Friday, October 10, 2014

Before I Go to Sleep by S.J. Watson--The Book-to-Movie Comes to U.S. Theaters 10-31-14!

Book Review by:
Sharon Powers.

     We've all seen the movies where the handsome young playboy spends his time looking for a beautiful young woman to take home for the night. One such light-hearted comedy is one set in the lush, tropical paradise of Hawaii. Adam Sandler meets a beautiful young woman, Drew Barrymore, and spends an enchanted day with her. They spend the night together, and when the next day arrives...she acts like she's never met him. She wakes up next to a man she doesn't know, freaks out, and starts screaming.

     Henry (Adam Sandler) tries to crack the mystery about why Lucy (Drew Barrymore) has no memory of him and the fun times they've had together. Henry discovers that he wants this vivacious young woman, and...that he loves her and wants to leave behind his womanizing days. So, every day he tries to win her over to loving him; hence, the name of the movie: 50 First Dates. In this movie, Lucy, has had a terrible automobile accident which has left her with amnesia, or short-term memory loss. Lucy simply forgets the previous day and has no memory of it, so how does Henry (Sandler) overcome Lucy's amnesia to win her heart? The answer is as whimsical and funny as the movie, one that leaves all viewers chuckling at the end. [2]
     Did you enjoy the short trailer of the movie, 50 First Dates? It is mildly humerous, and does have an intriguing theme. So much so, that quite a number of movies have been made where the trope of having lost memories is the major theme of the movie.

     We've seen amnesia tropes in Memento (2000); Long Kiss Goodnight (1996); Total Recall (1990); Dark City (1998); The Bourne Trilogy (2002-2007); Alfred Hitchcock's, Spellbound (1945); Finding Nemo (2003); and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004); Mulholland Drive (2001). Of course, let's not forget the movie I mentioned, above, 50 First Dates (2004). [4]

     While 50 First Dates is a comedy, the book I am reviewing today, is not. Before I Go to Sleep, instead, falls within the genre of the mystery/thriller. What is the connection between Before I Go to Sleep and 50 First Dates? Since I mentioned the amnesia trope, you can probably guess that there's the connection--and you'd be right, mostly. Let's get started by, first, looking at a short synopsis of Before I Go to Sleep.

     Christine wakes up next to a man she doesn't know. She is disoriented and doesn't even remember the stranger in the bed with her. She later finds out the man is Ben, and he's her husband. Every morning she wakes up, Ben has to explain to Christine about her life and who they are. He has to explain how she was in a terrible automobile accident that left her memory destroyed.

     Ben shows her a photo album and he has put pictures up in the bathroom around the mirror for Christine. Christine remembers none of it. Then she discovers she had a son who is now dead, having been killed in the war. Christine's emotions are in turmoil and she doesn't know how to cope with it all.

     Then Christine gets a phone call from a stranger who tells her that he is her doctor and that she has been seeing him--not knowing that the doctor has his own agenda--he tells Christine to not reveal anything about his contacting her to her husband, Ben--to keep it all a secret. The doctor has Christine start a journal as an aid to help her jog her memory about events that have happened.

     One morning Christine is reviewing her journal when she reads, "Don't trust Ben." Shocked, Christine suddenly calls into question everything in her life. She catches Ben in lies, but doesn't confront him. She tries to piece together the myriad bits of information she's gotten from Ben and how that information is different than what she's written in her journal. She wonders about why Ben has lied to her, what really caused her memory loss, and most importantly, who can she trust?

From, "Confabulation:
It Sounds Better Than Lying."
Posted 05-02-14 by Rich Gasaway. [8]
     Christine doesn't even feel as if she can trust herself after she learns that along with her amnesia, she suffered from "confabulation," that she had distorted or fabricated memory episodes. Christine can't even always rely on what she has written and she even calls her journal into question.

     Christine's journey to discover the truth, the mystery behind her amnesia and the lies Ben and the doctor have told Christine will keep you second guessing your own guesses about who did what to whom and why. The climax of the story will, undoubtedly, leave you speechless!

