Thursday, September 20, 2012

Just Read: Before I Go To Sleep

Before I Go To Sleep by S.J. Watson
Published: June 2011 (US) HarperCollins

Since I had a little time this weekend to go to the beach, I found this book in the fast read section at the library. It's a debut novel for author S.J. Watson who wrote the novel while working as an audiologist at the National Health Service in England.

The story is about Christine Lucas who suffers from amnesia, both anterograde amnesia (the loss of long-term memory or the inability to form new memories) and retrograde amnesia (not being able to recall pre-existing memories). She wakes up every morning thinking she is in her mid-20's (sometimes younger) even though she is 47 and has no recollection of what has happened during the last 20 years.

Every morning she gets introduced to her husband Ben and learns about the horrible accident that has robbed her of her memory. Each day she receives a phone call from her neurologist Dr. Nash who directs her to a journal that she has been keeping that helps her re-learn what she has been able to remember on previous days. Every night she goes to bed where her mind will erase everything she did that day.

The novel is broken up into three parts. The first part introduces you to the experience she feels each day when she wakes up and has to go through the same process of rediscovering who she is. When she sees Ben in the morning, she's always alarmed as to who the guy she just woke up next to is and why she can't remember what happened the night before. Like the movie Momento, she has pictures set up with notes that tell her who the people in her life are. Ben tells her what she needs to know about her life and what she should do with her time while he is away at work. And what you realize is that he repeats this process every single day.

The second part is where all of Christine's self re-learning occurs. It is told to the reader in the form of a journal that Christine herself reads every day, usually only once she has been prompted by a phone call from Dr. Nash since she can't even remember that she is writing one. She has been working with him over the past few weeks in hopes of regaining her memories and has been writing down random memories that have surfaced each day. Her diary warns her not to trust Ben.

As the books goes into its third and final part, the ending becomes more apparent to the reader. You'll have to read the book to find out how it plays out but I was pleased that I wasn't frustrated with how Watson ended the novel. Although I could see how the book would play out about two-thirds through, I felt like the ending was a necessary end to the story. Even though you know where the novel was headed, I still wanted to read how it would play out.

If you think about what it would be like to have this condition, it seems that it would both frustrate and scare the hell out of me each day. The issues of whether Ben is taking advantage of her condition or whether he does the things he does to make it easier for her to cope with her everyday life on a day to day basis are interesting questions that come up in the story. And since I'm a nerd, I love when Watson drops in some medical or psych stuff into his writing, which he does well without making the reader feel like the science is too heavy.

As with every good book, this one is also becoming a movie. Earlier in February Vulture reported in that Nicole Kidman was in talks to take the lead role (was later confirmed) and Variety reported that Rowan Joffee will write and direct the movie which will be produced by Scott Free.

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