Book Review: Before I Go To Sleep by S. J. Watson

Before I go to Sleep by S. J. Watson

This is a much-hyped thriller debut, that has been reviewed by several bloggers and got high praises. I think it got a bit more hype than is warranted. Nevertheless this is a great novel that deserves 5 stars anyway.

According to the cover of the book, the movie rights have been sold to Ridley Scott. Which means that a movie may or may not be made of this book in the near or far future. I think it would make a great movie!

Before I Go To Sleep: What it is about

Christine wakes up every morning not knowing were she is and who the man is next to her in bed. Every morning she learns anew that she’s had an accident years ago and can only retain memories of one day. As soon as she goes to sleep, she forgets everything again.

Unbeknownst to her husband Ben, she is in contact with a doctor, a neurologist, who is trying to help her improve her memory. He calls her every morning to tell her she has a journal hidden in her closet, which she reads and adds to. She also meets with the doctor every few days.

Through the journal, she realises that she sometimes has memories from the past and by reading the journal each morning she learns about herself and her past. She discovers that there is something strange going on. Her husband doesn’t seem to tell the truth about certain events. Is this just to protect her from learning about dramatic situations? Or is it so he himself doesn’t have to keep telling her the same stories over again?

Whilst this book starts off in a quiet way, eventually it turns into a thriller where Christine’s life isn’t safe.

Before I Go To Sleep: What I thought

I almost gave this book 4 stars, because it didn’t live up to the hype. But after careful thinking, I decided that wasn’t fair. The book was very good, but not quite as I expected. The thrilling element only started towards the end of the book. Early on, it was clear that some things didn’t make sense, but they were easily explained away. So, rather than sitting on the edge of my seat from the start (so to speak), which I had expected, I read a beautiful book about a woman with a memory problem and her attempts to find out more about the past.

The book is very well written and although the individual entries in the journal are a bit long (I wouldn’t think she’d have the time to write that much on a day), they told me all I wanted to know and nothing more. In other words, it never became boring.

I did some courses on memory during my psychology study so this topic is extra interesting for me. At first, the memory loss that Christine had seemed improbable to me, but then the doctor in the book actually said how rare Christine’s situation was, and so, it immediately was believable again!

I found it strange that Christine didn’t have much of a drive to do anything during her days, but later realised that she was busy enough figuring out who she was, etc. I wondered whether she chose the same clothes from the wardrobe every day as she wouldn’t know what she’d worn the day before.

A fast and good read, very believable. Only the end was a little too convenient for my taste.

Rating: 5/5 stars

I got this book: free from Harper publishers (ARC)

I read this in: English, the original language

Number of pages: 360

First published: 2011 (June)

Genre: thriller

Extras: There is a facebook page for this book and there may be another facebook page with excerpts of the book (that page didn’t work for me, but you try!).

About Leeswammes
I'm owner and editor at In my free time, I read and review books on my two blogs, Leeswammes' Blog and De Boekblogger.

43 Responses to Book Review: Before I Go To Sleep by S. J. Watson

  1. Mystica says:

    So many reviews on this book over just two days. Overwhelmingly positive.

  2. Joanna says:

    Thanks Judith! I have been waiting for your review since you first mentioned this book and I think it sounds great. I’ll definitely look out for it. I’m actually glad it’s not a thriller from the start.

    • Leeswammes says:

      Jo, for me, it was especially a book about memory loss and the consequences of that, which I found very interesting. The thriller bit was definitely fun, as without it the book would have missed some direction.

  3. Cindy says:

    Bells are ringing in my mind … I am sure I’ve seen a film with a similar story line. Will have to think about it…

    • Leeswammes says:

      Cindy, there was a film with a woman that couldn’t see very much, and she had visions about what had happened to her. After a while her sight cleared and she was able to identify her attacker. Something like that. This book reminded me of it. But, like the main character, I have no memory… of the title of that film. 🙂

  4. Wow! The hype is really building for this book. I have seen a lot of positive reviews for this one, but one from you is especially good as I know our tastes match very closely. I have been sent a copy of this by the publishers so I look forward to reading it at some point.

  5. Maaike says:

    A holiday read: just what I thought! Thanks for the review. Looking forward to this book!

  6. Yet another review that makes me want to read this one even more!

  7. Joy says:

    I’ve seen the hype for this book, which makes me want to read.
    It certainly sounds interesting. The thriller aspect is what would make this a great read for me.

  8. Boekhapper says:

    After reading this book I came to a somewhat simular conclusion. Reading the book as the thriller it is supposed to be, I had a mayor problem: I could forsee what was coming from about page 270, which was a real disappointment. And the end was too convenient. But reading it as a psychological novel, I really enjoyed it and found it very amazing that it was written by a man because it really seems to be written from a woman’s point of view.

    • Leeswammes says:

      Boekhapper, it’s nice to read that you felt the same as me. Indeed, as a psychological novel it’s very good. I also think it was surprising that the book was written by a man.

  9. JoV says:

    My greatest fear is that I will lose my memory one day. All the beautiful thoughts and memories that I have gathered over the years would just disappear overnight scare the h*ll out of me. I think this book will keep me awake at night. But since you say it’s 5 stars, I’ll have to read it! 🙂

    • Leeswammes says:

      Jo, don’t worry! You’d have to have a bad head injury to lose your memory. I don’t think it happens very often. But yes, it would be terrible. Except you wouldn’t know what you were missing. If it keeps you awake at night, I hope it’s because it’s an interesting book with interesting ideas. Not because you feel scared.

  10. Nadine Nys says:

    À great summer read, psychology mixed with thriller. Sounds great. Thanks for you review.

  11. dixie says:

    Good to see you enjoyed it so much! I plan to start reading tonight.

  12. Suzanne says:

    This one does sound good and it sounds like a good premise for a movie.

  13. Lena says:

    This seems like a character driven novel, I’m usually not very fond of them. But it seems sorta interesting. I admire that you stepped back and reanalyzed your view on the book and what it deserved, very thoughtful. I’m still on the fence…but I’m glad you reviewed it and now I know it exist and one day, I may just read it. 🙂

    • Leeswammes says:

      Lena, I don’t think it’s character-driven per s, as Christine finds out more of her past every day and when she adds it all up, it doesn’t make sense. So, there is some suspense from the start.

  14. BermudaOnion says:

    It sounds compelling to me even if it isn’t always a page turner.

  15. Jennifer O. says:

    I HAVE to read this book. I’ve seen several reviews over the last few days, and each review leaves me wanting more.

  16. Uniflame says:

    I think I could love this book. But it depends on how scary it gets during the end…?
    I have once seen a movie with the same topic, about a woman who loses all her memories after she goes to sleep. It is called 50 first dates. But it is more like a romantic comedy. Still I enjoyed it.

  17. Leslie @ Under My Apple Tree says:

    I already had this on my ‘to-read’ list. It sounded like something I’d enjoy but now I’m pretty sure I will. Just need to find the time to read yet another book!

    (Akismet and therefore WordPress has decided I’m a spammer so I can’t use my WP login. That’s why I’m a guest until I figure out how to resolve this.)

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  19. Just catching up with reviews (still). I really liked this book too but I think I felt the same as you as in I almost felt let down that it wasn’t as “amazing” as I has been lead to believe. I really enjoyed it though but I did give it 4 stars rather than 5. I’ll definitley read more of his books in the future.

    • Leeswammes says:

      Boof, I did enjoy Before I go to Sleep for more than the story – I also enjoyed reading about the concept of losing one’s memory and the consequences that had.

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