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Before I Go to Sleep: A Novel
by S. J. Watson
Mass Market Paperback : 363 pages
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S. J. Watson makes his powerful debut with Before I Go to Sleep, a compelling, fast-paced psychological thriller, reminiscent of Shutter Island and Memento, in which an amnesiac who, following a mysterious accident, cannot remember her past or form new memories, desperately tries to uncover the truth about who she is—and who she can trust.
Editorial ReviewAmazon Best Books of the Month, June 2011: Every day Christine wakes up not knowing where she is. Her memories disappear every time she falls asleep. Her husband, Ben, is a stranger to her, and he's obligated to explain their life together on a daily basis--all the result of a mysterious accident that made Christine an amnesiac. With the encouragement of her doctor, Christine starts a journal to help jog her memory every day. One morning, she opens it and sees that she's written three unexpected and terrifying words: "Don't trust Ben." Suddenly everything her husband has told her falls under suspicion. What kind of accident caused her condition? Who can she trust? Why is Ben lying to her? And, for the reader: Can Christineâ??s story be trusted? At the heart of S. J. Watson's Before I Go To Sleep is the petrifying question: How can anyone function when they can't even trust themselves? Suspenseful from start to finish, the strength of Watson's writing allows Before I Go to Sleep to transcend the basic premise and present profound questions about memory and identity. One of the best debut literary thrillers in recent years, Before I Go to Sleep deserves to be one of the major blockbusters of the summer. --Miriam Landis
ExcerptNo Excerpt Currently Available
Discussion Questions"As I sleep, my mind will erase everything I did today. I will wake up tomorrow as I did this morning. Thinking I’m still a child. Thinking I have a whole lifetime of choice ahead of me. . . ."
Memories define us. So what if you lost yours every time you went to sleep? Your name, your identity, your past, even the people you love—all forgotten overnight. And the one person you trust may be telling you only half the story. Welcome to Christine's life.
S. J. Watson makes his powerful debut with this compelling, fast-paced psychological thriller in which an amnesiac who, following a mysterious accident, cannot remember her past or form new memories, desperately tries to uncover the truth about who she is—and who she can trust.
1. Christine doesn’t feel a strong sense of love for her husband, but wonders if that is normal after so many years of marriage. Do you think it’s inevitable that a marriage changes in this way?
2. Christine says that feels like an animal. Living from moment to moment, day to day, trying to make sense of the world. Do you think this is what it must be like to be in her situation? Do you think animals really have no sense of their past? Is the abililty to remember years gone by all that separates human beings from animals?
3. Christine doesn’t feel she achieved all of her childhood ambitions. She feels disappointment in the life that she has made for herself. Is this common for a woman as she approaches fifty years of age? Do you think she is right to be disappointed, or were her childhood ambitions unrealistic?
4. How important is memory to our sense of identity? What are the events in your life that have been important to in shaping who you are? Can you imagine what it might be like if you couldn’t remember them? How would you be different as a person?
5. Christine can’t remember Adam, or Claire. She can’t remember her wedding day or writing For the Morning Birds. Have these people and things changed her personality anyway, though, even though she can’t remember them? Is not remembering something effectively the same as it not having happened?
6. What are Dr Nash’s feelings towards Christine? Do you think he is behaving in a professional manner? He says he is writing up her case – are his motives for helping her entirely selfless? Is he being completely honest with her?
7. Do you think that Christine’s affair is out of character for her? Why do you think it happened? Why do you think she risks her marriage? Does she treat her husband well? And Mike? Was she being fair to him?
8. Christine believes Ben doesn’t tell her about Adam so that she doesn’t get upset. Would he be right to do this? Or does she have a right to know about him no matter how painful that knowledge might be? Are there other examples of people keeping things from Christine ‘for her own benefit’? Do you think this is ever the right thing to do?
9. Towards the end of the book Nash calls round at Christine’s house, but she can’t remember asking him to, even though he says she did so earlier that morning. Do you think she did so, but then forgot? Or is Nash lying to cover up the fact he had come uninvited?
10. Do you think Christine feels like a sexual person? Do you think she would be nervous about sex, and about her own body? Do you think every sexual experience would feel like the first for her? Does her husband have a right to expect her to have sex with him, even if she feels she has never met him before?
11. Did you like the ending? Did it represent closure for you? What about Christine? Do you think she will remember what happened to her when she wakes up?
S. J. Watson lives in London and worked in the National Health Service for a number of years. In 2009 Watson was accepted into the first Faber Academy Writing a Novel course, a rigorous and selective program that covers all aspects of the novel-writing process. Before I Go to Sleep is the result.
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