Published by Doubleday – an imprint of Transworld. £12.99
What to say? What to add to the enormous praise that has already been given to this fantastic debut novel and its author?
There is a genuine buzz and excitement (all of which is thoroughly deserved) about this release and, put simply, you just MUST read it. SJ Watson was accepted into the first Faber Academy in 2009 and this is the result of that work – a novel that has won praise and plaudits from across all media and from some of the biggest names in crime fiction.
‘Quite simply the best debut novel I’ve ever read’ TESS GERRITSEN
‘An exceptional thriller’ DENNIS LEHANE
‘A deeply unsettling debut’ VAL McDERMID
The book has already sold in 37 territories worldwide and the movie rights have been snapped up by Scott Free (Ridley & Tony Scott’s film company) with writing and directing due to be undertaken by Rowan Joffe.
If handled well, this could easily be the next Shutter Island or Memento.
A few weeks back I was pleased to receive an advance copy from SJ Watson’s US publishers (Harper) and, only due to the volume of other great books that arrived at the same time, it joined the ‘to be read’ pile on the shelf.
And then….Transworld started to tease me….
A series of three sample chapter booklets started to arrive, each leading further into the story and ending just where the real story begins.
I would have cursed them, but instead I love them for following the third booklet with a swift despatch of the finished novel. That was it, I was in – in too deep and unable to get back out of the brilliance of the narrative and the mystery.
The first evening I racked up about 85 pages of the book….and then I made a mistake, a big mistake.
I told someone about the book, about the terrifying story of Christine Lucas and her waking to find that she does not recognise herself in the bathroom mirror, doesn’t know the man in her bed is her husband and is certain she should be eighteen years younger than she is.
I told my wife, and worse still I told her just before we were leaving the house to go out.
For the rest of the day, I sat frustrated in the driver’s seat in the heat and traffic of an Easter weekend, whilst from the back seat all I could hear was her whipping through pages of the book with only the occasional gasp of shock at a revelation or twist to the tale.
When we got home, it became a joint activity – both of us sitting side by side racing through the book over the remainder of the weekend, her with the US proof, me with my lovely Hardback UK edition until, sadly she beat me to the end, taking the final twists and turns alone and leaving me in her wake.
It was a lonely last few chapters, but not without interruption as my wife insisted on looking over to see where I was at, each time a knowing grin on her face as though to say ‘oh, you have no idea what’s about to happen next!’
In short, Before I Go to Sleep, was the most enjoyable and thrilling read I have had so far this year – it deals with a terrifying subject, memory and its loss, and whether sometimes it is better to forget things or to not be able to recall details. The buzz it created in my own household was like nothing I’ve ever experienced (other than the children with the launch of the last book featuring a wizard schoolboy perhaps) and the fact my mother (not usually a crime fan) texted me a few hours ago to let me know that Simon Mayo had just announced on Radio 2 that Before I Go to Sleep is their book club book of the month shows that the appeal is spreading like wildfire.
The way the novel is structured, essentially as journal entries and the altogether terrifying premise can’t help but get its claws into your mind…and then twist.
It will be some time before I can wake in the morning and look towards the bathroom mirror without the nagging doubt that one day I might just not recognise myself.
Thank you SJ Watson - you have darkened my dreams and clouded my memories.
The book and author are featured on this week’s BBC2 Arts Show Friday 22.00hrs.
You can read more at www.beforeigotosleep.com
Keith B Walters