Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Book Club Review -Before I Go To Sleep

At long last the reviews are in.  As per usual, there were the usual disagreements, arguments, praise, criticism, all forming an interesting and entertaining cocktail of Book Club opinions.  Having said all that, 'Before I Go To Sleep' has probably been the most successful book reviewed so far.  But enough of all that - here is what everyone had to say.

As a bit of a thriller addict I feel in a good position to pass judgement on this novel. My verdict? Excellent! The idea was original, the execution confident - the experience for the reader is an overall very enjoyable one. I read most of the book in one sitting, I couldn't put it down. So, any negative comments? Well, while not giving too much away, some aspects of the plot were a little too tidy and I didn't feel we were given enough red herrings to keep us guessing. But, when it came down to it, these points didn't really detract from the enjoyment of the novel. 9/10.

'Before I go to Sleep' was a very enjoyable read, though some of the plotting was forced at times, perhaps its greatest achievement as a book about memory loss was to give such entertainment and yet be completely forgettable.  I could read it again next year.  But hopefully won't!

'Before I Go To Sleep' ticks many of the boxes for me.  It was engaging, kept me second guessing all the way through.  Had a great plot with no inconsistencies that I could find.  I liked the premise behind it, although I did think he made a 'not so old women' appear a lot older than her years.  The triumph for me was the final third of the novel as I just could not put it down - managed to stay awake until 4 in the morning in an attempt to finish it.  As a plot driven thriller novel goes, it certainly worked for me.

Before I Go To Sleep is an elegant and compact thriller. It is a genre novel with a sophisticated concept. I found it supremely readable. The style is stripped back to a stark functionality, but there is something refreshing about it's uncluttered surface. The pleasures of the text are in the clever plotting and in how the plotting serves the concept - how the author manages to tell the story of it's amnesiac protagonist is an ingenious feat in itself. Some people in the group have argued that it isn't a classic or very re-readable but I think it is an original and notable example of it's genre.

While difficult for a male writer to narrate from a female perspective, S.J. Watson pulls it off with aplomb in ‘Before I Go to Sleep’. He avoids clichéd female traits to deliver a suspenseful and well-written debut novel. While the writing is very tight, all the loose ends are tied up a little too quickly at the end which pulls the reader from that bubble of imagination. Also, Watson uses some weak structure in places – it’s just too convenient that Christine is abandoned by all of her family and friends, only adding to her vulnerability and state of confusion. However, the reader is tantalised by what is real and unreal in this well-layered story and Watson avoids a ‘groundhog day’ feel by steering clear too much repetition. ‘Before I Go to Sleep’ is a good read; it will pass the bus journey to work but it’s not one for the bookcase.

I'm an avid reader, but this is one of the best books I've read in a while. The first third pulls you in, the middle keeps you tensed and waiting and the last is absolutely un-putdownable. Ticks all the boxes. If I bit my nails they'd be bitten to the quick by now . . .

Thoroughly enjoyed reading this, kept thinking I had the measure of it but I was wrong every time, held me in suspense right to the end.  Didn't take me long to read because i truly couldn't put it down.  I note Ridley Scott has acquired the film rights, this says it all !

Before I go to Sleep S J Watson - I read this novel in two sittings.  I loved the notion that a journal could hold your reality even when if you were unable to hold it yourself - the notion that your own written word might be the only
word that you could trust. It's a riveting notion that you might see, in your own hand, the words ‘Don’t trust Ben’ – about the only person you thought you could trust.
The writer’s style - or the writing - didn’t make an impact on me good or bad.  It certainly didn’t intrude on the plot.  I was surprised afterwards to realise that I couldn’t describe it.  I only remembered the characters, and the journal, not the writing.  I think that might
be an achievement!
I loved the plot.  I could pick some holes in it but I would have to
be really-really picky. Like: where are the social services? Why did she have to develop a cringey attraction to Dr Nash, there was plenty going on between them without that.  If you set it in Ireland and make Brendan Gleeson play Ben and Gabriel Byrne play Dr Nash it might work.  But Dr Nash is too young....
The extent of Christine’s vulnerability was shocking – in the end I just wanted no more bad things to happen to her...I won’t read it again but I will recommend it to everyone as riveting read.

This is a good book; the pages turn, the sentences flow and it’s not demanding.  For a thriller I’m told it’s fantastic and with its high concept and nicely placed plot revelations, I can understand that it is.  My husband, who only reads thrillers, loved it.  I want more from a book.  I want to enter a world that dazzles me with its brilliance.  I want to read sentences that leave me breathless.  I want to learn.  Instead I ran through passages wishing the old biddy, Christine (she’s only 47, but feels more like 60), would stop wittering on and on about how dreadful, and how hard, and how awful.  The poor, unfortunate woman has not a drop of humour and her every waking hour is consumed by her tragedy.  I know this is reasonable considering her tragedy is dreadful, and maybe I’ve just had enough of the economy,  the radio,  and the multiple endearment that are uttered throughout the book that sound like cardboard.  I will add that the authors finest page is his last.  I admired him for that.  


  1. Haven't read this book but the reviews here have me intrigued. What was your own opinion of it, Louise?

  2. Hi Derek - I'm the socks and high heels who managed to stay up until 4 in the morning!

  3. Great reviews, I have to read this book now, I love also, as one reviewer points out, the notion that your own written word might be the only
    word that you could trust.
    I'm offline for a while socks but will drop in for a read everynowe and again x

  4. Thanks Niamh - Hopefully we'll chat soon:)

  5. Hard to believe it's a debut novel, SJ Watson's Before I Go to Sleep has garnered star reviewed from Kirkus and Booklist and was in development to be adapted into a movie before the book was even released. And though I've read some excellent books this year, I haven't come across a novel that would appeal to so many readers. This book has all the makings of an absolute block buster.


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