending that I sure didn't see coming until the reveal and then I found myself thinking...why didn't I see it coming?

Watson really drew me in and kept me involved the entire Christine, I couldn't discover fast enough what took place before and every one of Christine's aha! moments became mine. I loved how Watson sucked me in and ran me ragged as he spun Christine's tale tighter and tighter. The book almost felt interactive as I learned, along with Christine, the truth about her life. 

What I learned:

I learned the importance of constantly moving a story forward. Obviously, Christine's journal entries needed to back up from time-to-time, but Watson did so in such a way to avoid monotony. He also only lightly sprinkled red herrings amongst what few clues he gave up.  He wove his tale tightly and only gave the reader what was necessary. I noticed he rarely described Christine's surroundings, focusing instead on her inner turmoil. I made note of how many times he went into discussions of her wardrobe - and I noted that what little he discussed made sense only after I finished the book. 

I also want to rethink through some of the clich├ęs of the book. Only after I finished did I realize that a couple of incidents were just this side of old plot devices...and yet, they didn't feel as such with this book.  While I did see one of the incidents coming - I knew why Christine was in that hotel room and how she came to arrive there - I didn't feel cheated or feel the need to roll my eyes. How did Watson keep me from feeling cheated?

Now that I've inhaled the book, I want to go back and take my time to learn even more about how he made me race through the did he make the journey so critical that I couldn't stop reading until I'd finished? Also, why didn't I feel manipulated at the end? How did he make me identify so strongly with this woman without attempting to manipulate the reader? Very clever. 



  1. Hi Lee Ann,

    Noticed you friended me and that you had a blog so I wandered over to check it out. I especially enjoyed your post on writing as a hobby. It's the same with me. Sometimes I feel guilty for not working obsessively with a dozen projects in the air, but generally I prefer to meander along. In many ways, I enjoyed the days when I wrote for myself instead of trying to please agent/editor/public. Anyway, just wanted to say I empathize with your attitude and wish you the best with the writing.

  2. I love to read your writings

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