S J Watson’s thriller debut made a splash on arrival, getting critical acclaim, picking up awards and having a 2014 film made of his book starring Nicole Kidman and Colin Firth, (it’s currently on Amazon Prime in the UK, I haven’t seen it but may watch it this weekend now I have finished the book) not bad for a hospital audiologist writing on evenings and weekends.
The premise is fascinating. A middle-aged woman wakes up each morning knowing nothing about her life, believing herself to be in bed with a much older stranger. Shocked by her appearance as much older than she was expecting to see in her bathroom mirror she has to piece together her life since she lost her memory. Each morning it’s back to square one, no recollections and needing her husband to fill in the gaps. It seems that this has been going on for years and secret meetings with a doctor provide her with a strategy of getting some of these memories back. She begins to keep a journal which makes up the bulk of the narrative and through this starts to realise that all is not as it seems.
This is a real-slow burn of a thriller and Watson is great at building up the tension gradually as the reader begins to share Christine’s mistrust. I was very involved but felt the resolution did not live up to the build-up which had been so very good. It’s impossible to read about Christine’s predicament without putting yourself in her shoes reflecting how you would react in her circumstances and that is a great way to build empathy for your main character.
This book’s success made it one of the key titles in revitalising the psychological thriller which dominates best-seller list almost ten years on. Since then Steve Watson has published two more novels, the latest “Final Cut” published in August 2020.
Before I Go To Sleep was published in 2011. I read the Black Swan paperback version.
PS: Just watched the film last night. Oh dear! The slow burn and gradual cranking of tension has been abandoned and everything I liked about the book has more or less gone. Instead we get a creaky standard straight-to-DVD type thriller with an unnecessarily starry cast who do not add much to it. The film doesn’t limp above a 2* rating. I wonder if the author was disappointed with the liberties taken to get this end result?
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