Before I Go to Sleep (April 2013 discussion)

Courtesy of HarperCollins

Courtesy of HarperCollins

 S. J. Watson

Summary:

Every day Christine wakes up not knowing where she is. Her memories disappear every time she falls asleep. Her husband, Ben, is a stranger to her, and he’s obligated to explain their life together on a daily basis–all the result of a mysterious accident that made Christine an amnesiac. With the encouragement of her doctor, Christine starts a journal to help jog her memory every day. One morning, she opens it and sees that she’s written three unexpected and terrifying words: “Don’t trust Ben.” Suddenly everything her husband has told her falls under suspicion. What kind of accident caused her condition? Who can she trust? Why is Ben lying to her? And, for the reader: Can Christine’s story be trusted? At the heart of S. J. Watson’s Before I Go To Sleep is the petrifying question: How can anyone function when they can’t even trust themselves? (courtesy of Amazon)

Biography:

S. J. Watson (LitLovers.com)

Interviews:

Interview: S. J. Watson (Listener.co.nz)

Sydney Writers’ Centre Interviews Author S. J. Watson (YouTube.com) video

Steven Watson Interview with Richard and Judy (YouTube.com) video

Interview: Steven Watson, Author (Scotsman.com)

Q & A With S. J. Watson (Readings.com.au)

Discussing Before I Go to Sleep (SJWatson-books.com)

My Life in Books: S. J. Watson (Channel4.com)

Crime’s Hottest New Author S. J. Watson Speaks to You’re Booked (harrogateinternationalfestivals.com/yourebooked)

S. J. Watson, Author of Before I Go to Sleep, Answers Ten Terrifying Questions (blog.Booktopia.com.au)

Reviews:

Publisher’s Weekly Review (PublishersWeekly.com)

Kirkus Review (KirkusReviews.com)

Dear Author Review (DearAuthor.com)

Los Angeles Times Review (LAtimes.com)

Amazon Reviews (Amazon.com)

Goodreads Reviews (Goodreads.com)

Social Media:

Author’s Website  

Author’s Facebook

Author’s Twitter

Author’s Goodreads Page

Author’s Blog (not updated)

General Sites:

Stourbridge Writer Steven Watson Set to Wow Hollywood with First Novel (Birminghampost.net) 

Firth, Kidman to Star in “Before I Go to Sleep” (Variety.com)

Author S. J. Watson Talks About Long-term Memory Loss (BBC.co.uk)

How Can Musicians Keep Playing Despite Amnesia? (BBC.co.uk)

Life Without Memory (ScienceBlogs.com) video

Henry Molaison: A Unique Case in the Study of Amnesia (Guardian.co.uk)

Deconstructing Henry: The Re-examination of the Brain of Patient HM (TheBrainObservatory.ucsd.edu)

The Brain That Changed Everything (Esquire.com)

No Memory, But He Filled In the Blanks (NYTimes.com)

How Memory Works (PBS.org) video

Amnesia in the Movies (ScienceBlogs.com)

Amnesia (MayoClinic.com)

What Exactly is Amnesia (Health.HowStuffWorks.com)

Unreliable Narrator (TVTropes.org)

Memory — Not as Good as We Think (BrainBlogger.com)

How the Truth Gets Twisted (Alumni.Stanford.edu)

What Do You Remember? (News.BBC.co.uk)

Reconstructing the Past: How Recalling Memories Alters Them (Spring.org.uk)

Domestic Violence Facts (NCADV.org) pdf

Domestic Violence and Abuse (HelpGuide.org)

Domestic Violence Facts (AEDV.org)

 Discussion Questions:

1. Some reviewers have indicated that “you have to suspend a little bit of disbelief to get through the book.” Do you agree?

2. How reliable is Christine as a narrator?

3. In the book, Dr. Nash states that “We invent memories.Without thinking.” Did you consider that some the inconsistencies in Christine’s story might be based on invented memories? Do you think that you have invented memories or have “rewritten history to make things easier?”

4. How painful would it be to rediscover your past every morning: the joys, successes and tragedies? Would you want to rediscover only the good and not the painful portions of your history?

5. Christine says that she feels like an animal. Living from moment to moment, day to day, trying to make sense of the world. Do you think this is what it must be like to be in her situation? Do you think animals really have no sense of their past? Is the abililty to remember years gone by all that separates human beings from animals?

6. In the book, Christine laments the fact that she doesn’t have a normal life; “with experience building on experience, each day shaping the next.” Being able “to grow, to learn things and from things.” Do you consider this to be the essence of a “normal life?”

7. How important is memory to our sense of identity? What are the events in your life that have been important  in shaping who you are? Can you imagine what it might be like if you couldn’t remember them? How would you be different as a person?

8. Who suffers most from Christine’s condition, her or her friends and family?

9. Christine can’t remember Adam, or Claire. She can’t remember her wedding day or writing For the Morning Birds. Have these people and things changed her personality anyway, even though she can’t remember them? Is not remembering something effectively the same as it not having happened?

