Friday, January 6, 2012

Before I Go To Sleep - S.J. Watson (Audio)

I've been eye-balling this book for some time now.  This whole mystery-slash-memory loss sub-genre has really taken over lately, and of course in my mind everything leads back to a favorite movie of mine "Memento".  (If you've not seen it, you must.  It is a serious brain-twister.  Don't drink while you watch it by the way, or you will be very cornfused.)

So then my friend Marianne recommended reading this for our January Books, Babes and Bordeaux book club.  She said is was wild and woolly and easy to read.  Which is a good thing if you are attempting to survive the holidays. 

Synopsis:  Christine wakes every day to a strange bed, a strange man lying beside her, and a strange woman in the mirror.  Her husband explains that she suffered traumatic head injuries in an accident that causes all of her short-term memory to be erased every time she goes to sleep.  Does she have friends?  Does she have children?  Does she have a job? 

Christine receives a call from a doctor that appears to be working with her to regain some of her memory.  He has encouraged her to keep a diary, so as she learns things about herself, she can write them down and use it to recall important details.  She begins to suspect something is wrong when she finds a note in her diary that says she should not trust her husband.  Christine must figure out whether she is delusional, or whether there is a reason to be scared for her life.

My thoughts: I guess when Lionel Shriver and Dennis Lehane blurb a book, and it is compared to "Memento", you expect it to be a book destined to be on your best of lists.  Unfortunately, while this book was entertaining, it was disappointing. 

The premise is creepy.  Every day you wake up remembering nothing?  Slowly, Christine starts to attempt to piece together her life and keep track of it in her journal.  Things don't add up.  There are twists, some expected, some not.  A couple of times, the rug was pulled out from under me.  There were some other twists that I saw coming a mile away.  Overall, though, it was a real mind-bender. 

From an author's perspective, this was a writing minefield.  There were literally thousands of facts that could trip you up.  All I wanted to do, subconsciously, is poke holes in it.  It was really hard for me to relax and enjoy the ride.

After awhile, I did get weary.  Losing her memory every night, waking up and discovering things written in the diary.  Does she love her husband?  Does she trust him?  It began to get repetitive in the middle of the book, before things ramped up at the end.  The ending also felt very tidy, where everything is 'splained, like a Scooby Doo mystery.  Jenners and I discussed this via e-mail, and she actually offered an alternate ending that would have knocked me right down on my hiney.  That Jenners is clever, she is.

Bottom line?  A good entertaining mystery, but not a great one.

A few words about the audio production:  Our narrator for this book was Orlagh Cassidy, who is a new voice for me.  She has a beautiful, lilting British accent and was pleasant to listen to.  She expressed genuine emotion and was a very believable victim.      

3 out of 5 stars

           

24 comments:

Literate Housewife said...

Thanks so much for this review. I've also been circling this book, but now I feel good about moving on. I'm glad you enjoyed the narrator. She's the next one in the Maisie Dobbs series. My concern is that she was on my soap opera and is at least a very convincing American. I don't necessarily like the idea of listening to an American narrator read a book completely in a British accent. Sounds like she worked well for this book. That gives me hope. :-)

JoAnn said...

This has been on my audible.com wish list for some time... don't think I'll be moving it to the top just yet.

Marce said...

So happy to see your review, I was beginning to think I was crazy and seeing so many well known authors loving this, I started to question what I enjoy. I also gave it a 3, found it repetitive, figured out the suspense part and was angry over why she went sleep every night, sigh. I did think good debut, I gave a 3 also.

Here is my review if interested.

http://teawithmarce.blogspot.com/2011/07/review-before-i-go-to-sleep-by-s-j.html

Jenny said...

I thought this book was good but I definitely get all the points you made. I didn't care for the ending and am super curious what Jenners's idea was!

Trisha said...

You have me all curious for Jenners' alternate ending. :)

Jeane said...

Hm. I was thinking of reading this book, even though I'm not really into mysteries. You have me rethinking it, though. I really did love Memento. And one of the books I recently read about brain injuries had a story about a woman who lost her ability to make memories- her situation was very like Memento. It was very sad, actually.

rhapsodyinbooks said...

So glad you didn't love this, since I seem to be one of the few people in the universe who didn't read it, and if you had loved it, I would have had to read it!