I take the journal out of my bag. I feel nervous. I do not know what this book will contain. What shocks and surprises. What mysteries. I see the scrapbook on the coffee table. In that book is a version of my past, but one chosen by Ben. Does the book I hold contain another? I open it. The first page is unlined. I have written my name in black ink across its center. CHRISTINE LUCAS. It's a wonder I haven't written PRIVATE! beneath it. Or KEEP OUT! Something has been added. Something unexpected, terrifying. More terrifying than anything else I have seen today. There, beneath my name, in blue ink and capital letters, are three words. DON'T TRUST BEN. There is nothing I can do but turn the page. I begin to read my history. (pp. 42-43)
     I enjoy this passage because, first, it helps to establish the theme of Christine's journal and her writing in it, reading it, and trying to use it as a touch stone to her reality. I also like it because, here, we see her, at first, a bit relaxed and having a cup of coffee when she sits down to read. Then, when she opens the book she first finds what she might expect to find, her name across the center of the title page. She also seems surprised by what she doesn't notation about her journal being private.

     The thing, though, I most like about the passage is that this is where we see Christine shocked to the point that she is terrified. We know it must truly be terrifying because we already know she's had a day filled with stress and uneasy discoveries. I imagine her reading in her own handwriting, DON'T TRUST BEN (her husband), that she would be going through myriad emotions. She acknowledges to herself that nothing more will be learned by staying where she is--she MUST turn the page. Just fabulous!

Before I Go to Sleep is Rated "R" for
some brutal violence and language.[13]
     The movie makers, having adapted S.J. Watson's book to the big screen, has stated that it's debut will be on October 31, 2014--Halloween! While the book and, therefore, the movie, are in the mystery/thriller genre, they are NOT horror, which some people might expect, since it is coming out on Halloween. The movie's MPAA rating is "R," for some brutal violence and language [11], but is nonetheless, not horror the way you think of axe murder or chainsaw murder movies. It is a psychological drama with some violence and definitely scary scenes, but, again, still, not horror.

     Before we continue to discuss the book, why don't we take a quick look at the trailer of Before I Go to Sleep. This trailer is courtesy of youtube. [12]

     Directing the movie is Antoine Fuqua (Training Day, Shooter, Olympus Has Fallen, The Replacement Killers, and King Arthur). [14] Starring in the movie as Christine Lucas is world-famous actress, Nicole Kidman, Ben Lucas will be played by Colin Firth, Dr. Nash by Mark Strong, Adam by Dean-Charles Chapman, Christine's Husband by Adam Levy, and Christine's friend, Claire, by Anne-Marie Duff. [11]

     The trailer shows us an exciting and thrilling adaptation of S.J. Watson's, Before I Go to Sleep. I can hardly wait for opening day to see how the movie makers have envisioned Watson's book. The trailer, piques my interest greatly, and I want to see how the movie tracks with the book. Ah, well. Not too long to wait.

     The first thing I like is that the book is in the mystery/thriller genre, not comedy, like Finding Nemo or 50 First Dates. While I definitely think there is a place for comedy, I just think it is refreshing to see the amnesia trope set in a genre that takes it more seriously and gets us thinking more.

     I also like S.J. Watson's writing style. It is eminently readable and I never stumbled upon words I didn't know, or got jammed up on sentences or paragraphs that were overly long, or convoluted. The whole thing just flowed easily upon the page.

     The most intriguing thing I found about the novel, however, is the way the author moves the plot along. The story is NOT about character development. How could it be with the unreliability of the narrator--that's the whole point! You don't really know what the character is, what motivates her life, since at every turn it's upended. The story is all about the plot, but it moves along like an inchworm, one little squiggle at a time. The reveals are small, not large, but they do keep coming, moving forward.

     The vehicle, the trope, amnesia, is only the tip of the iceberg, so to speak. The author has utilized other tools in the writing arsenal that you don't get to see until you near the end of the book. I won't tell you outright, what the other MAJOR trope is, but I will leave you with a couple of hints.

