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Saturday, 6 October 2012

Late to the party - Before I Go To Sleep

I wish I could lay claims to being one of those book bloggers who has her finger firmly on the literary pulse, but alas it's just not the case. It feels almost pointless adding this review because judging by the number of Goodreads contacts in my list who have already read Before I Go To Sleep, I am later than late to the party. By the time I got my hands on a copy it had already been passed around all the members of my immediate family, and several other friends had given it a glowing recommendation. But I can't help but share my two pence worth because at times I have to admit to wondering if I was reading the same book as everyone else!




The premise of this novel is excellent and I was really looking forward to giving it a go. Christine suffers from a rare form of amnesia meaning that she can only create and retain new memories during the day - while she is asleep they are all lost. This means that each morning she awakes to a world of the unknown. Her only aid comes in the form of a diary in which she logs the intricacies of her life and her relationships on a daily basis, to jog her barely-existent memory when morning comes around again. Because of course even if you don't know what else in your life to rely on, you can always trust what's written in black and white in your own hand. Or can you?

Unfortunately this story was just too implausible for my liking. I just couldn't get away from the fact that there are not enough hours in the day for Christine to have documented her every action in such detail, let alone having time to read through her previous entries as well. In addition, I felt like the way Christine was treated by the authorities was unbelievable - without wanting to give too much away, the final 'twist' relies heavily on the supposed incompetence of her carers. In reality there would be far too many safeguarding measures and red tape in place to ensure that something like that could happen (I hope?? Please fill me in if anyone knows of any such real-life examples!).

Plot intricacies aside, I found the novel as a whole to be somewhat lacking in tension & intrigue. I have to admit that I actually abandoned the whole thing at one point because I didn't really care what happened, only picking it up again because I was reaching the end of my holiday and had finished all the other books in my suitcase! It is a shame because Before I Go To Sleep has obviously offered so much to entertain so many other people. Well, we can't all agree on everything, can we!

I read this as part of my RIP VII challenge!

11 comments:

  1. I agree with you analysis Marie although I did find the tension OK in the first half of the book. I just found the whole medical side to be completely implausible and I had to suspend my disbelief which I don't enjoy doing as a rule.

    Nice review though!

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    1. I'm glad you agree, Sarah. I could just about get on board with the memory loss and the nature of Christine's symptoms (while they are improbable, I concede that they aren't completely outside the realms of possibility) but the logistics of the diary and how it fit into her daily routine really got to me.

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  2. You are not alone...I felt much the same way about the book and I too wondered if I'd read the same thing as everyone else as they all seemed to love it so much while I kept thinking things like "how is that mobile phone getting charged since she always hides it in her handbag" and "what alternate universe are they living in where a person in her condition would be so appallingly cared for by her medical guardians - wouldn't happen even in our cash strapped health department".

    Fascinating to see you also recently read TURN OF MIND which I also happened to read in close proximity to this book - so close that I felt compelled to review them together as they were in some ways similar (in that they dealt with a central character who could not trust their own mind) - with this one coming off a poor second in comparison. TURN OF MIND was brilliant - as you say a life changing book in some ways. As my dad had been diagnosed with dementia only a little while before I read the book it was a tough read for me but on balance I was glad to have had the experience - it certainly helped give me some perspective and a teeny bit of understanding of what he is going through (and will go through in the near future). When he was diagnosed they gave us brochures and websites (which I dutifully read) but honestly I think reading TURN OF MIND was a much more useful thing to have read - the bloody brochures all kept trying to put a positive spin on things whereas the book felt much more realistic (and more so as time goes on and I start to see some of the same things happening to my dad). Let's face it Alheimer's is just a horrid bloody disease and and no amount of carefully worded brochures can change that.

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    1. Ha, good point about the mobile phone! That didn't even occur to me! I agree that many parallels can be drawn between the two books. I thought that Turn Of Mind shows a much better use of the journal plot device than Before I Go To Sleep. The fact that the journal entries are so much shorter and erratic makes them much more believable, and I liked the way that they are used to support the main body of the story rather than actually being the main body of the story. I cannot imagine how difficult it must have been to read that book knowing your father was approaching the same disease. It makes for bleak reading at times but I kept noting things I could take from it, thinking that if I avoid doing this or behaving like that character did then I can hopefully make a positive impact for somebody who is struggling with dementia.

      Thank you for the thoughful comment, Bernadette!

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  3. I too agree with your take. BIGTS is a short, readable, lightweight crime thriller, but it lacks suspense, credibility (the number of plot holes in Christine's situation is great!) and a satisfying conclusion. Definitely not worth all the plaudits, in my view. Another novel published at about the same time, which I found a "neat little thriller", is Into The Darkest Corner by Elizabeth Haynes. Unpretentious but a much more convincing study of sanity/insanity from the point of view of the person concerned. I concur with Bernadette that Turn of Mind (La Plante) is excellent, but that's a whole different type of book to either of the two mentioned here.

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    1. You're right, Maxine. Having read Turn Of Mind and Before I Go To Sleep in quick succession it was tempting to pepper my review with comparisons between them as there are a lot of superficial similarities, but really Turn Of Mind is on a whole other level. Thanks for the recommendation - when I read your comment the name rang a bell and having just looked this book up on Goodreads I remember being tempted by it when it was listed for the TV Book Club, but I had forgotten it existed until now. Thanks for stopping by today.

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  4. I know what you mean about "implausible." While I was able to abandon my disbelief through most if the novel, the end felt contrived as well. Too much drama perhaps? Plus, I was irrationally annoyed that the author only went by initials...like J. K. Rowling?

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    1. I know what you mean - it's funny, I have heard that JK Rowling uses her initials so that boys won't be put off reading her books. And honestly I think if I hadn't already known the identity of the author before reading Before I Go To Sleep, I would have guessed it had been written by a woman.

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  5. I must confess that I read this and enjoyed it but reading some of the comments now I think I must have been reading in some sort of a bubble. I think maybe I read so many books that are pure flights of fancy that when I'm reading a more regular story I don't question the plausibility as much as I should. I do remember thinking that as the story was taking me so long to read how would Christine have the time to read it each day? Plus, I guess I never really considered how easy it was for Christine to be released. I did think that she wasn't being cared for very well but I was never totally sure just how reliable her story was because of the memory loss.
    Lynn ;D

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    1. It has been so widely acclaimed that very many people must have shared your opinion though Lynn! I always try to suspend my disbelief and remember that at the end of the day it's just fiction, but with this I found it quite difficult to do.

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  6. Even with all the praise this book got, I have not read it because I felt I would have problems with the premise and its implausibility. This is an interesting, honest review.

    I noticed that you read a good mix of books. I read mostly mysteries, although I do plan to pick up some science fiction for the Science Fiction Experience at Stainless Steel Droppings.

    I was fascinated with your review of We by Zamyatin. I will have to get a copy of that.

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