Review: Before I Go To Sleep
I have a Colin Firth thing. Well, I have a British/Scottish/Irish/Welsh guy thing – Christian Bale, Hugh Grant, Tom Hardy, James McIvoy, Hugh Laurie, Sean… but Colin is on the list too. I think it was Love Actually that made me fall for him, strangely enough. I know that he is an actual leading man and can carry a movie on his own, but it his part in that ensemble cast that breaks my heart and makes me love him so deeply.
Anyway, when I saw his face on the cover of this novel, (it has been made into a movie starring my Colin, Nicole Kidman and Mark Strong) and I read the back and saw that it was a thriller, I knew I couldn’t put it back on the shelf.
Not being able to put it down pretty much sums up my experience with Before I Go To Sleep. I couldn’t stop reading, I was desperate to know what happened. Without giving too much away, it is the story of Christine Lucas (my mother-in-law’s name, which was a weird experience) who used to be a writer, but who was involved in some sort of accident that took her ability to form new memories. She can remember what happens to her each day, but when she sleeps the tablet is wiped clean and she starts all over every morning.
I know what you’re thinking – this has been done, and you’re right, it has. (50 First Dates) What’s more, we learn right at the beginning that all is not well with Christine and her husband. She doesn’t trust him, she is lying to him, he is lying to her and the jist of the story is that she has to find out what the truth is (with no memory), and yep, you’re right, this too has been done before. (Memento)
So, the premise is not terribly original – but, you begin to like Christine, and feel for her. (Even if every chapter is a bit repetitive because, hell, her life is repetitive. I think the characterization that really sucked me in was when she discovered that she was a mother. That got me. I can’t even imagine losing the ability to remember my children. Heartbreaking.
There are sufficient twists – both in the number of characters, their shadiness, and Christine’s own inability to know anything for sure – to keep you guessing. I found the ending to be mostly satisfying (there were strange plot problem where other characters knew that she was in trouble but weren’t able to save her cause they all of a sudden didn’t know how to reach her that I thought were a little weak) and I read this book with abandon. I was worried about her and wanted to know what happened the entire book.
That said, I think it suffers from some problems of pacing – I think it could have been 50-100 pages shorter. Christine’s life is repetitive, she wakes up every morning and needs to be reminded of who she is – but I don’t. I think the author took the easy way out around this problem and just repeated himself too much.
In summary: not terribly original (but really, hardly anything is) and the pacing is slow. But – the characters are strong, and believable, and the ending makes terrifying sense.