Saturday, September 10, 2011

Before I Go To Sleep by SJ Watson

Before I Go to Sleep: A Novel
Before I Go to Sleep: A Novel (Kindle edition,, my user review on
Wiping the Slate Blank, every night.
4 stars
What if you could not form new memories. This is a topic that has been dealt with in the scientific community and in books, based on real-life instances of people who suffered from this awful condition. This topic has been covered in movies also, most memorably in Memento (DVD, Blu-Ray), and recently in India in the Hindi movie starring Aamir Khan, Ghajini (Blu-ray).
This book, by debutant novelist SJ Watson, covers familiar territory, but with a twist. Christine wakes-up in the middle of the night, in an unfamiliar house, in a stranger's bed, to a face in the mirror she does not recognize. She is forty-seven years old, and she cannot remember the past twenty  years of her life. The twist in the tale is that she can remember what happens to her during the day, but as she sleeps, her newly formed memories drift away. She keeps a diary to jot down what she experiences each day. That diary provides her with a semblance of sanity, but also throws up a chilling warning that she doesn't know how to handle. Her husband takes care of her, but is he hiding things from her? Or is he simply trying to be gentle by not telling her things that would only cause more heartbreak, only for her to forget the next day. There is a doctor who is trying to help, but is he? What about her college friend, her best friend, but has now moved to New Zealand. Or has she? Are people hiding things from her, or is she being paranoid, insecure because of her condition?
This is a fast-paced, well-written story, with an ending that will most likely cause your hair to stand on end. Some may figure it out before the climax, some may not. There are some holes in the story and plot that are best left un-pondered. Like the length of the diary that would seem to grow to the point it would take Christine all day to go over it, given the details she jots down into. A little adult content that seems a bit gratuitous. It is nonetheless a fascinating read.
"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."
Some books I have read recently that also dwell briefly on this condition, anterograde amnesia:  Moonwalking with Einstein: The Art and Science of Remembering Everything (my review, on Amazon), The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains (my review, on Amazon), Brain Rules: 12 Principles for Surviving and Thriving at Work, Home, and School (my review, on Amazon), and Talent Is Overrated: What Really Separates World-Class Performers from Everybody Else (my review, on Amazon), among many others.

Kindle Excerpt

© 2011, Abhinav Agarwal. All rights reserved.