Zibilee said...

I agree with your assessment of this one, though I think I might have liked it a bit more than you did. I did think that there was a certain point that you just had to totally suspend disbelief and just go with it, or it would have never worked out. I also get what you are saying about the repetitive nature of the amnesia every morning. I would love to hear what Jenners came up with for the ending because I know it would be clever! Very thoughtful and involving review today!

Peppermint Ph.D. said...

Haven't read this one yet but did add it to the WishList after reading several reviews. May bump others in front of it now...

Darlene said...

I think I liked this one much more than you did. I reall didn't think too hard about it. I just went with it and imagined something like that real happening. At least it wasn't a total loss for you.

Anita said...

I'm in the middle of this one, so thanks for no spoilers,and yes I see many of your points, it's confusing, she and the Dr, she and her husband. I think we'll all need to hear Jenners' ending!!
Thanks Sandy.

Marie said...

Thanks for the review. I've been iffy about this book for a while; I have a copy from a giveaway and while it sounded OK, I wasn't quite sure. I guess I'll think about it for a while longer!

caite said...

I like this one, I think a bit more than you. but I agree that the middle got rather repetitive and I must say I saw the end coming.

Tess Gerritsen wrote a great blurb for this one and roped me in..and made me reconsider believing blurbs.

bermudaonion said...

Heather's review was about the same as yours, so I won't be in a hurry to read this one.

Julie P. said...

I loved the premise and parts of the book were truly terrific. I was just let down by the ending.

wordsandpeace.com said...

how interesting to see the various tastes: I chose this as my best fiction audiobook of the year! Maybe as audiobook you get more into it, especially with such a great narrator, Orlagh Cassidy./ this is my review, just in case some want another point of view: http://wordsandpeace.com/2011/11/21/83-before-i-go-to-sleep/

Jenners said...

I'm glad you liked my proposed ending. Perhaps we should "reissue" the book with a new ending and only ask for .05% of the profits!

It cracked me up that you wanted to subconciously find holes in it. I know what you mean! But I'm a lazy reader that way.

I think I liked it more than you but I agree with all that you said. I was willing just to let go and go along with the ride. But it was no Memento -- that is for sure. That movie blew me away -- and gave me a massive headache.

christa @ mental foodie said...

I gave this a 3.5, not as good as I'd hoped it'd be since there were SO MANY good reviews! Since I had an ARC I actually read it before it was released, so my slight negative review of the book was rare at the time, and I thought there was something wrong with me. Here's mine if you are interested: http://mentalfoodie.blogspot.com/2011/06/book-review-before-i-go-to-sleep-by-sj.html

Now I am curious what Jenners' proposed ending is!

Heather @ Book Addiction said...

I have to say that I enjoyed this one quite a bit more than you, I think. I completely see where you're coming from with the tediousness of the waking up every morning with no memory and with the ending (which was too tidy, for sure), but overall I was along for the ride with this one. I was able to suspend my disbelief enough to get very invested in the story. So for me, it worked.

samantha.1020 said...

I loved this one so I'm sorry to hear that you didn't enjoy it as much! I'll admit that for me it reminded me a bit of Adam Sandler's 50 First Dates. I still found myself immersed in the book and it ended up on my top ten reads of the year list. Thanks for the honest review!

Amy said...

I have this book on my shelf and will read it at some point. It's not one I'll be picking up expecting great things. Many of the many, many blogger reviews I've read echo sentiments similar to your own. Basically, it's good but not great. I've learned in the last couple of years that blurbs on books, no matter who they're from, cannot always be relied on.
I had such high hopes for this one. Still, I really like the cover! And I want to read it for Jenners alternate ending lol

farmlanebooks said...

I haven't read your review as I'm planning to read this next week, but 3/5? Oh no! Everyone else loves this. I hope I have better luck that you did.

Melissa said...

Memento is awesome! I've seen this one around, but haven't been convinced...and I'm even less so now. I think it's going to have to stay on my maybe someday list.

Jackie Bailey said...

I've finally got around to reading your review and I almost agree with your thoughts. I think I enjoyed the reading experience a bit more than you though.

I'd love to know the ending Jenners proposed. Can you fill me in?