Before I Go to Sleep podcast

By Guy Somerset In Book Club

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9th March, 2012 12 comments

Spoiler alert … spoiler alert … spoiler alert … We did our best, honest we did, but in the end it proved impossible to talk about SJ Watson’s Before I Go to Sleep without giving away some key plot elements. So, if you’ve not finished the book, you’d best not listen just yet. If you have, though, please click on the link below to hear me and booksellers Carole Beu, David Hedley and Kiran Dass turn the book inside out to discuss what works and what doesn’t. Once you’ve listened, tell us what you think – either on the comment thread here or in our Spoiler Zone.

Listener Book Club podcast #1 (mp3)

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12 Responses to “Before I Go to Sleep podcast”

  1. Nancy Wilson Mar 15 2012, 2:47pm

    Very disappointing, the blurb on the cover felt like a set-up for a really good read. Can't understand what all the fuss was about. Has put me off the Listeners bookclub will be more discerning about the future books on offer. Found the book banal, and blandly wriitten.
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  2. Karen Newton Mar 15 2012, 8:02am

    I also read the book on my Kindle and didn't feel as 'connected' as perhaps I might have if I had a hard copy to read. But then I didn't like the book so maybe that explains the absence of connectedness.
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  3. Belinda Jeursen Mar 13 2012, 3:34pm

    I also read this book in a very short space of time, in much the same way I used to devour slightly "trashy" fiction when I was about 13, knowing it's not quite up to standard but enjoying the page tuirning compulsion it induced. This did wear off in the second half a bit when I started to guess (correctly) at the plot, and became more aware of the writing's clumsiness - especially when Christine is reading back over her diary where the descriptions are wordy and cliched. In the end I felt it would be better as a mainstream movie but enjoyed the experience of being totally caught up in it, which doesn't always happen with tougher "literary" reads. I thought Christine's character was well drawn but the others less believable. It did get me thinking about the connection between memory and feeling and how much of what we think, feel and believe is connected to past experiences. Looking forward to the next book. PS: read this on my Kindle and am thinking a lot about how different the experience of reading a printed book is in comparison. I don't feel as much "connection" with e books as I do when the book is a physical object.
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  4. Margaret Cathie Mar 13 2012, 10:42am

    Really interesting comments and insights given by the panel, thank you. I too think that labelling it as a "literary thriller" is quite inaccurate and misleading. Dr Nash and Claire really annoyed me - both were far too vapid and lukewarm in their 'support' of Christine to be taken seriously. Didn't like the connotations of male power and control and thought the first part of the book was stronger than the second - it disintegrated on me about half way through and I had to grit my teeth to plough on to the end. I thought the ending was predictable (as Dr Nash seemed too insipid to be capable of manipulating her). I found the writing very claustrophobic ( which I don't think was an intentional dimension or attempt at added characterisation on the part of the writer because of the other aspects of a "thriller" which one might expect, were lacking); I just didn't enjoy the repetiton ( which I suppose one could argue was deliberate) and lack of narrative drive in places. This book didn't appeal to me, but like the panellists, I would be interested to see what the author writes next. It is possible that he has the potential to write something with greater impact.
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  5. Karen Newton Mar 13 2012, 8:25am

    I didn't like this book on a number of levels and find it hard to understand why it is so popular. Neither of the two main female characters are believabLe or like able. I was very aware of the
    (male) author and I agree with carol that I don't think this Is a book that a woman would write. I thought it was poorly written, lightweight and I couldn't wait till it finished. I guess that's a 'not recommended' from me. I hope the next book the club chooses is worth taking the time to read.
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  6. Martine Poiree Mar 12 2012, 3:15pm

    Like many others I was hooked from the first chapter and spent most of the (wet) weekend reading it. I enjoyed the way it made me reflect on just what memories are, real, invented, lost, rediscovered etc.

