“My life…is built on quicksand. It shifts from one day to the next. Things I think I know are wrong, things I am certain of, facts about my life, myself, belong to years ago. All the history I have reads like fiction…they exist, but as shadows in the dark. As strangers, they crisscross my life, connecting, disconnecting. Elusive, ethereal. Like ghosts.”
How would you feel if every time you woke, your mind erased itself? You have no idea where you are or who’s sleeping next to you. You go to the bathroom and see pictures taped up to the wall and mirror, pictures of you with this other person, smiling and aging. It’s only then that you glance into the mirror and gasp because your appearance has changed so much that you almost don’t recognize yourself…until you look into your eyes and realize that it’s you. How would you feel?
For Christine, in S.J. Watson’s debut novel, Before I Go to Sleep, this is precisely the case. Suffering from a rare form of amnesia, she can retain memories in the span of a day, but once she goes to sleep they are lost and the next morning she has to go through the process of learning them all over again. Her memories are not completely gone though; sometimes they come back to her, and she writes them down. With the clock constantly running out, will Christine be able to reclaim her memories and her life for good, or will they forever be lost in the abyss of her mind?
In truly brilliant prose, Watson brings the reader into Christine’s mind as memories flood back to her and she tries to put the missing pieces of her life together in hopes of remembering what caused her amnesia in the first place. It makes you realize just how lonely and frustrating it would be to wake up every morning, day in and day out, and never know who you are, and despite those painful memories that you would wish you could forget, it is those memories that help define us, help make us who we are today, and without them, we would be lost, just like Christine.