     In the movie, Total Recall, an action/adventure/mystery, star- ring Colin Farrell, Kate Beck- insale, Jessica Biel, and Bill Nighy (among others), the adaptation relies on the theme of planting memories into a person's mind in order that the person can have the feeling and memories of experiencing some- thing they have not actually experienced. Quaid goes to "Rekall," the place where memories are implanted, but as he is about to receive the memories, he is detected as a spy. Security shows up shooting, Quaid escapes, goes home and tells his wife what happened--then she tries to kill him. He asks her why, and she says she isn't his wife, she is UFB. Colin Farrell, escapes. [17]

     The hints that I am leaving with you are not so much about planting memories into the mind (also like the movie, Inception). Another movie trope is being utilized in the, Total Recall, above-related plot. If you read that paragraph carefully, you might be able to figure out to which trope I am referring.

     Acknowledging that the movie is not about character development, but more about plot, we do gradually inch our way to the conclusion. The problems with the conclusion is that much of the ending is illogical. Holes everywhere in the story.

     Another frustration is, that in that reading the book, I found that although the story continually moved forward, it did so at a snail's pace. The repetition got draggy in places, and I found myself bored for stretches of time. I'm thinking that the movie may be able to defeat the boring aspect and move the story along faster (Sort of the way they did for Groundhog Day, or Edge of Tomorrow.). One can hope.

     Since the movie is rated "R" for "some brutal violence and language," I think it would be safe to say that, perhaps, we could use that rating as a starting place for looking at how we rate the book. The book does include violent scenes, and language that would be better not read by the very young or the very sensitive. All other mature adults, especially those enjoying thrillers and mysteries, should really enjoy this book.

     Given all the reasons that I have stated, above, I rate this book at 4.0 stars. Quite a good effort for S.J. Watson's first time out of the gate. He should, justifiably, be most proud of his efforts. I look forward to reading more books by this new author.

     Thank you for joining me this week as we looked at S.J. Watson's book, Before I Go to Sleep. Thank you for taking time to read my book review and for taking time to consider my views. I hope you enjoyed this post.

     I look forward to being with you next week as we look at a book from Jim Butcher. The book is a NetGalley graphic novel from the series, The Dresden Files--it is entitled, War Cry. So join me next time as we open the pages and see what Jim Butcher has in store for us.

     Take care of yourselves this week. You only have one life, so do what you can to get the most out of it. One way to do that is to remember to read just a little every day. The words you read in the books nourish your mind and help to keep your brain elastic and to maintain your good memory. God bless you, my friends.

Until next time...

This flower is a double white Rose of Sharon. [20]
...many happy pages of reading.

Sending you my love,


[1] "Before I Go to Sleep." Retrieved 10-05-14.
[2] "50 First Dates." Retrieved 10-07-14.
[3] "50 First Dates Official Trailer." Retrieved 10-08-14.
[4] "Lost Memories: Our 10 Favorite Amnesia Movies." Retrieved 10-08-14.
[5] "English-Word Information: Amnesia." Retrieved 10-09-14.
[6] "Dad's Aren't Deaf, It's In Their Genes." Retrieved 10-09-14.
[7] "Single Mom Slice of Life: A Tough Choice...." Retrieved 10-09-14.
[8] "Confabulation: It Sounds Better Than Lying." Retrieved 10-09-14.
[9] "How Writing Heals Injuries: Expressive Journaling Can Speed Up Physical Recovery." Retrieved 10-09-14.
[10] "4 Ways To Burn Fat Faster With Every Cup: Making Coffee Work For Your Diet." Retrieved 10-09-14.
[11] "Before I Go to Sleep - MPAA Rating." Retrieved 10-09-14.
[12]"Before I Go to Sleep Trailer." Retrieved 10-09-14.
[13] "Rated R Logo Vector." [graphic image, R] Retrieved 10-09-14.
[14] "Best Movies Directed by Antoine Fuqua." Retrieved 10-09-14.
[15] "What's In the Frame and What's Out-Dory [fish]." Retrieved 10-09-14.
[16] "Film Review No.237: Total Recall (2012)." Retrieved 10-09-14.
[17] "Total Recall I (2013)." Retrieved 10-09-14.
[18] "Job Interview Prep is Boring." Retrieved 10-09-14.
[19] "Final Verdict & Rating." Retrieved 10-10-14.
[20] "Pictures From My Garden." Retrieved 10-10-14.