So, I’m not sure why (probably because I’m a masochist), but recently I’ve decided to read BEFORE I GO TO SLEEP and to watch the movie based on the book. The book has more gigantic plot holes than the moon has craters. The movie isn’t different and the outstanding acting of Colin Firth, Nicole Kidman and Mark Strong, sadly can’t save it.
As for the book, I’ve read an outstanding review on Goodreads by Alex: she did such an outstanding job, that I wanted to share it here with you all, because this is just an excellent example on how to write a review (with spoilers) in a funny, yet insightful and sharp way:
“I think I tend to judge books more harshly when I listen to them because I can’t skim the text or skip parts that bore me. BUT I DON’T KNOW. MAYBE THAT’S JUST MORE HONEST.
Before I Go to Sleep is a highly improbable novel that’s practically a fantasy. A very slow, drawn-out, horribly written fantasy. Christine, the protagonist, wakes up in a strange bed with a strange man. He tells her he’s her husband, Ben, and she has amnesia — she cannot form short-term memories. Think Memento. Hey, in fact, this book is just like that movie! Determined to figure out the mystery of her past, Christine sees a doctor in secret and keeps a day-to-day journal. That’s pretty much all you need to know.
The bulk of the book is Christine rereading her journal. Which is just ENDLESS accounts about how confusing and terrifying things are. Ugh, we get the point. Perhaps that would be realistic, but it’s hardly INTERESTING for the reader. Throughout the book, one finds out (as Christine does) that her husband is lying to her about how she got amnesia (she was attacked; he tells her it’s a car accident), her son (he says they have no kids; they had a son), her best friend moving away (nope), etc etc. Obviously something is creepily wrong, and yet Christine is like, “Hmmm. GUESS I’LL JUST STAY HERE WITH THIS CREEPY LYING DUDE.”
We also discover that Christine was having an affair when she was attacked. WHICH IS ALSO WHEN I CALLED IT THAT BEN WAS ACTUALLY THE DUDE SHE WAS SLEEPING WITH. I didn’t quite know how that was going to work, but when Claire (her best friend) was all, “GIRL THAT AIN’T BEN”, I was like, “WHAT REALLY YOU WENT THERE, YOU FUCKER????”
BASICALLY, the dude Christine was having her affair with was super obsessed with her to the point of LUNATIC CRAZY and when she tried to break the whole thing off, he went BATSHIT and TRIED TO DROWN HER IN A HOTEL BATHROOM. Then, because her memory was so shoddy and awful, her loving husband Ben (apparently in this world “loving” means that he’s a handsome successful vegan architect) is all like, “I CAN’T HANDLE THIS. I MUST LEAVE BECAUSE I LOVE YOU TOO MUCH AND THIS I AM CAUSING YOU SO MUCH DISTRESS. I’M GOING TO TAKE OUR SON AND LEAVE YOU IN THIS REHABILITATION CENTER.” So then Crazy Dude, who’s been staring at her through windows and shit this whole time, swoops in and…manages to convince the staff that HE’s Ben (?????????????) and is all, “YUP I’M TOTES BEN. I’M GOING TO TAKE MY WIFE HOME NOW.” So she’s been living with CRAZY UNHINGED DUDE this WHOLE TIME and he’s been masquerading as her husband!
I can’t really go into how much I thought the plot sucked (it did; a lot, in case you were wondering) because my brain might implode. But one thing I do want to vent about is: HOW IS IT EVEN POSSIBLE TO GET SOMEONE OUT OF A REHAB CENTER BY PRETENDING TO BE THEIR HUSBAND???? DO PEOPLE NOT CHECK RECORDS ANYMORE???? WHAT IS THIS SHIT??? DO REHAB CENTERS JUST LET ANYONE WALTZ OFF WITH CRITICAL AMNESIACS???? WTF????
That aside, MAN, this writing was AWFUL. The audiobook narrator did not help. She had this grating voice and whenever she read Claire, I wanted to throw my iPod out my car window. Christine is a HORRIBLE character. I mean, I was SO SHOCKED that the author was a man (haha, jk, not at all)! Once again, we have a female protagonist with no autonomy. And this time it’s because her horrible cheating made it so! Ladies, no sex for you outside marriage even though dudes do it all the time, because your lover will probably try to asphyxiate you on a tile floor and then stalk you for years and years only to kidnap you and keep you hostage with him in his love shack. ISN’T THAT ALWAYS THE CASE?
Also, everything was SO SLOW. The fight scene at the end when she’s trying to escape from Ben/Mike and she’s all like, “I should’ve probably hit him again…” when she FINALLY manages to wrench herself free from his violent attack and you’re like, “NO SHIT SHERLOCK” and then he GRABS HER AGAIN AND THROWS HER TO THE FLOOR. COULD’VE JUST BEAMED HIM IN THE HEAD AGAIN WITH THAT STOOL AND SAVED US ALL A LOT OF TIME, YOU WORTHLESS EXCUSE FOR A CHARACTER. Oh, this is a good segue into the gratuitous violence of the book. All the scenes with violence in them (few, but they are pretty intense) are UGGGGGGH. It was like, “and then I cracked my head against the radiator!” “and then he shoved me to the floor and my arm twisted behind my back!” “and then his hands were around my throat and I couldn’t breathe!” I was SQUIRMING on the train. I CANNOT DEAL. And, I know why this book had to be narrated in first-person present, but IT WAS SO AWFUL I CANNOT EVEN.
Bee tee dubs, the character of Claire makes NO SENSE to me at all. She’s supposed to be Christine’s BFF and she just doesn’t talk to or try to see her anymore? WOULDN’T THAT BE A LITTLE SUSPICIOUS????? If my best friend got AMNESIA and couldn’t remember anything, I WOULD BE THERE EVERY SINGLE FUCKING DAY. EVEN if I slept with her stupid husband, I would NEVER lose contact with her. CLAIRE, YOU ARE OFFICIALLY THE WORST FRIEND EVER. CONGRATULATIONS.
Dear Adam — you suck as a son. Dear Ben — you suck at still being in love with Christine and letting some dude pretend to be you to steal her out of the clinic. This book is really just a presentation of THE WORST PEOPLE TO HAVE IN YOUR LIFE WHEN YOU LOSE YOUR MEMORY.
Congrats, SJ Watson. I’m so glad your first book is a PILE OF SHIT.”
Now, please let me add a few things, putting on my anal editor hat:
A) I really don’t know how this got published (and the movie made) the way it was: such enormous plot holes got overlooked by 1) an agent 2) an editor of the a big publishing house 3) a production company 4) an award-winning British director 5) Colin Firth who seems to be attracted to stories with plotholes ike a magnet;
B) The major plot hole (she living with the creepy guy) could have been easily fixed in the following way: let’s make the husband be the actual attacker, while the lover flees terrified, abandoning her to her destiny; we could even make the husband be a neuroscientist who knew where to hit to give her amnesia, so that she would never be able to leave him and be forever dependent on him like a child. See how much better and more believable the story is? It’s not difficult, really.
Plot holes are every writer’s worse enemy; as an editor, I teach and help storyteller how to avoid and fix them!
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