Before I Go To Sleep was an excellent aeroplane book. I am a nervous flyer, and I have fundamental issues with being a very great distance from the ground in a yawing, bouncing death machine that does not supply its passengers with parachutes as standard. Therefore the fact that (even though I'd guessed its twist) I was too busy reading the final chapter of Before I Go To Sleep to notice we were landing says a lot about how very exciting it was.
Before I Go To Sleep turned out to be the neatest, best sort of thriller, one that’s not ridiculously grim or mindbogglingly complicated, just filled with the subtle, creepy sense that Something is Very Wrong.
It tells the story of mysterious amnesiac Christine, who wakes up every morning with all her memories from the previous day (and the previous twenty years of her life) completely wiped away. She doesn’t recognise her house, or her husband, or even her own face in the mirror. It’s the sort of ghoulish, naughtily interesting story that you shouldn’t want to hear all about (except of course you do); something straight out of one of those cornershop magazines that run articles like Too Fat To Go To My Own Wedding and My Secret Love Twins – But Their ‘Father’ Is Another Woman!
Actually, though, despite its premise, Before I Go To Sleep manages to walk the line between being either too gossip-magazine silly or just plain boring – since most of the book is the journal Christine keeps, it could very easily have devolved into something like:
Woke up. Don’t know who I am. Read yesterday’s journal entry. Re-learned all the things I learned yesterday. Processed them. Felt confused. Went to sleep.
Woke up. Don’t know who I am. Read yesterday’s journal entry. Re-learned all the things I learned yesterday. Processed them. Felt confused, suspicious. Will I ever be a whole person? Went to sleep.
Woke up. Don’t know who I am. Read yesterday’s journal entry. Re-learned all the things I learned yesterday. Processed them. Felt confused. Has this all happened before? Went to sleep.
All credit to S J Watson that (most of the time at least) it doesn't.
Extra information about how Christine became the way she is gets teased out as you move through the story, and the more you learn about it, the more certain you are that Christine needs to get the hell out of dodge ASAP. Of course, because this is a thriller, she doesn’t, and so you're forced to tear through the book as quickly as possible to make sure that poor Christine manages to avoid the sticky end that you can tell is coming for her. There are some great oh, shit! moments along the way, and it all builds up into a finale that's mad exciting even if, as I did, you sort of guess what's really going on.
Nice stuff, and perfect holiday reading.