Before I Go to Sleep

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Before I Go to Sleep
First edition, with quote from Tess Gerritsen
AuthorS. J. Watson
Cover artistVeronique Beranger / Getty Images
CountryUnited Kingdom
GenreThriller, Suspense
PublisherDoubleday (United Kingdom)
HarperCollins (United States)
Publication date
April 2011 (United Kingdom)
June 2011 (United States)
Media typePrint, audio, eBook
Followed bySecond Life 

Before I Go to Sleep is the first novel by S. J. Watson published in Spring 2011. It became both a Sunday Times and The New York Times bestseller[1] and has been translated into over 40 languages,[2] and has become a bestseller in France, Canada, Bulgaria and the Netherlands.[3] It reached number 7 on the US bestseller list, the highest position for a debut novel by a British author since J. K. Rowling. The New York Times described the author as an "out-of-nowhere literary sensation".[4] He wrote the novel between shifts whilst working as a National Health Service (NHS) audiologist.[5]


The novel is a psychological thriller about a woman suffering from anterograde amnesia.[6] She wakes up every day with no knowledge of who she is and the novel follows her as she tries to reconstruct her memories from a journal she has been keeping. She learns that she has been seeing a doctor who is helping her to recover her memory, that her name is Christine Lucas, that she is 47 years old and married and has a son. As her journal grows it casts doubts on the truth behind this knowledge as she determines to discover who she really is.[3]


  • John O'Connell writing in The Guardian is full of praise: "it's exceptionally accomplished – like David Nicholls's One Day, a brilliant example of how an unpromisingly high-concept idea can be transformed by skilful execution", "The structure is so dazzling it almost distracts you from the quality of the writing. No question, this is a very literary thriller." and concludes "The most unnerving aspect of Before I Go to Sleep is the way it is rooted in the domestic, the suburban, the trivial. Forget whizz-bang futurism: it proceeds from ordinary life in tiny, terrifying steps, and is all the better for it. The Escher staircase has an oatmeal carpet."[7]
  • James Kidd of The Independent has minor reservations :"Watson's take on the material is clever, convincing and moreish. Christine's life is mundane, but filled with tantalising possibilities: the early chapters fly by as you wonder exactly who to trust. The fun comes from spotting the plot holes that Watson later exploits for all they're worth." and he concludes "The ending feels hurried; a sentimental postscript to the meticulously plotted main event. But these are minor gripes. Before I Go to Sleep is an enjoyable and impressive first novel."[8]
  • Craig Ranapia in the New Zealand Listener is also has reservations, but concludes that the novel is 'slickly readable': "Watson scrupulously plays fair as he unpicks the tangled web surrounding our heroine, until the denouement. The last section turns on a character’s opportune inattention – after being surreally observant for the previous 300 pages – so the last piece of the puzzle can be uncovered. It was a cheat I couldn’t forgive or forget." but concludes "Before I Go to Sleep is still a slickly readable trip across familiar ground that leaves me looking forward to Watson’s second novel."[9]


Publication history[edit]

Film adaptation[edit]

Ridley Scott acquired the film rights and hired Rowan Joffe as director.[17] Nicole Kidman leads as Christine Lucas[18] with Colin Firth as her husband.[19] Mark Strong plays Dr Edmund Nash and Anne-Marie Duff plays Christine's friend, Claire.[20] The film was shot in London and at Twickenham Studios.[21]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Debut Novel Before I Go To Sleep triumphs over industry big hitters from 'What Shall I Read?', by Jonny on 7 Nov 2011 at 11:22 am
  2. ^ Taylor, Drew (30 October 2014). "Review: Amnesia Thriller 'Before I Go to Sleep' Starring Colin Firth & Nicole Kidman". IndieWire. Retrieved 25 January 2018. It [Before I Go to Sleep] has been translated into 40 languages and racked up blockbuster numbers in France, Canada, Bulgaria, the Netherlands, and the United States. (And this was writer S.J. Watson‘s debut novel.)
  3. ^ a b "C+W Agency". Retrieved 7 August 2018.
  4. ^ Stars scramble to shine in literary sensation, John Harlow, The Australian 08 August 2011
  5. ^ The novelist explains how he was inspired by an amnesiac's experience, and the challenges of writing in the first person from Paperback Q&A, The Guardian, 10 January 2012
  6. ^ "before i go to sleep - 52 Books 52". Retrieved 7 August 2018.
  7. ^ Two novels explore a recurring theme by John O'Connell, The Guardian, 2011-04-16.
  8. ^ Dear diary: Is that a stranger in my bed, or have I lost my memory (again!)? by James Kidd, The Independent, 2011-05-01.
  9. ^ Our reviewer’s verdict on the first selection of the Listener Book Club by Craig Ranapia, 2012-03-23.
  10. ^ S.J. Watson wins the John Creasey (New Blood) Dagger 2011 Archived 2 December 2011 at the Wayback Machine from Crime Writers Association website. Retrieved 2012-11-19.
  11. ^ Winners 2011 | National Book Awards 2012 Archived 7 September 2017 at the Wayback Machine Retrieved 2012-11-22.
  12. ^ "Er is een onbekende fout opgetreden". Retrieved 7 August 2018.
  13. ^ "Le prix SNCF du polar-roman a été attribué, mardi 29 mai au soir, à S. J. Watson pour Avant d'aller dormir (Sonatine). 30/05/2012". Archived from the original on 2 June 2012. Retrieved 7 August 2018.
  14. ^ "CRIMEFEST - crime fiction convention in Bristol, UK". Retrieved 7 August 2018.
  15. ^ Before I Go To Sleep by SJ Watson | Penguin Books Australia[permanent dead link] Retrieved 2012-11-24.
  16. ^ "Before I Go To Sleep by S J Watson". Retrieved 7 August 2018.
  17. ^ Dear diary: Is that a stranger in my bed, or have I lost my memory (again!)?, James Kidd, The Independent, Sunday 1 May 2011
  18. ^ "SJ Watson excited as Nicole Kidman signs up for Before I Go To Sleep movie". Stourbridge News. Retrieved 7 August 2018.
  19. ^ Nicole Kidman Wants Colin Firth For Before I Go To Sleep, by Lauren Humphries-Brooks, 16 November 2012.
  20. ^ MOVIE NEWSMark Strong Joins Nicole Kidman For Before I Go To Sleep by Kristy Puchko, 2012-11-01.
  21. ^ Empire Online: Colin Firth Joins Before I Go To Sleep, A reunion with Nicole Kidman Written by James White, 7 February 2013. Source: Variety

External links[edit]