Friday, June 03, 2011

Before I Go to Sleep by SJ Watson

Watson's impressive first novel is  about creating narratives, and the relationship between narrative and memory.  In the tradition of Borges and Philip K. Dick, but on a suburban level, with a touch of Groundhog Day and Memento thrown in for good measure, Watson's novel centers on Chrissie, a woman in her forties who believes her amnesia is the result of a car accident. Her amnesia means that each day she has to re-remember her life. On the advice of a psychiatrist, she begins to keep a journal. This allows her to gradually piece together her past, and realizes that her husband, Ben, is withholding various things from her. It makes her wonder if he really is a compassionate carer or someone out to manipulate her in some way.  It's the structure of this novel, and its concentration on the trivial, that make it so nerve-jangling. No grand gesture or demonic prose here, just the daily grind of trying to piece together a personality, a past and a history.