Friday, 14 December 2012

Review of S.J. Watson's Before I Go to Sleep by Freya McIntosh (redone)

Every day Christine wakes up.

Every day Christine wakes up. She is a twenty-something woman. No, that's not right, that can't be right. Just look at her, look at herself, look at myself in the mirror. I'm old, too old. She has written a diary. She reads it, I read it. She reads her life into existence. It's a dull life. Beautifully written, by her, for her, written within writing. She's the author of her own story.

I rem-

She lives with a man. Her husband. His name is Ben. He loves her. He looks after her. But. Don't trust Ben. It's written there in her diary, the diary she can't remember writing. Ben is her memory. He tells her who she is, how she is. He is her memory. Every day he looks after her but Don't trust Ben. Every day she reads her life into existence. He doesn't know about the diary. The diary tells her things that Ben doesn't so Don't Trust Ben, but every day he looks after her. She is the one with the problem. How can she how can she how can she trust herself? 

I remem-

Her journal, my journal, this book explores the importance of memory and just how lost we would be if our memory were taken away at the end of each day. Just how lost we would be if...if what? I look back at what I've written. Oh, lost if our memory were taken away.  The book seeks to place the reader in Christine's position: a confused position. We read the diary at the same time as her; discover her life at the same time as her. In a way we become her, which is why the final revelation has such a powerful impact on us. We don't know who to trust. "Don't trust Ben." But can we trust Christine? Can we trust ourselves? What is real? What if our reality were taken away?

I remember-

The only negative aspect of my diary, her diary, this novel; is that Christine seems to read and write impossibly fast, and with incredible accuracy. Like in Richardson’s epistolary novel Pamela, we wonder at the startling pace at which her journal progresses, and at the fact that she seems to remember every single word that has been spoken in a particular day. She appears to remember long conversations word for word, rather than giving the general gist of the conversation. One example being a conversation with her doctor:

I’ve decided to write up your case. It’s pretty unusual in the field, and I think it would be really beneficial to get the details out there in the wider scientific community. Do you mind?

The accuracy in her memory of all this direct speech is ironic, given that her long-term memory is non-existent; it is perhaps more of a device rather than a realistic portrayal of human memory, and yet this amount of detail enables us to climb between the pages of her journal and into her life. This novel, her journal, achieves what it has set out to do brilliantly: make us at home in a world in which we know almost nothing about, and make us care deeply about Christine and whether or not she is being told the truth. By Ben, and by herself.

I remember when, I remember
I remember when I lost my mind.

Every day Christine wakes up.

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