Before I Go to Sleep by S.J. Watson
My rating: 2 of 5 stars
The world seemed to fall in love with S.J. Watson through his debut, Before I Go to Sleep, yet I was never entirely convinced that I wished to read it. I’m not entirely sure what it was, but there was something. It was one of those rare occasions where the film wanted my attention more than the book. Fear not, I didn’t watch the film and then go back for the book. I opted to veto both.
At least, I had planned to veto both.
Last year, curiosity got the better of me. There was a Goodreads giveaway for S.J. Watson’s second book, and I decided to enter. Much to my surprise, I won. After reading the book, I wasn’t crazy. In fact, I was erring on the side of never picking up Before I Go to Sleep. You see, Second Life left me feeling empty in a number of ways. It wasn’t at all what I would consider a thriller – there was a lack of real action, it dragged, there were no real surprises, and I really didn’t care much for the characters. Thus, I was unsure about picking up Before I Go to Sleep. I probably would have avoided it forever had I not found it sitting on the bookshelf at work. During a slow moment, I decided to pick it up. Being the type of person I am, I worked through a third of the book before it was time to get back to being productive – and by that point, despite a lack of real interest, I needed to see how everything came together.
You see, from very early into this novel I believed that I had worked things out. There were some bits and pieces I hadn’t completely put together, but it did not take me long to work these things out. I wasn’t really interested in the events going on, but I was constantly waiting to receive confirmation of whether or not I was correct in my assumptions. When I was shown to be correct… it didn’t give me the warm and fuzzy feeling I had hoped for, it merely left me annoyed that I had wasted so much of my time forcing my way through a book I wasn’t enjoying simply to be given answers I had worked out from very early into the book.
Honestly, it wasn’t the thriller I had hoped it would be. I felt much the same way towards Before I Go to Sleep as I did Second Life. It was slow. It dragged. There was a lack of action. There were no real edge of the seat moments. There were a lack of surprises. I didn’t like the characters. In fact, I enjoyed this one even less than I enjoyed Second Life. I simply didn’t care if I’m completely honest.
I think a large reason for disliking this so much is because of the neuropsychologist in me screaming when I read certain details. You can only take so many neuroscience courses before your mind can recite the big amnesia cases with ease, and certain elements of this story felt too much like slices of the best-known cases. It felt wrong to me, it felt as though they were being trivialised – especially with how some of the elements could have easily have been taken directly from the case studies.
Overall, I was let down by this one. A small part of me had been hoping for more, yet I wasn’t overly surprised to find I wasn’t crazy about this one. In truth, I do not think S.J. Watson is for me.
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