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November 7, 2011 / C.T. Henry

Before I Go to Sleep Wins the Galaxy National Book Award

S.J. Watson’s Before I Go to Sleep won this year’s Galaxy National Book Award in the crime and thriller category.


“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.


Also nominated in the crime and thriller category were: The Fear Index by Robert Harris,  Heartstone by C.J. Sansom, The Family by Martina Cole, The Impossible Dead by Ian Rankin, and Trick of the Dark by Val McDermid.


One Comment

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  1. techeditor / Sep 9 2012 5:45 pm

    I read this. Here’s what I thought.

    In BEFORE I GO TO SLEEP by S.J. Watson, Christine wakes up every morning with no memory of the days before, of who that man (her husband, Ben) in bed with her is, of who she is or how old she is. Every day her husband tells her who they are and what happened to cause this memory problem. He claims she was in an accident with a hit-and-run driver.

    This book is about Christine regaining memories, little by little. She’s aided by a person who claims to be Doctor Nash. He calls her every morning to reintroduce himself. At first, it sometimes seems slow and repetitious because of Christine’s same routine every day. But it’s also more and more mysterious with each new memory.

    Why does Ben keep most information from Christine? Does he think he’s helping her, or is there some devious reason? And why, when Christine asks about a new memory, does he seem hesitant to answer? Does he tell her the truth? What is he hiding and why?

    And is this Doctor Nash really who he says he is? Is he really involved for the reasons he states?

    Here is what I know: there are several different types of amnesia and a few different possible causes, brain trauma being just one of them. Brain trauma is the cause Ben claims to Christine. But is he being honest?

    Christine retains memory for a day, only to lose it all overnight while she’s sleeping. Is something other than or in addition to brain trauma the cause? What else is going on?

    Many other reader reviews of this book complain about its implausibility. If they are referring to Christine’s amnesia, that is probably easier for me to believe because I, too, had amnesia as a result of an accident and still occasionally regain memories I didn’t know I had forgotten, even after 34 years. For a short time, I couldn’t even retain day-to-day memories. So I know Watson wasn’t completely making this up, just stretching the truth.

    Although the amnesia described in BEFORE I GO TO SLEEP isn’t implausible, I did catch things that are. For example, at the suggestion of Doctor Nash, Christine keeps a journal. Every day she describes that day, so she knows what happened in the days before. BEFORE I GO TO SLEEP is her journal. How does she have the time to both write it (in longhand) and then reread it every day along with anything else she does that day?

    But I just went along with it.

    Then Christine starts remembering enough to be suspicious. And just as she goes back and forth suspecting Ben or her doctor or her old friend, then suspecting her memory instead of them, I, too, went back and forth with my own suspicions. It truly became a thriller.

    BEFORE I GO TO SLEEP forces the reader to become tense with suspicion. It is this aspect that I think must be the reason the book is such a bestseller and garners so much praise. This is what won me over.

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