    I found the writing uneven in that I didn't notice it initially, which I consider a good sign, as I was completely taken by the story, but as I read on I felt it became more clumsy, and I have to admit I started to get a bit bored with it past the halway mark. However, just as I was about to put it down and go and do something else, it hooked me in again and I read on until the end.

    I completely agree that whilst it was a relief to get to a happy ending, it felt a bit rushed and a bit too nice. I had actually thought we were going to discover that Ben had burnt the house down and accidently killed their son, hence the way he didn't want Chrissy to be cured.

    So yes, I would recommend it as a good read, I think it is a great 'NZ to Europe' flight kind of book, but I won't be saying to my friends that it is a great book, and certainly not a literary one. Amazing for a first book though, and I look forward to reading his next one.
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  7. Jenni Ogden Mar 12 2012, 3:13pm

    One of the fascinating things about true amnesia is the issue of identity. Can someone with no memories know themselves? Another is the ability to sustain strong emotions. For example, is it possible to be angry or feel grief if within a few seconds the reason for your anger or sadness is forgotten? In this book Christine had 15 or so hours every day to re-develop her emotions. The comments that this was a book about male power and dominance over women was true in this instance, because the person with amnesia was a woman. But the abuse is made possible by Christine’s amnesia rather than her gender. It could have been turned around, such that the amnesiac was male and the abuser female. Henry Molaison and sufferers of Alzheimer’s disease and other neurological and psychiatric disorders that remove our memory and self-control are all vulnerable to easy abuse by others.
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  8. Kiran Dass Mar 11 2012, 6:59pm

    I think it's perfectly reasonable (particularly in this context) to discuss how a book might be underwritten, JSWordPower. And the market for "literary" books is not getting smaller. This is something I have the immense pleasure of seeing first-hand every day at my job as a bookseller. Many people read a wide range of fiction, (which most of the booksellers I know encourage. If you must know, I know many booksellers who don't even read "literary fiction") so it's good to bear in mind that because somebody doesn't fancy one particular "popular" novel, this does not make them a literary snob by default. I am interested in hearing what other people thought of this book.
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  9. Guy Somerset Mar 11 2012, 11:10am

    Craig Ranapia is absolutely right: lazy - and meaningless - shorthand on my part. As he (and Sir Kingsley Amis) say in our Spoiler Zone, the only distinction that matters is between good and bad writing. I do maintain this is good(ish), although now people are picking it apart ...
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  10. Craig Ranapia Mar 10 2012, 10:29am

    @Guy Somerset: I'm not sure "literary thriller" is particularly useful except as polite marketing code for "you can be seen with this in public, and nobody's going to think your lips move when you read. Promise." Yes, there's an awful load of heinous tosh on the 'popular fiction' shelves, but if I'm going to be honest I read Elmore Leonard's 'Raylan' with more pleasure than the most recent novels by "literary" authors Philip Roth and Margaret Atwood.
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  11. Guy Somerset Mar 9 2012, 10:38am

    To be fair, I was the one who introduced the word "literary" into the conversation, as shorthand for psychological depth and - although not so much in this case - imaginative use of language. I am, I fully admit, betraying my innate snobbery. Something I must work on. (The snobbery, that is, rather than betraying it. Although ...)
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  12. JSWordPower Mar 9 2012, 8:01am

    I think it's very interesting that these book sellers spent a lot of the discussion focusing on how literary and under written the book might be. I did think the ending was very Hollywood (one suspects the author had the movie in mind) as the 'baddie' got his just desserts and Christine got her family back. But I did read the book from cover to cover in a weekend and I have read heaps of books that lose me quickly/half way/two thirds of the way through because I don't care about the characters, the plot becomes inexplicable etc. Read the book a year ago so can't remember the writing per se, but I thought this book was good- well drawn characters,nearly believeable plot and one cares what happens, which is the key ingredient that keeps me reading. I also think that booksellers might need to get with the game in that they should welcome books like this that are high profile and popular. The market for literary books is probably quite small and getting smaller.
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