10. Why do you think Ben did not acknowledge Christine’s novel?

11. Why do you think Dr. Nash doesn’t want Ben to know that he is treating Christine?

12. What are Dr Nash’s feelings towards Christine? Do you think he is behaving in a professional manner? He says he is writing up her case – are his motives for helping her entirely selfless? Is he being completely honest with her?

13. Towards the end of the book Nash calls round at Christine’s house, but she can’t remember asking him to, even though he says she did so earlier that morning. Do you think she did so, but then forgot? Or is Nash lying to cover up the fact he had come uninvited?

14. Keeping a journal is vital to Christine’s rehabilitation, so why do you think it wasn’t tried earlier?

15. Christine believes Ben doesn’t tell her about Adam so that she doesn’t get upset. Would he be right to do this? Or does she have a right to know about him no matter how painful that knowledge might be? Are there other examples of people keeping things from Christine “for her own benefit”? Do you think this is ever the right thing to do?

16. Did it surprise you that Christine and her husband were divorced while she was institutionalized? Did you accept Ben’s explanation?

17. Christine doesn’t feel a strong sense of love for her husband, but wonders if that is normal after so many years of marriage. Do you think it’s inevitable that a marriage changes in this way?

18. Do you think that Christine’s affair is out of character for her? Why do you think it happened? Why do you think she risks her marriage? Does she treat her husband well? And Mike? Was she being fair to him?

19. Mike talks about how he and Christine  met and Christine often reflects on how “their relationship slipped over the line.” Is the depiction realistic? Could that happen to a happily married couple?

20. Do you think Christine feels like a sexual person? Do you think she would be nervous about sex, and about her own body? Do you think every sexual experience would feel like the first for her? Does her husband have a right to expect her to have sex with him, even if she feels she has never met him before?

21. In the book, Christine tries to justify the bruise she has after Ben hits her. How would you react in that situation? Why do you thing that abused individuals often blame themselves? A recent episode of the TV show Glee addressed this issue with the implication that once a man hits his wife, the abuse will continue; the only option is for the abused individual  to leave the marriage. What are your thoughts on the issue?

22. When Ben and Christine go to a restaurant and dine at a table next to an elderly couple with a daughter in her twenties, Christine notices that the daughter is obviously dependent on her elderly parents for assistance. Christine thinks, “I could see their lives, broken, trapped by the role of caregivers, a role they had expected to be free of years before. We are the same, I thought, I need to be spoon-fed, too. And, I realized, rather like them and their child, Ben loves me in a way that can never be reciprocated.” What was your reaction to that scene? Do you think that caregivers love “in a way that can never be reciprocated?” Does that kind of love grow only out of care-giving?

23. What does the book say about love between and man and wife, and a mother and child?

24. Christine doesn’t feel she achieved all of her childhood ambitions. She feels disappointment in the life that she has made for herself. Is this common for a woman as she approaches fifty years of age? Do you think she is right to be disappointed, or were her childhood ambitions unrealistic?

25. How predictable were the final revelations about the relationships between the characters in the last 80 pages? Was the ending a surprise or anticipated?

26. Did you like the ending? Did it represent closure for you? What about Christine? Do you think she will remember what happened to her when she wakes up?

27. What does the future hold for Christine and Ben?

(Questions from the author’s website, from youreadinggroup.co.uk, and from All Good Books Blog)

Other books by Watson: Nine Lives (September 2013) .

Recommendations (NoveList & other sources): The Dark Room by Minette Walters — The Two Deaths of Daniel Hayes by Marcus Sakey — The Face of a Stranger by Anne Perry– Remember Me?  by Sophie Kinsella– Rebecca  by Daphne Du Maurier —  Await Your Reply by Dan Chaon —  Oblivion by Peter Abrahams — Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn — What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty — Man Walks Into a Room by Nicole Krauss — See Jane Run by Joy Fielding– Turn of Mind by Aice LaPlante — Black Out by Lisa Unger — Shutter Island by Dennis Lehane — Sister by Rosamund Lupton — Keeping Watch by Laurie R. King — The Song Remains the Same by Allison Winn Scotch — You Don’t Want to Know by Lisa Jackson — The Art of Forgetting by Camille Noe Pagan — What Comes Next by John Katzenbach — Room by Emma Donoghue — The Likeness by Tana French — The Wrong Mother by Sophie Hannah — Hiding in the Shadows by Kay Hooper — Into the Darkest Corner by Elizabeth Haynes — The Bird House by Kelly Simmons — Shadow Woman by Linda Howard — Pursuit by Karen Robards — Freefall by Kristen Heitzmann — Masquerade by Gayle Lynds — The Memory Collector by Meg Gardiner — Picture Perfect by Jodi Picoult — Remember Me by Sharon Sala.

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