This blog is now retired. My new site is at: Predictably Irrational.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Before I Go To Sleep by S.J. Watson

I've had this on my 'to read' list for awhile. Then I requested it from the library and ended up on the waiting queue forever. I gave it to Tim first, thinking the subject might be intriguing enough for him but he lost interest so I took it from him. While I the book was a page turner, I had it figured out fairly quickly. Then I doubted myself, then I realized I was right.

*** Spoilers ahead - meaning, I will give it all away ***

The theme of this story is that Christine has amnesia. Really bad. She wakes up every day not knowing who the man is next to her, or why she is 47 years old instead of a young girl. It can vary but never someone in the last 20 years or so of her life.

The man next to her in her bed is her husband Ben, who seems too good to be true. A very patient, loving husband, who has stood by her since she was 29, through a terrible accident, in which she was hit by a car that left her as this extreme amnesiac, where she learns about herself everyday, then goes to sleep and forgets it all.

She finds a doctor who recommends keeping a journal and along with that, he calls her every morning to remind her of this journal. This helps her read and write her thoughts and slowly, she starts to remember bits and pieces of her life, and the reader learns with Christine.

It is truly depressing. This amnesia: to forget your entire existence and lose your life like that. I was really forlorn about that story-line because it was many years of Christine's life that she had lost. And while this type of amnesia seemed a little outrageous, I found, after reading the book, that this was loosely based on two real life stories, one being "H.M" and the other is Clive Wearing, who developed amnesia from an illness that brought him to an even more extreme case than Christine from this book, he has the capacity to have 7-30 seconds of memory before he loses it.
He spends every day 'waking up' every 20 seconds, 'restarting' his consciousness once the time span of his short term memory elapses (about 30 seconds). He remembers little of his life before 1985; he knows, for example, that he has children from an earlier marriage, but cannot remember their names. His love for his second wife Deborah, whom he married the year prior to his illness, is undiminished. He greets her joyously every time they meet, either believing he has not seen her in years or that they have never met before, even though she may have just left the room to fetch a glass of water.
Fascinating and to me, sad.

But back to the book.

Christine starts reading her journal, which, at some point, she wrote "DON'T TRUST BEN". And flashes of memory start playing into her head. I pretty much figured out the end, without knowing exactly how it played out but -- BIG SPOILER ABOUT TO COME IN THE NEXT SENTENCE -- I knew that Ben was not her husband but her attempted killer.

Yes. The man she thought was her husband was not. It was the man who actually put her in the amnesiac state. As soon as the flashes of the bathroom came into play, and I already knew "Don't trust ben" was there, I had the answer. The page-turner was simply justifying my theory and finding out how exactly it happened, and where the hell her real husband was.

That part: where her real husband was (he was in another country; left her in the hospital to take care of her young son, since she was unable to recognize him and it was traumatic for the son) was pretty flat.
The daily routine of waking up and figure out where she was, was getting pretty groundhog day in the beginning but I know this was necessary to establish her illness, her routine.

The thing I do like is the dark twist: the sick idea of having a man who attempted to kill her out of obsessed sick love, take her as his own and keep her as his own 'prisoner'. Who would write that and release it? Quite depraved but I respect that.

I just figured it out too early so to me, I feel the writing could have been a little better to not make it so obvious. I read the amazon comments and some people never saw it coming. Well, I'm no rocket scientist, or CSI agent and *I* saw it immediately. I would have liked to be surprised like The Sixth Sense surprised me and I think I could have with some improved writing. I'm not a literary professional either but I read a lot...some of it fluff, and this falls into the fluff category, in my fluffy-pedantic-opinion.

So, a "fun" read that lead me to learn about H.M. and Clive Wearing and hoping that I don't find myself in any similar situation.

As I looked for an image of the book cover, I did notice with Nicole Kidman.

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