02 March 2012

My Thoughts on S. J. Watson, Before I Go to Sleep


"This morning I went into the kitchen. My life, I thought, is built on quicksand.  It shifts from one day to the next.  Things I think I know are wrong, things I am certain of, facts about my life, myself, belong to years ago. All the history I have reads like fiction."

I blew right through S.J. Watson's thriller, because it was incredibly readable.  I wanted to know what was going to  happen next, and I had a sneaking suspicion that I knew.  And it made me think about how thrillers work.  Thrillers don't work if the reader has no idea what is going to happen next.  We always ruminate on, and write reviews about, the big plot reveal, or the "twist," but the real art is in the building up to that, which the writer must do while walking a fine tight rope.  It is easy to make it too obvious, the foreshadowing too heavy, and then the reader knows all along what is going to happen.  On the other has, if the reader is shocked by the climax, and she can't trace back the steps that lead to it, the story becomes unbelievable and weakly plotted.  Watson's book is neither of those things; he firmly walks the tightrope.

To summarize the plot of the book as much as I can without giving anything away,  the narrator, Christine, wakes up everyday having no idea who she is.  She has a rare form of amnesia that effects both long term and short term memory.  On the advice of a new doctor she has been seeing, she is keeping a journal, and from it, she is learning many of her own secrets.

I read quite a few reviews before writing my own, and now I can't get them out of my head.  The book has a lot in common with some popular films - both comic and dramatic.  It also has elements that make it its own.  There wasn't really anything that stood out to me as not working about the book, which is a great compliment.  Like I said, I thought I could guess the ending, but there was still enough twist to leave me feeling satisfied.  It would say that it is a great "airplane read" - perfect for making the time fly by.

Title: Before I Go To Sleep
Author: S.J. Watson
Publisher: Harper Perennial
Date: 2011
Genre: Thriller, Fiction

358 pages.
Where I got it: From the publisher, through TLC Book Tours (Be sure to visit the other stops on the tour)
Challenges:None


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